academic writing skills

How to improve academic writing, 3 essential guides

What a stressful topic this was. I was right though, it wasn’t easy at all, and my grades were reflecting it. Luckily, I managed to turn it around and get a First-Class Honours Degree. I hope you do it too if you are struggling! In this post I will share with you 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 that 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?

writing and studying hard

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 university 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.

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!

academic writing skills

Essential guides to improve academic writing skills

I improved my grades dramatically. 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 so that you can check prices, reviews and contents. Please also mind that if you use my links I will get a tiny referral commission (obviously nothing extra for you of course).

I always prefer to disclose that since I hate when it’s not specified elsewhere online. It’s up to you if you think my blog adds some value to your student journey!

Speaking about Amazon, before you get anything, I really hope you have an Amazon Prime Student account. It’s for student only (many don’t know about it)! If not, I have explained how it works and how to get it step by step here:

“The best student discount?”. I would highly recommend you check it out before you continue reading this post! It’s a bargain and it only lasts until graduation unfortunately, take advantage while you still can!

In any case, let’s now go through the best guides to improve academic writing skills.

How to write Essays & Assignments (link here)

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 thought 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.

Cite Them Right: The Essential Referencing Guide (link here)

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.

Critical Thinking Skills: Effective Analysis, Argument and Reflection (link here)

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.

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.

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, 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!

Set some study time apart just for that, 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!

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!

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