How to Avoid Top 10 Mistakes of Academic Writing

March 04, 2018
Academic writing is a big challenge for most students. They are wondering: “How do I write a unique paper when I have to use and reference so many sources?”

Lack of uniqueness is not the only trouble for students who are trying to write a good research project. There many common mistakes we’re constantly seeing in their work. When you learn how to identify these mistakes, it will be easy to fix them. Without someone pointing them out to you, however, you’ll just assume that your writing is good enough.

That’s what we’re here for today: pointing out your mistakes. Maybe you’re not guilty of any of the flaws we’ll list, but you’ll be safer if you check. This is how to avoid the 10 most common mistakes that students make in academic writing:

  1. Focus on a Clear Introduction

Students often write an overly general introduction that doesn’t lead the reader directly towards the thesis statement.

Remember: the intro is the first thing the reader reads, but it’s not necessarily the first thing you have to write. If you’re working on a complex document, such as a research project for example, it’s smarter to write with this flow:

  • First, formulate the thesis statement. It will be positioned at the end of the introduction and it will guide you throughout the entire discussion.
  • Write the body of the paper. Focus on the details, but keep your eye on the logical flow. Make sure to follow your outline, so you won’t make unnecessary digressions.
  • When you’re done with the body, write the introduction. It should directly introduce the reader towards your argument.

With this process, it will be easier for you to write an engaging introductory paragraph that’s entirely linked to the arguments in the body of the paper.

  1. Avoid Plagiarism By All Means!

Plagiarism is a huge issue. Students get punished for it! If it’s an especially important project, such as a dissertation, it won’t get you the results you need and you might be removed from the program, depending on the university’s policies.

  • Reference all sources you use! It’s important to take notes during the research process, so you’ll know where your ideas come from and you won’t fall into the trap of accidental plagiarism.
  • You may paraphrase if you don’t want to use too many quotations in your paper. Even when you rewrite other people’s ideas in your own words, it’s still recommended to credit the sources. Otherwise, it’s still considered plagiarism.
  1. Keep the Purpose to Mind

Do you know why academic writing is so hard for many students? They don’t see a purpose in writing essays if they want to be economists or doctors. Still, academic writing is part of everyone’s personal and professional progress.

Remind yourself of the fact that essay writing skills help your career, whatever it may be. When you realize that these efforts are very useful for your future, you’ll be more motivated to write that essay.

  1. Do Not Procrastinate!

Not starting the process on time results with an obviously rushed paper. A simple essay requires at least one week of work. A more complex project, such as a research paper, may take months.

Procrastination is one of the biggest pitfalls in academic writing. You think there’s plenty of time. You’ll go through the preliminary research process, and you’ll assume you already have a foundation. So you’ll keep wasting your time on other tasks. When the deadline comes really near, the panic will overwhelm you.

There’s only one way to avoid this mistake: start the research and writing process on time! Plan how much time you’ll need and start even earlier. When you focus on doing a bit of work every single day by the deadline, you won’t be exhausted. You’ll be confident that it’s going well. That self-confidence will reflect itself in the content you write.

  1. Get Professional Help If Needed

Some students simply don’t know how to write an academic paper. That’s not a crime. Their mistake is that they write the essay anyway. Their focus is just to complete something by the deadline and they don’t care about the quality.

Don’t do that! If you get stuck, hire the best paper writing service to help you overcome the obstacles. That’s a great solution that will result with a great paper, but will also teach you a thing or two about academic writing.

  1. Write That Outline!

Poor structure is a serious flaw in any type of academic project. Without proper logical flow, you’ll lose the attention of your reader from the very beginning.

There’s one certain way of avoiding that mistake: write an outline! It will guide you through all sections of the paper, so you’ll end up with a well-structured piece that catches and keeps the reader’s focus.

  1. Don’t Express Yourself in First Person

If this is not a personal essay, first-person language is unacceptable. It makes academic writing seem unserious and childish.

Avoid using I, me, my or mine in a serious academic paper. Express strong arguments in third person, and support them with proper references. That’s the only way to write a convincing, authoritative paper.

  1. Use the Body Paragraphs to Develop Your Main Idea

Many students figure out their main thesis statement, express it in the introduction, and then fill in the remaining parts of the paper’s structure with rambling. That’s a huge mistake!

The body paragraphs must develop the main idea. Each of them should contain a strong topic sentence, which you’ll support with proof in the form of arguments, relevant examples, and references. Go through few samples of effective essays, so you’ll see that each body paragraph is strong on its own, but it’s also an essential part of the overall paper. That’s the effect you’re aiming for.

  1. Don’t Use Overly Complex Language

When a student lacks confidence in their writing skills, they try to mask it with “big” words. They want to use scientific or overly advanced language they don’t even understand. This doesn’t make them look smarter. It makes them look confused.

Simplicity and clarity are essential aspects of a successful academic project. “Dumb it down” is one of the main rules to follow! Use simple, straightforward language that allows you to express a clear message.

  1. Don’t Go Overboard with the Footnotes

When you don’t have enough space in your essay to include background information, footnotes can add value. They are useful, but students often overuse them. That makes the reading process difficult for the reader. If it’s a simple essay of five paragraphs, in particular, the reader won’t like spending their energy on more reading.

Whenever you plan to include a footnote in the paper, ask yourself: is it absolutely necessary for the logical flow of the paper? If a simple reference is enough, stay within those limits. The reader will access the source you reference if they want to get more information.

Now that you’re aware of the 10 most common mistakes in academic writing and you know how to avoid them, you’re ready to start writing that paper!

By Mark Delarika.

 Mark Delarika is a professional content writer, teacher, and a blogger. He taught in more than 10 countries for students all over the world. He is major in educational innovations. Mark helps students to improve writing skills, shares his personal experience and gives practical tips for educators.