So you want to be a better writer?

Cornerstones-of-Academic-Writing

Next Tuesday marks the first day of class for incoming and returning Lakers, and here’s a fun fact: I’m among them! Yes, next Tuesday I’ll be revisiting my thesis and opening a chapter that I haven’t seen in a couple of weeks.

In my professional life, I work with students on academic writing daily but actually having the lived experience of working under deadlines and challenging my mind in different ways while adhering to a style guide has provided me with some insight and practical, experience-based advice for students who are dusting off computer keyboards after a few weeks or months away from the world of writing.

Without further ado, here are my top tips for being an academic writer!

  • Start early! Just because a due date isn’t for several weeks or even months, it doesn’t mean you can’t get started.
  • Start with a question in mind. So often, students approach writing without a sense of focus.  If you start with a research question, you’re going to find yourself searching for answers rather than searching for a topic.  Not only will this help you when it comes to finding appropriate books and articles, it will also help you develop a manageable thesis statement: win-win!
  • Spend time developing an outline. A thorough outline will help you organize your thoughts and develop a coherent argument.
  • Keep it simple. Students often have a tendency to over-complicate their sentences.  Don’t.  Use clear, precise, and concise language in order to communicate your thoughts as accurately as possible.
  • Let the evidence be your guide. Academic writing is based in evidence.  Let your research and the evidence frame your argument and avoid personal bias.  Remember that if you’re using someone else’s ideas or words, you must cite them appropriately!
  • Don’t be afraid of editing and revising. In fact, you should embrace this stage!  Spend time examining your writing, change things around if it doesn’t make sense, read your writing out loud, and double-check for typos.
  • Ask for help! Reach out to your professor, ask for research help at the library, visit Student Learning & Transitions, talk to your supporters – don’t silently stress when there are so many people who want to help you develop the skills you need to be a successful academic writer!

Good luck, Lakers!