5 TIPS FOR WRITING AN ACADEMIC PAPER
Tomila Sahbaei | July 5th 2021 | 2 min read
“Writing your first academic paper can be a daunting task. This blog post offers five simple tips to help you build your academic writing skills.”
- Know Your Audience
Whether it be an academic paper or a blog post like this one, it’s important to understand the audience of your work. This is relevant because you want to be aware of how much information they already know about your topic. For example, if you’re writing a paper for school, you should approach your instructor and ask them how much historical information, context and data is necessary for your paper.
- Avoid Casual Language
In our daily lives, we use a lot of colloquial languages that are influenced by our environments and the people we grew up with, however, in professional writing, we want to avoid using language like this. For example, avoid using contractions – “can’t” should be replaced with “can not”; “don’t” with “do not”, and so on. The reason for this is because there is a general understanding amongst professional writing of how writing should look, what wording is correct, and other writing norms that are typically followed. Now, different instructors or organizations will have different requirements so you should reach out to whoever is aware of that to understand exactly what requirements you must follow.
- Cite Your Sources
This step is extremely important because plagiarism is a serious academic offence. It also discourages any authenticity in your writing. The only way to avoid plagiarism is to constantly cite your sources. First, you need to understand which citation style your instructor wants. Commonly used styles are MLA, APA, and Chicago style. From there, citation looks differently depending on if you’re using a direct quote, which you’ll want to put in quotation marks ““. If you’re paraphrasing, you’ll want to reword the material and follow the sentence with your in-text citation style, whether it be the author’s name and page in brackets, or a footnote. At the end, you’ll need to compile a list of your resources and attach that at the end of your work. There are numerous resources available online for citing, as well as mechanisms in apps like Word that can assist you in your citations.
- Make Your Thesis Strong
Your thesis is the most important part of your writing. It is essentially the foundation of your article and all the additional information in your work is meant to be in support of your original thesis, which you’ll want to include in the introduction of your paper. Begin your paper with a rough idea of your thesis, and as you work, you may notice that you need to adapt it to better align with the body of your paper. So, update accordingly, and reread your thesis numerous times as you work on your paper. One tip would be to write your thesis on a sticky note and attach it to a surface near you while you work. This way, you can work on later parts of your paper and easily look back at your thesis when necessary.
- Don’t be afraid of making multiple drafts
One of the best ways to write a good piece of work is to edit it repeatedly. A messy first draft is always a good place to start, and don’t be afraid to put all your ideas on the page. After your first draft is done, take a step back before revisiting your work and refining it. Once you work on it yourself, it’s always beneficial to ask a peer to read over your work. Sometimes peer editing will be mandatory, but even when it isn’t, having another person read over your work provides a fresh perspective and they can catch mistakes or suggest areas to build on.