Academic Literacy: An Introduction (Online)


Studying at undergraduate level is an exciting and rewarding experience, but if you are new to higher education, or have not studied for some time, you may find it useful to brush up your reading, note-making and essay-writing skills, and to revisit the basic rules of punctuation and grammar. The course will teach you to:

  • improve your time management and organisational skills;
  • think critically about following instructions and assignment criteria;
  • identify and evaluate reliable sources;
  • use different reading techniques appropriately;
  • make notes effectively;
  • present a logical argument in an academic essay, taking account of your reader(s) and purpose(s);
  • plan and produce accurately referenced assignments.

This interactive course has been designed to provide you with the foundations of academic literacy, regardless of your discipline. Common issues in studying, academic writing and referencing are addressed, and you are provided with the opportunity to practise academic literacy skills through a range of activities.

This course does not teach English as a second language.

If English is not your first language then you will need one of the following qualifications: TOEFL 600, Computer Based TOEFL 250, Internet Based TOEFL 100, Cambridge CPE (grade C or above), or IELTS 7. Alternatively, you will need to explain why you believe your fluency in English is sufficient.

For information on how the courses work, please click here.

Programme details

The course consists of ten units:

1. Essential Course Information

  • Introduction
  • Course objectives
  • Assessment criteria
  • Personal Action Plans
  • Academic style or 'register'
  • Self-check

2. Research, reading and note-making

  • Directing your research
  • Assessing your sources
  • Doing research on print-based materials
  • Note-making
  • Note-making in lectures

3. Referencing

  • Managing your learning
  • Prioritising tasks
  • The importance of planning
  • The context of an essay
  • Approaches to study: interpreting and following instructions
  • First assignment: Essay plan

4. How to approach your assignments

  • Referencing your work
  • Writing for an audience
  • Referencing systems
  • Quotations and paraphrasing
  • Harvard referencing

5. Structuring your essay

  • Essay types and structures
  • What is the question?
  • Complying with instructions
  • Understanding a title
  • Critical thinking based on wide research
  • Writing your own title
  • Text features
  • Second assignment

6. Presenting an argument

  • The importance of an argument
  • Starting your research
  • Using and creating glossaries of specialised terms
  • Logical progression: presenting a logical argument
  • Personal Action Plan (PAP)

7. Academic register, objectivity and intelligibility

  • What underpins an effective essay?
  • Grammar
  • Punctuation
  • Barriers to intelligibility

8. Refining essays

  • Developing an effective essay
  • What makes an introduction work?
  • Revisiting thesis statements
  • Improving paragraphs
  • Writing effective conclusions
  • Reviewing your final draft
  • Third assignment

9. Reflective learning

  • The role of reflective learning
  • The Reflective Cycle
  • Reflective Forum discussions
  • Reviewing your Personal Action Plan (PAP)

10. Reviewing your work

  • Getting ready to submit
  • Engaging with your audience
  • Reviewing, editing and proofreading your assignment
  • Proofreading after editing
  • What are your tutors looking for?
  • Further reading


The course is non-subject specific and draws on material from many subject disciplines. Each unit will require up to ten hours of study time. The duration of the course is ten weeks.


Credit Application Transfer Scheme (CATS) points 

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £30 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online. If you do not register when you enrol, you have up until the course start date to register and pay the £30 fee. 

See more information on CATS point

Coursework is an integral part of all online courses and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework, but only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education, you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee. 


Digital credentials

All students who pass their final assignment, whether registered for credit or not, will be eligible for a digital Certificate of Completion. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so. 

Please note that assignments are not graded but are marked either pass or fail. 


Description Costs
Course fee £385.00
Take this course for CATS points £30.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:


Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Kim Shahabudin

Kim has been teaching study skills to undergraduate and postgraduate students in a range of academic disciplines since 2016. Having studied as a mature student herself, she especially enjoys working with students who are returning to study. 

Mrs Billie Tweedy

Billie has taught in health care and education fields for the past seventeen years, for Abingdon & Witney College, Oxford Brookes and the University of Oxford. She has been teaching the online study skills course since 2010. 

Rosamund Wilson

Ros Wilson has written and taught Academic Literacy Skills for many years, including writing and presenting professional development for tutors, under- and post-graduate students. She is a Chartered Linguist who has worked at universities in the UK, Belgium and New Zealand.

Assessment methods

You will be set three pieces of work for the course. The first assignment is 150 words and the second assignment is 600 words and they are due part-way through your course. They do not count towards your final outcome but preparing for it, and the feedback you are given, will help you prepare for your assessed piece of work of 1,500 words due at the end of the course. The assessed work is marked pass or fail.

English Language Requirements

We do not insist that applicants hold an English language certification, but warn that they may be at a disadvantage if their language skills are not of a comparable level to those qualifications listed on our website. If you are confident in your proficiency, please feel free to enrol. For more information regarding English language requirements please follow this link:


Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an Enrolment form for short courses | Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Level and demands

FHEQ level 4, 10 weeks, approx 10 hours per week, therefore a total of about 100 study hours.

IT requirements

This course is delivered online; to participate you must to be familiar with using a computer for purposes such as sending email and searching the Internet. You will also need regular access to the Internet and a computer meeting our recommended minimum computer specification.