The Bookshelf Corner

A creative space for all things books and writing….

Student’s Guide: Academic Writing Reminders

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Happy Monday, everyone!

When we first began doing major academic writing as kids (essays, picture prompts, etc.), we were taught the basics of writing and how to organize it. The rules of writing were simple back then.

I remember as a young kid starting body paragraphs of an essay with “first,” “second,” “third,” so on and ending with “in conclusion” as I was told to do. Well, imagine my kid-surprise when I reached higher levels of learning that this was not how you organized an essay and frowned upon.

But looking back, I attribute those beginnings as a reflection of the level of learning we as children were at in order for us to understand. And the more we learned, the more academic writing we did, the more we had to adapt to changing rules and sophistication of academic writing. There were some consistences but every now and again you’d get a teacher who has their own ideas about certain aspects of writing – which is fine, to each his or her own. In time, we could write successfully and intuitively.

So today I wanted to do a post about all the things I’ve learned from academic writing over the years. You may or may not find this useful if you’re still in some form of school. These reminders apply to one or more forms of academic writing (in no particular order):

  • The most important rule….DO NOT PLAGIARIZE!!!!!
  • Be original
  • Use your own thoughts/words
  • Use textual evidence (primary source and (if required) secondary sources)
  • Cite sources correctly by style (MLA, APA, Chicago, etc.)
  • Use credible academic sources (books, databases, journal articles, etc.)
  • Make sure your thesis (if applicable) is consistent throughout
  • For essays/papers, body paragraphs need a topic sentence that supports/is derived from your thesis
  • Don’t write a “laundry list” (no starting paragraphs with first, second, third, in conclusion)
  • Summarize briefly and only if necessary OR assume the reader is familiar with the work you are writing about and get straight to the points you aim to make
  • Use strong, appropriate language (avoid over-the-top or archaic words)
  • Leave out unnecessary words (be descriptive and specific but concise)
  • Avoid run-on sentences (break those up into clearer more concise sentences)
  • Spell check (or whatever your word processor has like it)
  • Revise/edit more than once (because spell check doesn’t always catch grammatical/syntax/tense errors or missing words)
  • Pick a title that hints/indicates what your work is about/what you plan to talk about
  • Double check that what you’re writing follows and incorporates the prompt/topic (if applicable)
  • Double check the grading rubric (if applicable)
  • If unsure of how it reads, then read it aloud to yourself
  • If unsure if it makes sense, then have someone else read it to you
  • If unsure if you’ve made your point and if it’s logical/understandable, then have someone else read it and recite back to you what it’s about/what they’ve learned
  • And, finally….don’t be afraid to ask for help (but NOT to write the piece for you) – even people good at writing need help with it sometimes

Again, these are things that I’ve learned during my studies, which may or may not apply to you.

What has helped you with your academic writing? What other reminders should I add to this list or modify? If you’re a teacher, what reminders have you given your students to help the write effectively? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comments down below.

Happy writing!


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