Katherine Hanz

Liaison Librarian, Education Library and Curriculum Resources Centre

Q: What advice do you have for students about developing their academic writing skills?

A: My advice is to read as much as possible by scholars, professionals and fellow students in your area of study. Since you’re probably doing lots of reading for your coursework, this doesn’t necessarily have to take a great deal of extra time. When you’re reading published works for class, take time to pay attention not only to the content, but also to how scholars in the field express themselves, craft their arguments and structure their writing.

Before coming to McGill to study at the School of Information Studies, I completed an undergraduate and graduate degree in English Literature. One of the biggest challenges of moving from the humanities to the field of library and information studies was learning how to write for a new discipline. I felt that I had mastered writing in the humanities, but I wasn’t completely certain about presenting myself in this new field. Going through this “genre” switch was challenging, but I learned a great deal just by reading the writing of other academics in my field.

It’s also important to remember that academic writing isn’t intuitive—it is a learned skill. So, be patient with yourself as you try to master it—it takes time and practice. 

Photo credit: Klaus Fiedler


Recommended writing resource:

The Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL) is a great resource for grammar and citation assistance.  I often recommend the APA Sample Paper to the students I work with in the Faculty of Education. The APA Classroom Poster makes a great one-page cheat sheet for APA-style basics.

Paiz, J.M., Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, Soderlund, M.L., Brizee, A., & Russell Keck, R. (2013, March 1). APA Formatting and Style Guide. Retrieved from http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/