At the end of a research project it is time to head home from the field or venture out of the lab and to spend some time behind a desk writing up results. This can be an exciting time because you are preparing your findings to share with the world, but if you do not enjoy writing, this process can be a bit daunting. Here are 8 tips to help you improve your academic writing for your next project.
1.Write for Your Audience
If you are writing a research report, you are more than likely writing for an academic audience. This type of paper will need to take on a much different tone than, for example, a blog post. In academic writing, eliminate conversational phrasing. You should also be careful to avoid language that is too over complicated or flowery because this can take away from your message. Your audience wants to be able to quickly read and understand your work.
2.Entice the Reader
The first paragraph of your piece is very important because this is your chance to convince your readers that they should continue past the first page. The opening of your piece should clearly and concisely explain what will be covered in the paper and how it will be structured. If your paper is formatted to include an abstract, this should serve the same purpose. In addition to a strong opening, in longer papers, a clear table of contents can also help to make sure readers know what to expect.
3.Use the Active Voice
Sometimes, in academic writing it can be easy to fall into using the passive voice, but the active voice will make your writing more clear. Active voice is when the subject performs the action denoted by the verb and the subject “acts upon” the verb. For example, in the sentence, “Larry sang the song,” it is clear that Larry is doing the singing. If using the passive voice, the sentence would read, “The song was sung by Larry.” When the subject is known, active voice should always be used.
4.Vary Sentence Structure and Punctuation
Reading a work where all sentences are the same length can become very monotonous, causing readers to lose focus. Instead, try to vary the length and complexity of your sentences. Incorporating different punctuation such as the colon, semicolon, and dash, when used correctly, can be an easy way to help ensure your sentences are varied.
In academic writing, complex metaphors or analogies can feel out of place and be confusing to the reader. Save these types of language for works of fiction, and in your research report remain factual and to the point.
6.Use Occam’s Razor
Occam’s razor is named after the 14th century English theologian and philosopher William of Occam. He proposed that the best way to get to the truth is to discard as much unnecessary information as possible. Using this in your writing can help you greatly improve your work. There are a few ways to apply this principle, including: sticking closely to your topic, using only the most relevant and important sources, keeping the structure simple, and setting and sticking to word counts. Working to remove unnecessary information from your writing is an easy way to be better understood by readers.
7.Have a Plan for Editing
Your first draft is never perfect. Plan to leave time to proofread your work and to get feedback from others. Then, write a second draft and proofread again! Do not get discouraged if you ask someone for feedback and they have a lot of edits for your first draft, take it as a learning experience and be happy that you were able to make these changes before you submitted your finished work.
The more often you write, the easier and more comfortable it will become. If you are able to commit to spending some time writing each week, your confidence will increase. Some scientists run blogs to keep their writing skills fresh. This is a great way to share insights about your field while also improving your skills. Additionally, if you have already carved out time for writing, it will be easier to meet deadlines and avoid procrastination when you are working to finish a big project.
I hope that these ideas help you improve your next academic writing piece. Even for experienced writers, it can be helpful to keep these ideas in mind to make sure you are still actively avoiding small mistakes. At Conseris, we aim to support researchers through all stages of their project. From data collection to your final presentation, find out more about how we can help by starting a free trial today.