Instructor, English – Language and Culture
Q: What advice do you have for students about writing an academic paper?
A: When writing an academic paper, the actual writing often takes up the least amount of time! Searching for appropriate sources, reading and analyzing the same, taking notes, and creating a clear outline based around a strong thesis statement all take time and involve a great deal of critical thinking. These are not steps that can be skipped or hurried: they form the foundation of your essay—and your knowledge—and the more time spent on these, the deeper your understanding of the subject will be, and the better prepared you will be to actually sit down and write something of value. Starting off with a realistic schedule is therefore very important. Dividing up your paper into various steps (i.e., ten steps that will take you through the points above as well as through the writing, revising, and proofreading process) and associating them with specific dates will give you a sense of achievement as you progress and help you stay on track. Having a schedule and sticking to it should also help you avoid the stress of trying to achieve something of quality at the last minute. Finally, when approaching a paper, attitude is everything—if you stay positive, especially through the tough parts, your mind will be clearer and more focused on the task at hand, and you might just find yourself enjoying yourself more than you expected.
One of my favourite bookmarks is one I make regular use of for personal and academic purposes. ALDAILY (http://www.aldaily.com/) contains links to magazines and specialist journals of all kinds, newspapers, book reviews, new books, in-depth essays and opinion pieces.
I often use this source as a springboard for academic writing. For example, for a paper on quantum computing, which is a subject I know next to nothing about, I might visit the New Scientist Website in search of a background article that could bring me up to speed on the basics and provide me with some initial research leads, which would both be helpful in preparing to tackle a more complex academic reading on the topic.