One of the fundamental prerequisite skills for a successful student is good academic writing. Once mastered, this crucial skill enables students to navigate assignments with ease. Academic writing requires the student to fully understand the command verbs, comprehend the subject matter, apply in-depth thinking, source good quality, peer-reviewed academic articles and the ability to write succinctly, which is the golden thread for communicating ideas. Despite the weight thrown behind academic writing, most learners still struggle to master the skill.

The first step lies in understanding the assessment criteria. Although this may be deemed obvious, students often misunderstand the requirements of each question, which leads to straying off-topic and ultimate failure. To circumvent this, it is crucial to read the question for understanding, identify the command verb and use it as a guide to solve the problem being posed. During this crucial step, it is important to identify the type of response required, and how to put together the structure, for an example, a briefing paper, poster, business report, literature review, a case study, just to mention a few.

Once a student has fully understood the question requirements, the next step is research. Academic writing taps into the discourse of scholarly articles. Students need to explore wide academic sources and use the information from multifarious scholars as frame of reference for a phenomenon before embarking on the answering journey. However, it is key to note that the purpose of wider reading is not for students to just regurgitate information obtained from different scholars, but to formulate substantive arguments and counter arguments, identify gaps in literature and evaluate the impact of a phenomenon from best practice. The student’s perspectives should not be based on opinions but facts. Most students often struggle with this and end up describing instead of formulating a watertight analysis. Collating Information obtained from different academic sources requires critical thinking and the ability to separate facts from myths.

Once successful research has been completed, the student should now focus on the organisation and structure of the answer. A well-structured answer is easy to read. The answer should be written in paragraphs which are not too short or too long. Each paragraph should be focused on a specific idea that contributes to an argument being formulated. Students sometimes fail to create coherence in the flow of ideas which causes their argument to be disjointed and confusing to the reader.

Students should avoid ambiguous statements by structuring sentences in a clear and precise manner. It is advisable to answer the question directly and use the word count with intent. Stick to the word count and avoid over or underutilisation of words. Words should be carefully chosen to fit the context of the discussion. Some learners often use vague language or jargon which is difficult for the reader to comprehend. Simplicity is key as the aim is not to sound academic but rather to communicate your answer in a clear and unambiguous fashion. When writing answers, it is key to demonstrate the practical application of theoretical ideas by using organisational examples. Students must demonstrate an in-depth understanding of how to apply the knowledge in real work situations.

In academic writing integrity is key, and it is achieved by referencing citations to avoid plagiarism. Students need to acknowledge the source from which information used to construct the answer is obtained from. Intext referencing should be applied correctly, followed by the reference list written in alphabetical order at the end of the assignment. Failure to acknowledge the source of information used in the answer will lead to plagiarism. Plagiarism is an ill practice of failing to acknowledge the source of information from other scholars, and authors and is a sanctionable offence in academics.

Finally, students should proofread the work and check for grammatical errors and flow of ideas. Good academic writing requires learners who are diligent with checking flaws and maintaining a golden thread through a coherent flow of ideas throughout the assignment. Many students tend to skip this crucial step which leads to the submission of assignments full of errors.

In closing, academic writing is a skill that needs constant cultivation. Every student has the aptitude to acquire these skills. Institutions of high learning should constantly endeavour to integrate academic writing skills in their formal teaching and promote academic integrity in the students’ charter. This will equip the students with key skills which set them up for success in their academic journey.

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Nilesh Jha