Writing academic papers is an important part of every advanced educational program. Whether you are involved in undergraduate or postgraduate studies, you are expected to carry out some form of research, which will be presented in the form of an academic paper.
Even teachers, lecturers and those involved in research and development are always engaged in the writing of one kind of academic paper or another.
Writing an academic paper is quite easy if you have the required time and resources. A student once said, ‘Because I’m always on the wrong side of the deadline, I rely on professionals to keep writing my papers.’ If this sounds like you, then at least you have identified one part of the problem and can work towards finding a solution.
On the other hand, most students are confused about the process of writing a paper, and they would like to learn how it works. If you would like to know how to write a great academic paper, then the following tips will go a long way to help you.
1. HAVE A PURPOSE
Writing an academic paper or any paper at all can be quite a tricky task. This is because it requires a lot of brain work. Without a purpose, it is very easy for the writer to lose focus because of the large amount of data available to the researcher.
When writing, you are bound to hit a snag. This is normal. If you do not have a purpose, you may find yourself drifting and wandering in your article.
But if you start writing with a defined purpose, refocusing on the purpose of the paper, will help you concentrate on completing the paper.
An undergraduate’s purpose for writing a paper and those of a person contributing to a journal are certainly different. The process or procedure might be similar, but the purpose will definitely differ.
2. READ SOME MODEL PAPERS
Whether you are an undergraduate, a postgraduate or a professional researcher, it is always a great idea to read some papers students and researchers in that field have written in the past.
This has a way of exposing you to the right structure and style required for the kind of writing you intend to embark on.
3. DECIDE ON A TOPIC
In selecting a topic, stick with a subject you are passionate about. One of the reasons why it is advisable to select a topic you love is that even where there are no already-made data with which you can write your paper, you will have the strength and motivation to go out and gather your own data.
Selecting a topic you are not familiar with or willing to research will slow you down and eventually hamper your work.
4. HAVE AN OUTLINE
Some writers just hit the ground running without any need for an outline. You may think these types of writers have no outline at all. But the truth is they do have outlines. Only it is in their head.
Now every academic paper is divided into sections and chapters. If you can hold your outline in your head without losing them, then good luck. But if you tend to be distracted occasionally, then it is wise to write down the crucial points for easy reference.
Another importance of using an outline is that it helps you to remember and stick with the contents you want to include in your paper so that anything that does not fit into any of your contents is discarded.
5. START WRITING
After you have decided and written down your outline, it is then time to add flesh to your skeletal work. Start writing your ideas. Don’t be afraid to Include all the relevant materials and information you have gathered. Work slowly from one section to another.
But whenever you decide to start writing, just remember that there is no rule that says, you must start from the beginning till you finish.
What I mean is that you are free to write the conclusion before the introduction if that is what you have in your head. It is ok to write chapter eight before you start chapter two.
After you have finished your first draft, please go through your manuscript. After correcting the errors you have noticed, give your work to a colleague or friend and get a second opinion.
The purpose of having a second person go through your paper is two pronged. The first is to spot errors that you might have missed and another reason is to identify areas where you can effect improvement.
7. GET FEEDBACK
The next thing to do after proofreading is to get feedback from reliable experts. Note, that you should not take your work to just anybody. Look for seasoned researchers who know exactly what to look out for in such a work.
8. PUT FINISHING TOUCHES
After you have gotten your feedback, it is time to effect the corrections they suggested. But you need to be careful with these suggestions, as some of them may be inflamed, sentimental or even malicious.
Remember that you are the master of your work and you know your aims and objectives in embarking on the work. Therefore do not allow any suggestion which does not agree with your initial purpose of doing the paper to come in and change the object of your work.
Chioma Iwunze-Ibiam writes creative non-fiction and prose fiction. Her works have appeared in Romance Meets Life, Flash Fiction Press, MTLS, Saraba Magazine, Sentinel Magazine and others. Her first novel, Finding Love Again, was published by Ankara Press. She owns and manages Creative Writing News.