5 Tips to Improve Your Academic Writing Skills

5 Tips to Improve Your Academic Writing Skills

Academic writing skills are one of those things that you have to keep on improving perennially. It’s a never-ending process. There are always new things you can learn and new words you can practice. If you can’t figure out how to start working on your skills, don’t worry. In this post, we are going to look at some actionable tips that you can easily implement.

Let’s get started.

If you find it difficult to work on all these tips at once, you can get started with a couple of them at first. Then, you can move on to apply the rest as well.

1. Learn How to Conduct Proper Research

The quality of an academic writing piece depends majorly on the research that backs it. Without proper research, an academic piece will not have the proper authority and integrity it needs to qualify as ‘high-quality’. So, the first thing that you have to work on in order to improve your academic writing skills is your research. You have to know about the right sources for conducting research as well as the method that has to be adopted while collecting information.

As far as the sources for conducting research go, some reliable ones are as follows:

  • Google Scholar
  • Google Books
  • JSTOR
  • Science.gov
  • Microsoft Academic

And so on. When choosing a source, you basically have to make sure that you pick one that is popularly known to be reliable. Online journals, as well as some of the platforms that we’ve mentioned above, are some sources that fall in this category.

That was as far as choosing the right sources goes. Other than that, there are certain rules that you have to follow when collecting information. For example, when conducting research, you have to take care about:

  • Using more than one source. Sticking to a single one can make you commit accidental plagiarism.
  • Keeping track of your sources. If you forget to cite your sources later or do it incorrectly, you can commit source-based plagiarism.
  • Not using any of the content verbatims. This is pristine plagiarism in its purity.

Although it was not our intention to highlight this, from the above points, you can see how an improper approach to research can lead to not one, not two but three types of plagiarism. As far as the first type i.e., accidental plagiarism goes, it can occur for reasons other than improper research. That is pretty much why it is a stressed and necessary requirement for every piece of academic content to be checked with the help of a free plagiarism checker.

Using a free plagiarism checker for this purpose is recommended for the simple reason that they are easy to access and you can use them for a quick go-in-go-out job.

A plagiarism checking software

A plagiarism checking software

2. Adopt a Direct and Confident Writing Style

This is also something that can have a major effect on the quality of your write-ups. When writing a piece of academic content, you have to adopt a direct, confident and assertive tone. Using words like ‘may’, ‘might’, ‘could’ and ‘possibly’ makes it sound like you’re not really sure of what you’re saying.

Here is an example:

The conclusion of the study, based on the facts provided by the members of the medical association might be regarded as unauthoritative by some. It could also be viewed as weak and shaky, considering the lack of multi-faceted and multi-dimensional pieces of evidence proffered by the participants.

In the above passage, the text seems fine. But, you’ll appreciate how it looks more like an opinion than a couple of assertive statements. But, if we were to remove the uncertainty-inducing words, here is what we’d get:

The conclusion of the study, based on the facts provided by the members of the medical association, appears highly unauthoritative. The lack of multi-faceted and multi-dimensional pieces of evidence provided also renders the arguments weak and shaky.

The difference between these two passages is quite clear. The first one looks like the work of a mild and candid author, sufficing in giving a calm opinion. The second one looks like the work of a self-assured author, authoritatively giving their viewpoint without beating around the bush. Although in some types of writing, the tone adopted in the first passage can be preferable, it’s not the case with academic writing.

3. Build and Utilize Your Vocabulary

In a lot of types of content, flaunting vocabulary is not considered a good practice. This applies especially to such content that has to be read by the general public. However, when it comes to academic content, you can use hard and difficult words in the right places. Since the persons reading the content will be academic intellectuals themselves, they won’t have trouble with the vocabulary. If you want to increase your vocabulary and learn new words, there are a number of different techniques you can try out i.e.,

  • Directly referring to a thesaurus
  • Using vocabulary-building software and websites
  • Reading literature written by experts

From these three, the last one i.e., ‘reading literature written by experts’ is perhaps the best method that you can adopt. By reading good content, you can automatically and easily pick up new words along with their meanings and their correct contextual applications.

4. Learn to Use Citations and References Properly

Citations and references are one of the most important elements of academic writing. By using citations and references, you can import facts and figures from other existing sources to your paper, thus increasing the latter’s authority. An academic paper completely bereft of cited facts and figures can look weak and unreliable. You have to use citations and references to some degree, if not a lot. Learning how to use citations and references properly can help you improve your academic writing skills since it can help you understand when and how you should utilize them.
…that was a little confusing.
Basically, when you know where and how to use citations and references, your content looks professional and expertly written.

Take an example.

If a particular writer does not know about the ‘…et al.’ rule, they could add a citation like this:

“According to the study, bananas were found to be yellow (Arnold, Jefferson, Gray, Harold,
Clinton, Johnson, 2014) …”

Now, this looks terrible. If this person did have the necessary know-how of using citations, they would have simply written it like this:

“According to the study, bananas were found to be yellow (Arnold et al., 2014)

5. Always Remember to Proofread Your Work

Although we are mentioning this tip right at the bottom of our list, it’s actually one of the most important ones. While proofreading a particular paper can provide the immediate benefit of helping you remove imperfections from it, it also provides a passive benefit. By proofreading your work, you can see the mistakes and errors you’re prone to make regularly. Then, you can make the effort to avoid them in future.

Conclusion

As we mentioned in the beginning, improving writing skills is not a terminable process. It goes on and on, and you have to keep on making a constant effort. In this post, the tips that we’ve mentioned are such that they can be implemented perennially. They won’t get old, and you can work on them perpetually to improve your writing skills.

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