The struggle is real. One of the biggest complaints college students have is this: Every course they take is at least 30% a writing course. This is of course particularly hard for students who are not good writers and who are majoring in academic subjects that are in STEM areas. Their talents and skills lie in mathematical, science, and tech disciplines, not in English and the social sciences, in which much more writing will be required throughout their careers.
There are all sorts of types of coursework writing – essays, papers, summaries, analyses, book reviews, lab reports, case studies, etc., and, while each of them is unique, there is one thing in common. The writing must be formal; it must be formatted according to instructors’ instructions; and research must be conducted using far more sophisticated sources than in high school (no Wikipedia; no encyclopedias, no textbooks).
So, how does a student become a better academic writer and keep his grades up in all of his courses? There is no easy answer, unfortunately, and there is no “overnight fix.” It takes some work and lots of practice. Here are some things students can do to get better.
1. Visit the Academic Writing Lab
Most campuses understand that students enter college with many different levels of academic writing skill. For this reason, they offer help. Students can get a variety of services at the lab. They can take their writing assignments to the lab and have helped as they complete them. They can take their completed writing assignments and have them reviewed and edited. The great thing about these services is that students begin to pick up grammar, composition, and research skills. It will be important to do this consistently, however, if students intend to ultimately be able to write on their own.
2. Use Online Tools
There are a number of tools that will review and edit student writing. Such options as Grammarly and HemingwayApp are available at reasonable prices. Students can copy and paste their written pieces, and the tool will point out grammar, composition, and composition errors, and make suggestions for fixing them. These are great editing apps; however, they are not necessarily teaching tools.
3. Use a Writing Service
Students can also use online professional writing services that will perform a variety of services – research and writing, editing and proofreading, etc. In the process, students will receive well-written and/or edited works, and they can use these as models as they produce their own writing. The key, of course, is to use a writing service that is professional and reputable, and this can be hard to find. Fortunately, there are review websites, that have evaluated these companies and have developed lists of the best academic writing services, and this will ensure that a student finds a good one.
4. Schedule More Time for Writing
If a student knows that he struggles with algebra, he will have to spend more time studying and practicing algebra. The same applies for a student who struggles with writing. When students receive essay, paper, etc. assignments, they will need to schedule more time to complete them. It may mean that several drafts must be written and feedback requested from some skilled source before an appropriate final draft is created.
5. Get a Good Grammar Resource Book
There are a number of good reference books on grammar and composition. Getting one of these will be very helpful. If a student is concerned about anything from verb tenses to thepronoun-antecedent agreement, he will have a good reference to check. Even small issues, such as commas and the differences between “there, their, and they’re,” can be resolved quickly.
6. Keep a Thesaurus Nearby
One requirement of academic writing is that more sophisticated vocabulary is required. Academic writing is very different from the casual tone of a blog post or other web content. Keeping a thesaurus is a great idea if only using an online one. Students can find more sophisticated synonyms for simple words and “up” the styles of their pieces.
7. Read More
One way to improve basic grammar skills and vocabulary is to read more than usual. This is one of the most difficult suggestions because the amount of reading already required for coursework is huge. But the more people read the better writers they become.
8. Take an Online Course
Again, this can be time-consuming in an already busy student schedule, but it may well be worth the effort. And it does not have to be costly. There are a number of MOOC courses and other free online programs that offer writing classes.
You Can’t Fight it – You Have to Adapt
Students who want to maintain high GPA’s will do what is necessary to produce and submit written pieces that meet the high academic expectations of their instructors/professors. These eight steps, while not providing a quick solution, will provide a long-term, more permanent one that will help over a lifetime.