Tips and Tricks For Academic Writing

By Laiken Harrigan
Elm Staff Writer

As the last few weeks of the semester approach, final papers and exams will pile up. These deadlines can be an added pressure on students and make the challenge of paper writing more intense. Below are some guidelines for freshmen and seniors alike that are beneficial for tackling an academic essay.

One main reason that a student might struggle with their writing is because of poor time management. It’s crucial to allot enough time for each step of the paper process: brainstorming, outlining, drafting, editing or revising, and proofreading.

According to Associate Professor of English and Director of Writing Sean Meehan, going to the Writing Center can actually help students manage their time better because it gives them a set schedule to work with. This also motivates more thoughtful revision and feedback, to understand what to review closer in an assigned paper.

Writer’s block is another problem that every student has faced at some point. Whether they aren’t sure what to talk about or how to start, this issue commonly stems from lack of research. It’s important to find a source that’s both reliable and worthy of further exploration.  If a source can’t be picked apart and carefully investigated, it probably doesn’t work to further the argument.

Finding the right source is also useful for creating concise but thoughtful ideas. Rambling in an essay often happens when the writer doesn’t have strong enough material to work with.

According to the online writing resource Purdue Owl, “Being critical does not necessarily mean criticizing, but instead means to question, to interrogate. Writing critically means to look carefully at a subject, and to ask tough questions about different aspects of it.”

Associate Professor of Business Management Michael Harvey discussed the “power of paragraph” in the current issue of the Washington College Review online. Looking at one paragraph as a way to delve deep into a specific idea or theme is a really powerful way to make stronger connections towards the larger paper.

“The quickest way to strengthen a piece of writing is to make sure that each of your paragraphs is doing one thing, and doing it well,” he said.

Lastly, while trying to create a thoughtful essay, keeping the audience and purpose in consideration are important factors. When typing an academic paper intended for a professor to read, they become the audience. Try to keep in mind what information your audience already knows and what you’re trying to make them question or rethink.

According to Dr. Meehan, that defines what the speaker’s motivation for writing is and can lead to more concise work.

“I think of a basic purpose for writing as helping my readers rethink or reconsider something that they would otherwise not be aware of or mistake or not realize is in need of rethinking. That’s enough motivation for me to want to read an essay; writers need to harness that motivation when writing an essay as well,” he said.

For more help with writing, visit the Writing Center on the first floor of Goldstein Hall in room 106.

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