How-To Books

The world of academia can be a strange place but if you get the chance to spend a year or more at a college or university, take it. As well as furthering your education, it opens up other cultures, helps you to find out how you think and gives you time and space to step back from all the usual daily demands and get to know yourself better. As a lecturer and, afterwards, a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow, I spent lots of time with students, learning as much from them as they did from me and finding out the areas where they needed help. The books of advice on this page are based on my own experiences and those of friends and colleagues.

Brilliant Study Skills

The main idea of Brilliant Study Skills was to make it easy to read. It aims to help students going to college or university to appreciate what’s required of them and develop the best strategies to deal with the new learning environment and way of life. It covers the obvious areas – writing, note-taking, note-making, researching and exam skills – it also encourages readers to investigate what type of learning personality they have and how to adapt their study methods to suit it. It’s got sections on everything from finding accommodation and planning finances to graduating and choosing a career.


Brilliant Essay

The title speaks for itself. This is a book designed to help students overcome the frequently felt apprehension about academic writing. It demystifies the processes involved and moves from the initial interpretation of the essay question through brainstorming, reading skills, research techniques, note-making, structuring, reviewing, editing and presenting essays.

It examines the basics of structure, gives guidance on grammar, spelling and punctuation, stresses how to use feedback and suggests how the various skills can be adapted to exam conditions.


Brilliant Dissertation

Once again, the title says it all.

The book covers many of the areas dealt with in Brilliant Essay but with a greater focus on research, resources, and the formal structures of advanced academic writing.

It’s for undergraduates faced with dissertations and/or project reports in the early years of university and at honours level and also postgraduates preparing Masters or Doctoral theses.


Brilliant Workplace Skills for Students & Graduates

In a way, this title limits the book’s appeal because, as well as students, it  could be useful to anyone about to start a job or even those already in a workplace. As with all the others in the series, the main aim is readability as it covers topics from giving PowerPoint presentations to solving problems, from interpersonal relationships to wider business skills. It’s about individuals, teams, bosses, customers and the importance of keeping the right life/work balance.




 Brilliant Academic Writing

This one reiterates various points made in the Essay and Dissertation books and provides a general overview of the whole range of academic writing. It covers finding and using resources, selecting and implementing the features of the main style guides, creating a bibliography and, of course, the basic principles of organising, writing and editing academic texts of all sorts.




Just Write

Just Write is based on workshops I’ve given for students at universities in my role as a Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow. I co-wrote it with Kathleen McMillan and it’s aimed principally at helping students to cope with the demands of academic writing. When I started my first writing fellowship, I had to stop and think about the actual process of writing. I’d always written, but never stopped to ask what I was actually doing or how I went about it. This book breaks the process down into phases and is useful for anyone who has to prepare and structure a piece of writing, in any context.