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Tips on Academic Writing

Students often feel overwhelmed when receiving an academic writing assignment such as a research paper, report, or other type of written assignment. Any form of academic writing can be a little easier to complete if you follow some basic strategies.

Improving Your Academic Writing

Tip One: Be sure you understand the assignment.

Before you can write anything, you need to know what is being asked of you. If there are any parts of the assignment which are unclear, ask the teacher! No question is too small.

  • Format – Be sure to clarify the specific guidelines which the teacher wants you to follow. For example, some papers will have to be in MLA format, while others will elicit the APA style. If the teacher does not specify which style to use, ask if there is a desired format.
  • Style – Make sure you know page length, reference requirements, font requirements, and so forth.
  • Type of Writing – Does the teacher want a book report? Research paper? Creative piece? Poem? Knowing the type of writing will help you determine what format and style you want to use.

Tip Two: Brainstorm your ideas.

The actual composition of the paper should not begin until you have gathered all of your thoughts.
Brainstorming is a little bit different for a creative piece as opposed to a research paper or book report. Creative pieces often develop as they are written. Therefore, you will want to jot down some key points, ideas, or images that you want to use.

Tip Three: Prepare an outline.

For a book report, research paper, thesis paper, or any other type of assignment which requires an argument, you will want to fully develop before you start writing.
Make an outline of all of your main points. Make sure that the points do not clash with each other and that you do not have any holes in your argument. The arguments should flow smoothly into one another, and they should all relate back to the central thesis of the paper.

Tip Four: Leave time for writing.

Do not try and write the entire paper the night before it is due. Take the paper a little bit at a time, leaving yourself enough time for research, brainstorming, outlining, writing, formatting and revisions.
Be sure to leave yourself enough time for a very important step: proofreading!

Tip Five: Proofread your work.

No paper should ever come hot off the printer right onto your teacher’s desk. Leave yourself time to proofread and make any necessary corrections. Check for grammar, spelling, sentence fluency, overall coherence, content and style. Make sure any references are appropriately cited. Read the paper through several times before you hand it in.
The best plan is to let the paper sit for a few days before tackling the proofreading. Many times a writer will notice more of his or her own errors if he or she waits awhile before working on the proofreading component.
However, even after waiting a few days, we are not always the first to recognize our own errors. Since you know what you want the paper to say, you might not realize if a certain word, sentence, or an entire section does not agree with your central focus. Therefore, having a family member or other individual read your paper is an excellent idea.


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