Staring blankly at the screen? Having troubles with academic composing? Well, this is what all scientists need to go through. Crafting convincing reports, mastering argumentative essays, and learning how to conduct pioneering research is an essential part of any scientific career. So, if you want to make it as a successful scientist, you’ll need to get a good grasp of science writing skills.
The way you write has a significant impact on your research. The first page of any paper is the first impression that matters. Your style and vocabulary choice is what grasps the reader’s attention. If you feel like you need to polish your writing, this article is for you. We’re going to offer you 5 efficient tips to boost your composing skills and master academic writing. Enjoy!
1. Avoid Passive Voice
A well-known belief suggests academic papers should be as objective as possible. This in turn results in students using passive voice when they want to omit ‘I’ or ‘We’ phrases. However, the overuse of passive voice in fact leads to cold, distant and sometimes even boring style. Maybe, this is the reason why few people like reading research papers.
So, try to use active voice more. Offer your reader the ability to feel the action with the doer in the centre. Just compare these sentences: ‘My phone was broken’ and ‘I broke my phone’. Despite clear avoidance of responsibility in the former sentence, it doesn’t provoke as much sympathy to a person as the latter example does.
Let’s compare some more examples to feel the difference:
- “The folklore of England may be represented by different poetic forms such as folktales, legends, sagas and nursery rhymes.’ versus ‘Different poetic forms represent the folklore of England. They include folktales, legends, sagas and nursery rhymes.”
- “In Welsh folklore it is believed that bees are very sensitive and that they may even ‘take an interest in human affairs” (Owen 2006) versus ‘Welsh folklore often represents bees as very sensitive creatures that may even “take an interest in human affairs”
Summing up this first tip, don’t be scared to paraphrase your thoughts using an active voice, as you can make your writing more persuasive and dynamic and still remain objective.
2. Brush Up On Your Vocabulary Choice
This piece of advice involves the overall enhancement of your vocabulary. First and foremost, you’ll need to learn how to omit needless words making your writing cluttered and less convincing. By needless words we mean trite expressions with “it is/it was/there is/there are etc.” For example, “it is important, it is predicted that there is evidence suggesting that”.
Though at the very beginning of academic writing experience such phrases may serve as a foundation for your scholarly vocabulary, omitting them later will take your composing to the next level. Just compare:
- “There is evidence suggesting that the motif of transformation is greatly popular in the Welsh folktale” versus “Evidently, the motif of transformation is greatly popular in the Welsh folktale.”
Secondly, consider variety as the way to boost your vocabulary. Nothing is worse than tons of repetition. A good online tool and sometimes even a life-safer is Power Thesaurus. All you need to do is to fill a word, and you’ll be offered a number of synonyms and synonymous phrases. Be careful though, not to get carried away as Joey in one of the famous “Friends” episodes paraphrasing “people with big hearts” into “Homo Sapiens with full sized aortic pumps.”
Finally, using jargon in your research paper is alright, even advisable. However, if you are writing a popular science article, you’d better drop the jargon. Here’s an example from Forbes to illustrate what we’re talking about:
- “Cosmological perturbations grow according to the Meszaros effect until the onset of nonlinearity” versus “This is why gravity won’t let the Universe form stars for over 50 million years, and galaxies for even longer.”
3. A Good Beginning…
…Makes a good ending. This is tip #3. The opening paragraph of any paper is the first impression that matters. That is why make sure you write it flawlessly. To grasp the reader’s attention you may want to use some persuasive writing techniques.
The majority of academic papers start with a thesis statement. This is the ending of your first introductory paragraph. It must arouse the reader’s interest and encourage them to proceed with your paper. It should be concise and clear. Try to avoid any vague words. Some of the vague words may include: interesting, negative, exciting, difficult, society etc.
Here’s the example of unclear thesis and revised one presented by University of Illinois:
Original thesis: Although the timber wolf is a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated. [if it’s so timid and gentle — why is it being exterminated?]
Revised thesis: Although the timber wolf is actually a timid and gentle animal, it is being systematically exterminated because people wrongfully believe it to be a fierce and cold-blooded killer.
In case you feel that an opening paragraph is your weak side, make sure you spend some time reading about how to structure it correctly, as well as how to write thesis statements smartly.
4. Keep in Touch with The Like Minded
Not only will this tip help you to boost your writing skills, but it will also help you stay motivated and avoid a burn-out. Communication with colleague scientists, and fiery discussions will provide you with great insights. What is more, it will help you enhance your vocabulary by always keeping up with all the innovative ideas in the field.
What is more, it would be a great idea to examine your writing with classmates. It works both ways. You can read your classmate’s assignment and provide some analysis, while they can read yours and offer you some effective feedback on content and structure.
Finally, keeping in touch with like minded peers opens a number of opportunities like reading the same books, doing the same research and attending similar lectures.
Using Reddit for this purpose is also a good idea. It has lots of active subreddits where you can improve your writing skills and ask for help. If you want to learn more, you can check out the complete list of writing-related subreddits on LegitWritingServices. As the saying goes the more the merrier, and in this case it definitely has its benefits.
5. Always Proofread Your Paper
Last but definitely not least, is proofreading your assignment. The majority of students hate proofreading their papers and then editing them. However, this stage of crafting a paper is as important as writing itself. The thing is that during the composing stage one may get lost or carried away passionately explaining something and unintentionally spell the word wrong or use the wrong grammar structure. What is more, sometimes a sentence may seem to be absolutely cohesive, but when you read it out loud, it doesn’t sound ok.
For this reason, always proofread your tasks. Look for grammar and spelling mistakes at first. You can use a variety of tools. For example, Grammarly is one of the best ones to check your paper for errors. If you’ve never used this website, you’ll definitely fall in love with it – a real life-saver in times of troubles.
Moreover, don’t hesitate to read your paper aloud, it will provide you with a different angle and help you see whether your writing is logical. Make your writing sound as if you are talking to a person. This is how you can make it really convincing, and we’ve already agreed that persuasive techniques are essential for impressive science writing.
No matter how much you hate drafts and rewriting, to succeed in academic composing you’ll need to do it. Otherwise, you won’t be able to have flawless assignments. Still, if it’s something you really can’t stand, you can always turn to professional editors to polish your paper to perfection.
You see the devil isn’t as black as he is painted. By following some valuable advice, one can enhance their writing skills. The important thing is to never stop learning. Boosting one’s vocabulary, reading field literature, and communicating with colleague scientists – this is just a few tips that are essential to try.
Focus on making your writing better than it was yesterday, rather than making it flawless. This is how you’ll be constantly improving and achieving goals step-by-step. Reread your works consistently, examine them and search for the weak points that still need improvement. Whether you need to brush up on your vocabulary choice or change the way you structure your thoughts, or maybe better organize your writing in accordance with formatting requirements – the vital thing is keep on looking and make your composing getting better and better.