Academic writing is a skill that all students need to obtain and as such is sometimes provided as a separate course at most universities. Whether you’re writing an assignment, essay, paper, dissertation, thesis, PhD, research paper or scholarly article, your aim is the same – a good academic piece that builds your credibility in your field.
Writing stages for students
There are a number of stages involved in the academic writing process:
- Plan your writing
- Analyse the research question at hand
- Draft an outline
- Research information
- Read and make notes
- Edit and proofread
There is a lot of information that can be written about these stages, however I am going to provide input and professional support for editing and proofreading and as such, have collated some editing and proofreading tips for students below.
Important points for students
When planning your writing, keep in mind the purpose and the overall assessment requirements. Usually you will be writing to convey your knowledge and understanding of the topic by responding to a research question. Your lecturer or professor will more than likely assess your understanding by referring to an assignment sheet or guide. Make it your first priority to find out what is being assessed and work from there to ensure that your content is accurate, relevant and sufficient.
Good academic writing will create and maintain your credibility and as such good academic writing:
- Answers the question/s posed;
- Provides evidence showing you have thought about, researched and understand the topic;
- Is objective;
- Is well-structured;
- Reads well, flowing logically from one section to the next;
- Is stylistically and grammatically correct;
- Is correctly referenced.
When you have completed your first draft, you can start on your editing and proofreading stage. Remember that proofreading is the final stage in the production process, so edit first, then proofread. Read on for detailed editing and proofreading tips.
Editing and proofreading tips for students
First things first – close your laptop, shuffle all your research findings into a nice neat pile, and take a break. Try and distance yourself from your work for even short while. This will give you a clearer mind and prepare you for the next stage of your writing process.
When you edit your document, you are looking at the structure and the style of the document.
The structure will reflect the type of document you are preparing – essays and journal articles have a completely different structure. Refer to your assessment sheet if you are unclear.
When you are editing for style you are ensuring your document is clear, concise and readable by taking into account tone (formal versus informal language), voice (passive versus active), and language (tentative versus certainty) .
You may like to print your document – double sided, 1.5 spacing and 12pt font will help – and make written notes in the margin as you work through your document. If you are visual learner, this will help you see the big picture of your document and allow you to highlight paragraphs that may require moving.
During the proofreading stage you are specifically looking for spelling, grammar and punctuation errors along with formatting, pagination and general layout issues with your document e.g. do your tables break across pages, are your headings correctly aligned, do all your numbers have pages etc.
Again, allow yourself time to rest after editing your document so that you are proofreading with a fresh pair of eyes.
Final tips for students
If you take anything away from this post, remember this:
- Allow yourself time to edit and proofread your document – add in a few days for this process when planning your writing
- Edit first then proofread, looking for specific things during each of these stages and allowing ample time in between them
- If you’re stress, tired, or time-poor you are likely to miss simple mistakes