How to Improve Your Academic Writing Skills

Academic writing doesn’t have a single definition. 

Academic writing differs from other forms of writing, but it also has commonalities. Many forms are commentaries on specific topics, and they give an analysis or opinion. You’ll see forms of it in different areas of academia and research. The goal stays the same - to prove a theory or hypothesis. Writers dissect ideas, question reasoning, and support conclusions.

Academic writing, though, looks at a topic from an impersonal, research-driven angle.

1. The style of an academic essay

Academic style isn’t the same as writing a journal or a piece of fiction. The best way to become familiar with this style and tone is to read more formal content – newspapers, academic-based magazines and newsletters etc. Many universities offer samples of good quality academic essays. Reading is a brilliant way to broaden your vocabulary and pick up useful style tips. You may dislike books, but they are invaluable for skills improvement.

Examine the style, language, and level of vocabulary and grammar in academic works. You won’t spot any slang or smiley faces! When you write an academic essay, don’t write as you speak. That is, you must follow certain norms in format and tone to make an effective argument. The reader isn’t one of your friends. He or she is someone with an academic background, so write with your audience in mind.

2. Structure matters

A good academic essay is organized, and the ideas are logical and relevant. Organized means the essay follows a template – introduction, body, and conclusion. Familiarize yourself with these components and use them every time you write an academic paper. It must be second nature. Logical and relevant ideas mean you support your thesis with data and facts that strengthen your argument. They must relate to the question and the point you want to make.

Practice and perfect the grammar and sentence structures common in academic writing. For example, typical sentence patterns combine simple, compound, and complex sentences. Other devices such as noun forms and descriptive phrases are important. (We’ll delve into grammar forms in a later post.)

3. The writing process

What’s the worst habit a student can develop? They grab their pen and filling the page with ideas as they think of them. Your grammar and style might be great, but you’ll turn in a weak essay. Train yourself to analyze questions and decide your main points before you write. The best writers in the world do this. There’s no reason you should not.

Teachers struggle to convince students to form brainstorming and planning habits. These have a noticeable effect on your output, so make them a routine step of your writing process. You’ll be able to plan your time better, and you’ll enjoy writing too.

4. Work with your strengths

While we expect to see specific patterns in the organization and language of academic papers, we don’t want to read mechanical, inauthentic work. A good writer doesn’t imitate or copy someone else’s techniques. Work with the skills you have.

You need not include dozens of new words from a thesaurus to enhance your material. It weakens writing if they’re out of context. Vocabulary and grammar variation are essential but don’t make them a mindless chore of your writing process.

Use what you’re good at. Make sure it’s error-free and then improve on it. Add new functions you want to perfect. You may, for instance, always use a word or phrase. Find an alternative and research its correct usage. Include it in your work and over time, it will become second nature. If you make mistakes, ask for advice and listen to feedback.

5. Listen to feedback

That brings us to our final recommendation to become a better writer – feedback. Ask for reviews of your writing, and listen to advice from teachers and peers. It’s the best way to know your strengths and weaknesses.

All students have particular mistakes they make often. You’ll receive repeated feedback about these areas. When you proofread, focus on them and cut frequent errors first.

Practice is vital to write well. Classwork isn’t enough, so practice on your own. Develop a mindset for academic writing. That is, when you start to compose an essay, bring relevant techniques and useful language forms to the front of your mind. Know the points you want to make, use the skills you are confident with, and consider your audience.

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