Essential Skills for Academic Writers

Tips from the Writing Lab:

1. Don’t write a paper.  Don't focus on page lengths and requirements. Instead, concentrate on getting your message across. It is easier for ideas to flow when you aren't trying to force them.

2. Begin in the middle.  We often know what we want to say, but don't know how to start.  Start in the middle-write what you know you want to say. As you write, a logical sequence will form, and in the process, you will find yourself thinking, “That’s it! That’s where I want to start!”

3. Use temporary section headings to organize.  Headings help you create a rough outline of what you know you want to write. Then, as you write, you will be able to determine what information should go under which heading. As you progress, cut and paste.  Each section will begin to fill out and stand alone.

4. Write each section separately.  Instead of focusing on writing an entire paper, write each section individually. This will make it easier to identify information that doesn't fit.  You can then decide whether you need to move it to a new section or delete it. Note: Do not delete information in the beginning processes; move it to another section. You may need it later.

5. Write like you talk.  It’s the way you think most effectively.  Later, you can revise to fit professional conventions and polish it. Concentrate on expressing your thought first, and public presentation later.

6. Don’t try to be perfect.  Trying to be perfect creates writer’s block and stifles thinking.  Correcting as you write may cause you to lose your train of thought.  You should rewrite sentences that are unclear as you go, but fix minor things after the fact. Highlight or use bold type to mark places you know you will need to fix later.

7. Write a little each day.  Adding to your project daily keeps it fresh in your mind and keeps it from bogging you down.  If you don’t have something new to add, edit something you wrote earlier.  New thoughts come easily when you are in the habit of writing regularly