Q: What advice do you have for students about developing their academic writing skills?
1. The hardest thing is to begin. This is true for everyone engaged in any type of writing. Just speak to a judge when she has a judgment to write or a consultant when he has a report to write. The same is true for academics and, of course, students. So the first piece of advice is, “just write”. If you cannot think of what to write, write anything – even a letter to a friend! Once you start writing, the ideas will flow. Even if you discard most of what you wrote to get you going, it will be worth it.
2. Writing is a job, so rather than “waiting for inspiration”, block off time for that job as you would any other. Find the place you like best to write, block off several hours to do so and put it in your agenda. Consider it an appointment you must keep.
3. Give your writing to someone else, preferably outside of your specialty, to read. This person can be a friend, a colleague or a family member. Remember, if your great aunt can understand your academic paper, then you have succeeded in your writing.