How to become better with academic writing?

The meaning of ‘academic writing’ is simple; writing of academic assignments and projects like reports, essays, journal papers, theses and dissertations. Outsourcing academic projects is a worldwide industry today.

The problem with academic writing is that many people mistake it for “something similar” to content writing but they are poles apart. Content writers don’t necessarily make good academic writers. Similarly, not all writers can always write creatively. Beginners looking to break into writing as a profession will find that not much help is available on the whats and hows of academic writing. How do you master the art of academic writing without guidance, teachers, or books on it? From my experience of academic writing, I have summarized below a few tips for beginners:

Rule# 1: Academic writing is not content writing

I have said it before, and I will say it again. It’s not free flow writing; you have to do a lot of research to produce a few 100 words. If you are used to content writing style, you will find some difficulty adjusting to this restricted writing method.

Rule# 2: Research is more important than writing

Say you have to write a 1000-word essay on “Labour market in China”. You will first do preliminary research on the pros and cons of the labour market, identify 3-4 main characteristics, then do in-depth research on them. Writing comes much later.

Rule# 3: Nothing goes unsupported in an academic paper

No matter how many dramatic words you make use of, your essay will be hollow and worthless if you don’t have concrete material to back your statements. Every claim must be supported with a reference, or the paper loses its credibility.

Rule# 4: Never rush

Give yourself time to learn this new skill, even if you are an experienced writer. Academic writing takes patience, but once you learn the skill, it’s impossible to dislike it.

Rule# 5: Follow the rules

There are many rules in academic writing. Structure of the paper, referencing style, format, word limit, nature of the essay differ vastly in some cases. Make sure to read the specifications before beginning the research.

Rule# 6: Grammar, Language, Punctuation, Vocabulary matter

You cannot afford to make any grammatical mistakes, supervisors can be very uncourteous in grading because of this. You must also learn to make use of crisp, clear and good vocabulary in the paper, no matter what subject you’re dealing with.

Rule# 7: Read the basics of academic writing

There are a few simple rules of academic writing, which I have summarized here. Investing a few minutes in memorizing these rules will help you go a long way quickly enough.

Rule# 8: Get technological help

There are applications to help you simplify the academic writing process, like online libraries to store your papers, mind map software to help you design the flow of content, etc. The ones I recommend the most are Mendeley for referencing or citation and XMind for mind maps.

Rule # 9: No credit for your writing

As an academic writer, you are a ghostwriter. When you sell your paper, you are transferring the rights of the paper to the buyer. So you have no say whatsoever in the final use of the paper. You will not be given any sort of credit for the outcome of the paper.

Rule # 10: Prepare yourself for many editing requests

Even after years of practising this profession, you will find that not every customer is satisfied in the first try. There will be comments, some not so kind. You have to prepare to edit a paper multiple times to the client’s satisfaction.

That being said, academic writing is pretty easy to cling to because the rules do not change very often. Universities modify their evaluation criteria seldom, and it is never too much to handle. You can monetize this profession more than any other kind of writing if you know where and how to use your skills- it’s a huge market for academic writers out there! As always, happy writing! 🙂

Priya Chetty

Partner at Project Guru
Priya is a master in business administration with majors in marketing and finance. She is fluent with data modelling, time series analysis, various regression models, forecasting and interpretation of the data. She has assisted data scientists, corporates, scholars in the field of finance, banking, economics and marketing.

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