It’s common for JWU students to have spent time in the workforce, raising families, and/or traveling before becoming a Wildcat. While there are huge benefits to this life experience, one big drawback is that many of them don’t spend their time practicing academic writing. Since it’s such a foundational skill for any course at JWU, let’s review some ways you can re-familiarize yourself with academic writing as you get back into the swing of classwork.
Tip #1: Read, Read, Read
While all forms of reading will help your brain think more like a writer, academic writing has specific tones and features you can master with practice. Part of that practice is reading, especially within your major or field; you should start with any assigned work for your classes and expand from there. If you find a particular topic or writer helpful and interesting, you should look for similar work. By spending even a few minutes a day reading, you will become a more effective academic writer by expanding your vocabulary and gaining experience in analysis and research.
Tip #2: Make Time
Life can get hectic, especially if you are a caregiver, worker, and/or parent on top of classwork. By planning your writing process early in the term and taking the time to research, read, write, revise, and proofread, you can account for delays, questions, and emergencies, to some degree. This also cuts down on procrastination, which is one huge reason students struggle with academic writing. Unlike with exams or earlier writing you may have done, your instructors expect you to think deeply about course materials and take the time to improve your writing before handing it in for grading or sharing it on a discussion board post.
Schedule time each day to write something for your classes. Resist the urge to immediately say, “This is good enough” and submit it! Let your work sit for a few hours or even a day, then return to it with fresher eyes and ideas. You might make slight changes, like fixing a typo or adding a detail; you might decide to make major revisions, like changing your argument or using a different source. (Sometimes, you’ll do both!) This takes time, but often results in clearer writing. Over time, you will write faster and with fewer errors.
Tip #3: Ask for Help
Whether you make an appointment with the Writing Coaches, e-mail your instructor directly, or create a writing group with your peers, asking for help will make the largest difference in your writing. It’s normal to doubt your writing skills and to feel insecure sharing your writing with others. However, sharing your writing, asking good questions, and interpreting feedback all improve your writing, so it is worth the nerves. When this becomes a regular part of your writing process, you make improvements to your skills with every assignment. You will also gain confidence, which will help you complete more challenging assignments as you progress toward graduation.
If you prefer to work alone, writing resources help refresh your memory, teach new skills, and answer frequent questions about academic writing. Check out the JWU Online Writing Coaches’ resources website, to start; if you are looking for something specific, visit trusted writing websites from universities and avoid for-profit blogs or programs.
Tip #4: Pause
Plan pauses with check-ins to your writing process, especially for large assignments. Set aside any short-term plans and look over your current materials, taking notes on any ideas or questions that come up as you review. You’d be surprised how many times you find you already have the sources you need, or you discover a better way to support your argument hidden in your notes.
Pauses look different for everyone. You might do any or all of the following:
- Re-read instructions for long writing assignments to see if you have any new questions to ask your instructor.
- Re-read your earlier work and feedback from your instructor. Keep strengths and weaknesses in mind!
- Revise your writing plan, if you need to, based on any changes to your schedule or added information from the course.
- Make an appointment with a Writing Coach and consider a research appointment with a JWU librarian if that’s part of your assignment.
No matter how you pause, build in time to pause and review.
Wondering where to begin? Confused about what kinds of deadlines to establish? Unsure of where to go next? Reach out to the JWU Writing Coaches. We support you at all parts of the writing process and can help you put together a long-term writing plan.