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How to improve your academic writing?

academic writing

Academic writing is the style in which people communicate on the paper in the academic world. This is the style that you will use to write your essays, research papers, and theses at the university. Bear in mind that there is no universal academic writing style agreed upon all over the world. Every country, university, and even department has particular rules of academic writing that you will have to learn and follow. However, generally, the language used in academic papers and works is similar to the business or professional writing in terms of formality level and lack of personalized language. It definitely has a particular vocabulary, different regulations of grammar, sentences, and paragraph length (e.g. some disciplines within the Arts and Humanities expect longer paragraphs, while Sciences disciplines prefer short paragraph dense in factual information) as well as text structure. Yet, here we will try to have a look at the academic writing in general.

Academic Writing: General tips

In this section of our article, you can find general tips that will help you improve your academic writing skills. They are not field-dependent or school-based.

  1. Learn local rules

    As it has already been mentioned, every school and department has its local rules regarding academic writing. Some allow using Passive Voice and personal pronouns, while others would fail a student who ventures to say “in this thesis I”. Some countries, such as European or American, prefer their academic works to be written in simple language so that even a non-expert could understand the content. However, Eastern European academic writing sticks to the idea “the more complex the better” (in this tradition, you would have to use long and extended sentences to hide the main idea from the reader). Moreover, there is a vast number of citation styles available; make sure that you know which one is used in your school because otherwise you risk getting an F from the start.

    The bottom line here: ask your professors and preferably an academic writing mentor for the set of rules used in your particular school. Sometimes you will not get a paper version of them, yet may write according to your mentor’s experience.

  2. Improve vocabulary

    Academic papers and essays are filled with the topic-related vocabulary. If you don’t use this vocabulary, your academic writing is likely to look poor and shallow for the theme experts. So proper vocabulary use is one of the fundamental tips for academic writing. It doesn’t mean that you need to bone up those words. No. You must understand the terms you use since you will be writing about the topics related to your academic specialization.

    Note: if you don’t know some wording either look it up in the literature or avoid using it. It’s much better not to use some word than to use it in the wrong context.

  3. Work on the right structure

    Academic writing is mostly associated with the research papers and theses. Both of these works have a relatively fixed structure: introduction, theoretical overview of the previous research, theoretical basis of your research, methodology, results, and conclusions. While the overall idea will be, again, unified throughout the academic world, particular parts of it may differ. Make sure that you learn the correct structure because, without it, your work will not even be accepted as a scholar research.

  4. Don’t neglect available materials

    If you feel lost and know that academic writing is not your strong side, then don’t neglect the possibility to practice and work with the so-called OWLs (Online Writing Labs) that are designed to help students with their writing. Here is a list of five best OWLs:

  5. Never overuse online editing and proofreading sources

    Today many people in the business environment implement online editing tools whenever possible, for example, Grammarly or Hemingway App. While both resources are amazing for casual use they are not advised for college students. If you get used to the programs fixing your grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, you risk forgetting how to do it yourself. As a result, you are likely to score less during the tests.

    If you decide to work with such proofreading resources, then approach them in a smart way. Write something, then check it with the tool and pay attention to the mistakes a program highlights for you. Write those mistakes down and next time focus on avoiding them. Such a simple practice will ensure that you don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

  6. Practice with someone knowledgeable

    Practicing with someone more skillful in academic writing is always an asset. You can join a writing club, come to your professors during the duty hours, or simply hire an academic writer who will tutor you. Practice makes perfect so use all resources available.
    academic writing

  7. Avoid over-quoting

    Yes, citations and quotes are welcomed in academic papers because you need to demonstrate your knowledge of the previous research. However, you cannot base your theoretical overview on citations and quotes only. Such research looks poor and illegitimate as if you didn’t understand the matter at all. Remember that besides direct quotes, there is a matter of paraphrasing. This technique is highly suggested provided that you include the proper references to the paraphrased works.

  8. Edit, edit, edit

    One of the fundamental elements of academic papers, research, and theses is editing. However hard it comes to you, during your studies you will have to learn to proofread your own work. And it’s better to start doing it earlier rather than later. Every review of your own ideas helps to improve and eventually polish your thoughts to make your points more eloquently.

6 Practical Tips

We’re done with the theoretical part of our academic writing guide. And now it’s time to give you some easy-to-learn and implement examples from the grammatical point of view. Again, however perfect you thought your grammar is, read this article till the end to get a higher mark in course.


  1. Active instead of Passive Voice

    Active Voice is accepted by all universities in the world while passive might be seen as a faulty language by the academic society.
    Don’t say:This thesis is aimed at describing the lifestyle of bullfinches.
    Instead:The thesis aims to describe the lifestyle of bullfinches.

  2. Learn punctuation

    Playing with punctuation is fun and interesting but only provided that you know your local stylesheet (see point 1 in part 1 of this article).

    Here we offer you the basics of the most commonly misused punctuation marks:

    1. The semi-colon (;) should separate two complete complementary sentences
      The conclusion of these scholars is incohesive; it would require complete revision after the experiment.
    2. The colon (:) should be used
      • before the list
        This chapter focuses on three main aspects: articles, nouns, and adjectives.
      • before some big revelation
        One thing professor’s conclusion lacks: common sense.
    3. The dash (–) is used
      • instead of brackets to detach explanatory information
        The equation–which was firstly introduced in the Ancient Greece–is the foundation of modern Algebra.
        Note: there are no spaces between the dash and the text!
      • fulfilling the function of a colon
        The rhinoceroses would collide with each other to fight for the female–even if it meant not eating a thing for a few days.
  3. Avoid chopping the sentences

    Don’t say:The context is most important. It is in the center of research. Don’t approach translation without context.
    Instead say:Context is in the center of this research since translation cannot be approached without the surrounding context.

    Note: of course, in this case, we added a couple of words to make the latter sentence sound more natural. But you get the idea.

  4. No repetition

    Don’t say:The current tendency is modern.
    Paraphrase the whole idea because current = modern; while tendency encompasses the concept of modernity.

  5. Use vocabulary that you know and understand

    It has already been mentioned above but you must not use those words that you don’t understand. Either look them up in the dictionary or paraphrase them. The use of unknown words is always crystal clear to your professor and it never makes the impression you intended to. However, this tip doesn’t mean that you should use such services as Thesaurus to diversify your work.


  6. No colloquial phrases

    Formal and especially academic writing have no use of colloquial speech. That saying we mean forget about “SMS” for “short messages” or “y’all” for “you all.” Cast away your everyday language and think of what language your professors use – they should be your role models.

And the final tip from us. Academic writing is not about impressing your reader with elaborate language and intricate structures. This is the type of writing that primarily focuses on the informativity of the written text and the ideas embedded in it. Never try to write something in this field to impress your teacher or colleague; write to impress with your opinions and to share your knowledge with the reader. These are the fundamentals of the elaborate and concise academic writing style, good luck!

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