Good academic writing is a cornerstone to success at a British university. Tutors will expect you to deliver high-quality work, assuming you are already familiar with standards and expectations, which might not be the case if you come from a different culture. Starting at an apparently disadvantaged position may be frustrating, but it does not doom you to failure as there is an array of simple and reliable techniques to hone your writing skills.
1. Read academic articles
Reading a great deal of academic literature can hardly be overvalued. As you look through scholarly articles, your eye gets used to proper academic language, sentences and structures. When you are starting on the next paper, these structures and phrases are likely to spring into your mind. Thus, a gradual improvement to your writing style will occur even without any conscious effort to change it. However, to experience this beneficial effect, you need to read a lot. You can check here a full list of useful academic databases, but the best online resources are:
- Google Scholar. Easy to use, powerful and absolutely free, this search tool is loved by many students. You will get a huge selection of articles on virtually any possible topic. Many of them will be available as free full-text PDFs or web pages.
- EmeraldInsight. A strong selection of articles and book chapters on various topics and subjects. Full texts are only available to subscribers.
- ScienceDirect. The recent restrictions to the functionality of its free search tool made this resource less popular. To browse by exact phrase or use other advanced search options, you now need to buy a subscription. However, all abstracts and select full-texts are still available for free.
- DeepDyve. This online library allows you to browse and read first pages of all articles for free. Unlimited reading is available to subscribers or on a free two-week trial period.
2. Review exemplary papers
Exemplary papers are handed out in some courses to give students a better idea of what kind of work they are expected to produce. If you get a digital copy of such a paper, you can use it to do an exercise for writing skills improvement. Open the exemplary paper and one of your old assignments, preferably the one on a similar topic and not too lengthy, side by side. Read both closely, taking notice of what words and expressions the author of the exemplary paper used to convey ideas. How are the paragraphs in this paper different from yours? Are they much longer or much shorter, or maybe differently constructed? After you finish reading, re-write your old paper so that it retains the original meaning but gets closer in style and tone to the exemplary one – as close as it actually can get. This exercise may take several hours and much effort to complete, yet it has the benefits of being absolutely free and highly effective for improving your skills.
3. Study the tutors’ feedback
Some instructors will provide very detailed feedback, eagerly explaining what is wrong with your assignment. Even if you are not allowed to revise this paper and turn it again for a higher grade, do take a close look at any comments left – they can help you avoid repeating similar mistakes in the future. You may even try to fix the highlighted mistakes just for the sake of practice.
4. Attend workshops
Facing increased numbers of students who struggle with their papers, more colleges and universities are introducing academic writing workshops. These are an excellent opportunity to get the most important moments explained to you by a knowledgeable person. At a workshop, you will also be completing practical tasks and get individual feedback on your progress. Most workshops hosted by universities are free to attend, but sometimes a small fee may be charged. You may wish to choose a distance-learning form to complete an academic writing workshop.
5. Pay close attention to paper guidelines
This point may seem obvious, but lots of writing mistakes resulting in low grades are actually committed through misunderstanding of the requirement. You will want to read the assignment brief carefully to make sure you understand what must be included in each section and what structure to follow. Even if there are any deviations from what is typically expected in an ‘essay’ or a ‘report’, assignment guidelines always have the priority. Follow them closely to deliver a paper that will score high.
Good academic writers are made, not born. Commitment and perseverance will eventually get you high grades.
Anna Clarke is a freelancing expert and the owner of 15 Writers. She has successfully lead and developed team of freelance academic writers for over 20 years. Anna is passionate about self-improvement, motivation and helping others toward academic and personal success.