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9 tips to improve your academic writing

These are nine easy tips that can help any student overcome their writer’s block and develop their academic writing

    Hyebin Seo's avatar

    Hyebin Seo

    Research master’s student in English education at Seoul National University
    April 3 2024


    Academic writing is a skill that takes a while to develop. Here are nine tips to help you start your journey to becoming a stronger writer. 

    1. Consider your purpose

    It is your job as the writer to help readers understand what they will gain from reading your work.

    What will they learn? What questions will they have that you can answer? Considering the lessons and perhaps even emotional responses a reader might have will help you to understand the purpose of your work. 

    2. Find inspiration in your daily life

    When facing writer’s block, think about your daily life instead. Our lives might seem unrelated to academic writing topics such as economics, politics and justice. However, your anger at Google raising YouTube premium prices might create ideas for your next economics essay on monopoly structures. Most academic topics can be connected to daily life in some way. 

    3. Focus your ideas

    You’ve done all your reading, your deadlines are approaching and yet somehow your ideas seem more scattered than ever. 

    To overcome this, write one or two sentences describing what each paragraph will cover. 

    These will then serve as a starting point for you to develop your ideas. Writing your focus point down gives you a concrete idea to develop and work on, instead of allowing the essay to run away from you. 

    4.  Stay specific

    Academic writing requires you to discuss facts, interpret past ideas and create your arguments. If the scope of your topic is too large, you might find that you are doing too much research, which then makes it difficult to narrow down your essay. 

    Although this will differ across each writing project, academic writing is most successful when it is limited to a specific aspect or approach. When in doubt, discuss with writing tutors or professors whether your topic is of appropriate scope. 

    5. Find your voice

    Most of the time, every sentence you write might feel (and often is) too informal and awkward. And after poring over the dictionary, doing 20 rounds of revisions and incorporating feedback from 10 people, you might find your writing has been sucked dry of your voice.

    To develop your voice, writing needs to flow from your mind and feel natural. Although it’s important to keep re-reading and editing your work, sometimes this can be done too much. 

    6. Absorb English 

    Read everything that you can, including fiction and non-fiction. Academic writers might not write fiction themselves, but fiction teaches writers how to create rhythm and tension. Notice how authors manipulate language and use it creatively. 

    You can also listen to audiobooks and music, and watch movies and documentaries. Continuously absorbing English in many different mediums can help you to gain a better grasp of the language. 

    7. Write in short sentences 

    Readers will not want to wade through excessively long, formal and sophisticated sentences. Instead, shorter, conversational sentences are easier to read. 

    However, this might not come naturally, so consider writing long sentences then cutting them up into simpler ones. Or pretend you are talking to someone as you write. You might find that creates a more natural flow to your work. 

    8. Take small steps

    Writing is a skill that takes time to develop. Even if you write for only 10 minutes a day, a regular practice will help you to develop that skill. One paragraph a day can build into a book or a PhD thesis. 

    Simply get into the habit of writing. Write about anything you want – describe how last night’s dinner tasted, rant about your roommate, celebrate your accomplishments. Just one paragraph a day can help you to develop your language, sentence structure and vocabulary. 

    9.    Visit writing centres at your university

    Writing centres provide valuable services, including writing workshops, one-on-one tutoring, writing groups, writing classes and writing resources such as textbooks, vocabulary lists and templates. 

    While teachers and tutors are great at giving you resources and advice, you can share writing experiences and exchange feedback with peers in writing workshops.

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    Hyebin Seo

    January 26 2024
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