How to improve academic writing, 3 essential guides 2022

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Best education and learning quotes
Best education and learning quotes

What a stressful topic this was. I was right though, it wasn’t easy at all, and my grades were reflecting it. I was going for a 2:1 at best, but luckily I managed to turn it around and get a First-Class Honours Degree.

Hopefully you do it too if you are struggling with it! In this post I will share the best guides I used to improve my academic writing skills.

Even before actually starting university, I always had this fear of writing essays, reports, and sometimes even emails!

The reality is, like it or not, academic writing has its own structure and lecturers look for that too when marking.

Consequentially, you got to follow that if you want good grades, simple right? I’ve learned it the hard way. The worst thing ever is when you submit your work and you think it’s good; you’re sure about it and expect a very good grade.

Then reality comes and hits hard, your score is average, sometimes even below that. It’s upsetting and it ruins your day, possibly your week and so your other assignments.

You ask yourself: how is this possible? What did I do wrong?

Upsetting feedback

You check your feedback and that makes you even more upset. The content is there, it’s even got a lot of quality. However, you read things like:

“you did not answer the question”; “lack of structure, disorganised thoughts”; “you could have expanded on that more”; “too much/little personal opinion”; “poor critical thinking”; “punctuation, grammar”; “you did not cite/reference properly” and I could continue for the entire post.

It all started from that feedback. I really needed to do something about it, I needed to improve my academic writing skills!

The thought alone that those average marks would have a negative impact on my degree was killing me.

The resources available on my university website were too vague, not a great help. Lecturers and tutors? They all had their personal preferences on the matter (funny isn’t it?).

Not even to mention google researches and YouTube videos, I was ending up more confused than before. I was not sure who to listen to in order to write better essays and assignments.

So I decided to do it myself, I bought some academic writing guides in the hope to improve my grades. I started to follow those and.. it was the best decision ever!

Essential guides to improve academic writing skills

I improved my grades dramatically, I was writing better essays and I was much more confident (and faster) doing it.

Obviously it was a gradual process, it didn’t happen overnight and I put some effort in it. But it happened, that’s what mattered to me.

As usual, I will leave a direct link to Amazon UK so that you can check prices, reviews and contents of those guides.

Please note: these are study guides I used; however, if you have any recommendations let me know and I’ll add it to the list (sharing is caring)! Let’s now go through the best guides to improve academic writing skills.

This is the first guide I bought, and it stayed with me till the end! I always carried it in my backpack and used it at home when writing my essays and reports.

It taught me how to structure my assignments; and by that I don’t just mean the writing part, but everything it involves.

It’s a process, from doing initial research to writing a first draft; from organising my thoughts to shaping my text effectively; but mostly, touching on the key points!

Moreover, I improved my grammar (avoiding some common grammar mistakes); better punctuation (learning how to use punctuation marks appropriately); enhanced my vocabulary (using keywords, lecturers love that!) and much more!

I would highly recommend this guide if you are struggling with your assignments. It certainly took my academic writing skills to another level.

The best comprehensive guide on how to cite and reference I have ever read; and trust me, I spent so much time trying to get my head around those.

This was without a doubt one of the most confusing aspects of academic writing. There was just too much contradiction out there for my liking!

Moreover, sometimes I would get marked down for “poor citing and referencing”, which was making me rage to say the least. At some point I even started to think that lectures enjoyed doing that.

This guide solved everything for me; so if you are struggling to cite and reference correctly, then you might want to have a look at it.

So many times I heard lectures saying “you have to develop your critical thinking at university, we want to see that”. Funny enough they never actually explained in detail what they wanted.

Should I put my personal opinion in my essay? When I tried to be critical, I was either doing it wrong or not being critical enough. I have to say that my grades were already improving from using the first guide, but I wanted more.

This guide was key to improve my critical thinking skills, I was able to expand more on the relevant parts of my assignments and add my critical judgement. Most importantly, backing up them using a logical manner and scientific literature!

Another huge benefits I noticed was during presentations. Although it has nothing to do with writing, I need to mention this; I improved a lot my presentation skills, and I would tackle Q&A sessions with confidence and obviously show my critical thinking skills.

Personal tips on academic writing

Some personal tips on how to improve academic writing skills, and hopefully grades. My first suggestions is to treat these guides as textbooks.

You got to spend time on that, read them properly, take notes and keep going until you fully understand the process behind academic writing, that’s very important!

I have shared in detail the best study methods I used at university in another article; you can find it here if you want to know more: The 3 best study methods for effective learning and exam revision”.

Set some study time apart just for those guides, considering it as personal development. It’s an investment, you are committing some time now to get better grades in the future.

Remember what I said earlier, it doesn’t happen overnight, at least it did not for me. I got better gradually and my grades started to reflect that, then I understood the value of those guides and I decided to invest more time on them.

Another tip I want to give you is to always check how the marking works for your assignments in terms of percentages.

My initial mistake was to focus on content mainly; but if that was worth let’s say 60% of the final grade, then I would “lose” on the other 40% by not spending enough time on it!

Allocate your time accordingly, if 10% of your assignment is given by simply create a nice layout with a table of contents etc; then allocate 10% (approx) of your time around that aspect and make sure you score as high as possible there!

If 15% is assigned on critical thinking, then set that amount of time apart for that task. It doesn’t have to match completely, but it’s a good way to give an initial structure.

Make sure to allocate enough time for each activity as outlined in your assignment marking guidelines!

Amazon student discount

Get your amazon prime student account if you haven’t already! It comes with a 6-month free trial, which basically means you can get it for free for six months and then cancel it if you don’t want to keep it after that; should you want to keep it, it will only cost you half price until graduation!

A student prime account will give you unlimited next day deliveries (very useful at university); access to prime video to watch movies and tv series; access to amazon music and other exclusive Amazon UK deals. As a student, it could save you a lot of money!

See below is how to sign up step by step:

  1. Go to the Amazon Prime Student landing page;
  2. You will see this: Start your 6-month trial, click on “Try Prime Student”;
  3. Sign-up or sign-in if you already have a Prime account;
  4. Insert your university email address ( or if in the Republic of Ireland);
  5. Insert your expected graduation year;
  6. Payment details (don’t worry, it’s only needed to sign up, first 6 months are free)
  7. Verify you email (Amazon will send an email to your university email);
  8. Enjoy the benefits! This is definitely one of the best student deals out there.

I would highly recommend you check it out before you get anything! It’s a bargain and it only lasts until graduation unfortunately, take advantage while you still can!

Conclusions on how to improve academic writing skills

Thank you very much for reading my post, I really hope you find it useful. More importantly, I hope you manage to improve your academic writing skills and get better grades!

Do you like the content of this blog? You can find all posts HERE.

Please also consider that this was based on my personal experience, it might not work for everybody. Best of luck on your student journey, I’m sure you will shine!