No matter what your programme of study, academic writing will form a huge part of your student career. While writing may come naturally to students of certain majors like Communications or Literature, it may not be so strong for other students who find writing academic papers a real struggle.
Here are some tips to help improve your academic writing if it’s something you find challenging.
Take a class
Many international students find academic writing difficult because they were never formally taught during their school years. You may excel at Math, but perhaps you feel completely lost when it comes to writing elective class research papers.
Don’t be ashamed if you need to take a class or ask a tutor for extra help. After all, this will build an additional skill that you will use for the rest of your life – even if you never have to write a research paper again. Writing e-mails, reports, briefs, or some other form of written work will probably be a big part of your working life.
So, find a class or tutor on campus or in your area that can help you become a better writer. Alternatively, there are several online classes and guides that can help you out, including Academized and Coursera.
You may have heard of outlines and learned about them in an ESL or ENG 101 course. Don’t overlook them because outlines are important for writing a good paper. It prepares you for the entire process as you can plan the structure ahead of time, reducing the chance of getting stuck mid-way.
So once you’ve finalised your topic, sit down and spend some time outlining your essay or paper. Here’s a guide to get you started.
Be concise and clear
Academic writing doesn’t require you to prove your English vocabulary or skills, but rather to present your points in an clear, straightforward manner. Basically, you need to get to the point. Don’t use words that are out of the norm or synonyms that are hardly used. Stick to what you know and make sure your paper is readable, clear and that your points are well-explained.
Edit and re-write
Even good writers must draft their work and constantly edit their work. Make sure you allocate enough time for this. Editing is also a good way for you to note your mistakes for next time. If you struggle with this, consider asking a friend or professor to help you edit your first draft and highlight your mistakes.
Know your audience
Every good writer knows that they must always know their audience. Determine who it is you’re writing for, even though it will probably only be read by your professor.
Don’t assume your professor already knows the topic, as you will be graded on your ability to express the topic clearly based on your understanding. Take time to think about the topic, what the intended audience needs to know about it, and how you can best educate or persuade them.
Use online resources
When you’ve completed your first draft and edited it, you still need to proofread and check for errors. There are many online free and paid proofreading services you can use. They can help you with grammar check, plagiarism, spelling, and more. Some popular ones are Grammarly, Proofread Bot and White Smoke.
Get familiar with different formats
As an international student, you might be studying in a country that uses different research styles and methods. Make sure you know and understand which format you’ll be using in your paper. Not doing it correctly can lead to you losing marks or even failing the paper.
Most research-based papers require you to document where you got the information from, commonly know as the source. You'[ll need to know the proper way to do this, known as the citation style. The two most common citation styles at university are the MLA (Modern Language Association) and APA (American Psychological Association) formats.
If you’re unsure which to use, make sure to talk to your professor. Check this out for a brief description of each style.
Practice makes perfect! It may seem difficult at first but the more you write, the better you will get. Keep at it, and don’t be afraid to ask for help from your peers or professors.