Six Habits to Avoid in Your Academic Writing

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Experience, in the end, is what help students understand what needs to be avoided when writing an academic paper, but what can you do until that experience is built?

Well, writing a good paper, even when you’re still undergraduate facing his or her first essays, can be less daunting if you follow some simple rules:

Avoid using the 1st and 2nd person: academic writing is formal and, in formal written language, there is no space for “I” and “you.” When you write a personal log, of course, things are different as, in that case, you will need to use the first person. In all other cases, however, stick to the third!

Avoid contractions and colloquialisms: because academic writing is formal, contractions are a no-no: always use the extended version of words and verbs (so, use do not and not don’t, let us and not let’s, etc.). The same with slang, colloquialisms and language that is too familiar: this is often difficult for non-native speakers, because they may be more acquainted to lower register, spoken English than formal English. The solution? Reading, reading and more reading.

Avoid clichés: do not state the obvious in your essays and stay away from both common knowledge and “hot air” opinions: your work has to be original, intelligence and analytical, not a blog post for the masses!

Avoid stating your opinion or idea without supporting it: does this mean I cannot say what I think? No, of course not: at academic level, original thought is essential: you are no longer a Secondary School student and you need to demonstrate you can think. At the same time, you cannot simply state what you think in an academic essay, without supporting it with relevant literature: this is called analysis, and analytical thought is fundamental in academia. So, regardless to the subject you study, get acquainted with it, read and form an analytical, well-structured opinion, which you can support with relevant sources (that is, academic, scientific, literary: not websites!).

Please, please, please: avoid using Wikipedia: using Wikipedia as a source for your work is unacceptable. Full stop. While it maybe a decent place to go to get a basic knowledge of something you know absolutely nothing about, Wiki pages should never be the source of your proper knowledge on a topic.

Avoid plagiarism: well, of course. Do not copy other people’s work and always make sure you reference every source you use!

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