Academic writing isn’t all about sounding fancy and using big words.
It’s a way to communicate ideas in an effective and concise format, usually to an audience that already understands a bit about what you have to say.
Your focus should be on understandability. If you try to sound smart while lacking substance, you’re just going to waste people’s time as they struggle to read what you’ve written. Here are some tips to help you improve your academic writing style:
Outline Your Sections First
This is an optional step, but it could go a long way in organizing your thoughts. If you take the time to sketch out your ideas in outline form, you’ll write each part with an understanding of how it fits in with the whole. You’ll also be able to narrow down your topic before it’s too late.
This method will also make the first stage of writing much easier. And for any procrastinators out there, this could mean a lot.
Once you outline our sections, you’ll have more freedom to work out of order. Again, this will help with procrastination by letting you work on whatever part you’re most interested in at any given time.
Of course, this might mean you’ll save the most tedious part for last. But at least the difficult sections won’t block your flow for the rest of your piece.
And if you’re mostly done by the time you reach these sections, this sense of completion might give you the extra boost you need to finish the job.
Save the Beginning for the End in Academic Writing
When choosing the order of what to write, you should know it’s not necessary to start with the introduction or abstract. In fact, it might be better to write the introduction after you’ve written a good chunk of the body of the piece.
In academic writing, the conflicting pressures of conciseness and thoroughness can be difficult to navigate. The introduction and abstract of your paper often form the peak of both of these pressures. How can you capture the gist of your work without bogging down the reader with details in these early sections?
If you wait until you have a better sense of what shape your paper is taking, you’ll be better equipped to condense all the components of your work into one small explainer.
Connect It All Together
Make every paragraph lead in to the next. This will create a smooth reading experience and give the whole paper a sense of cohesion. Better yet, if you’re trying to build toward a complex idea, use each section as a stepping stone toward your final argument.
For a philosophy or math paper, you can use the vocabulary of your field to formalize the way these sections will function. If you’re feeling creative, you can even include a diagram of how your sections fit together. And if you’re writing a dissertation proposal, you’ll need to make sure that every section serves a function in your proposed roadmap.
Academic writing isn’t the easiest thing in the world, but there’s no need to make it harder for yourself. You can use strategies like these to create work that people will actually understand and enjoy reading. After all the work you did to create your body of research, your ideas deserve to shine.
For more on effective communication, check out the other posts on this blog!