Good writing habits: 7 Ways to improve your academic writing

by Elizabeth Oommen George
Good writing habits: 7 tips to help you improve your academic writing

Academic writing is an essential part of a researcher’s toolkit and it is critical for PhD students to develop good writing habits as they transition into the academic world. However, with most of their time spent reading research, working in the lab or out in the field, and interacting with professors and advisors, few are successful in building good writing habits for students. This may lead to procrastination or feeling overwhelmed when it comes to writing a PhD thesis and even multiple rounds of revisions before submission. So with so little time, how does one set up a sustainable process and academic writing habits that will pay off in the long run? This article provides some simple tips to kick-start good writing habits for students and budding researchers.

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7 Good writing habits that you can start now

If you look at the process of building good writing habits for students as one big task, you are bound to feel anxious. It’s better to be consistent and set short-term targets that will get you closer to your goal. Here are some simple steps to incorporate into your daily schedules.

  1. Schedule time for writing: Set aside some time every day to write, you can start with as little as 15 minutes a day but stick to your routine. Having a defined time in your daily routine will make sure that you write even when you don’t feel like doing it and will prevent you from falling into the trap of procrastination. A key tip here is to select a time in the day when you are most productive so that you can focus properly.
  2. Create a writing space: Writing is a demanding task that requires effort and a focussed mind. Having a dedicated space without distractions, either at your workplace or at home, where you can focus on the task with utmost concentration, will take you closer to your goal of building good writing habits.  
  3. Set small, achievable targets: It will be easier to build good writing habits if your set realistic writing goals and divide your writing up into smaller manageable chunks so you finish some bit of writing every day. Regardless of your other commitments or even if you don’t feel like it, consistently working toward these goals will sharpen your writing skills over time.
  4. Develop a basic outline: One of the most important aspects of academic writing is creating an outline for your research. Not only does this help you organize your thoughts and ideas, this one good writing habit can help you think and write more clearly. Knowing how to structure your writing gives you focus and prevents you from straying too far from the original objective. Even if your research is developing differently than you imagined, it is always beneficial to start with a general outline and tweak it as you write.
  5. Get feedback on your drafts: Sharing your manuscript’s draft with an expert in your field of study is important as you strive to build good writing habits for students. You can ask for inputs even if you have not finished writing your entire manuscript – that is, you may ask your supervisor to provide you with guidance or suggestions to improve a particular section or element of your writing. For PhD students, this is one of the good writing habits to grasp quickly as it helps you polish your writing skills, shape your research as you write, and correct mistakes well before the final deadline.  
  6. Practice, practice, and practice: Writing well is a skill that must be honed through repetition. Therefore, it’s crucial to write every day and revise your drafts regularly. It’s also important to understand that nobody does a flawless job in their first attempt, so try not to be too hard on yourself for not getting everything right in the first draft. Allow your thoughts and ideas to flow freely as you write and revise your writing later. The idea is to write, without paying too much attention to details.
  7. Take short breaks to reboot: Finally, a very important point in the list to building good writing habits for students is to take small breaks in the middle of your writing process. Engage in social activities or tasks that are not related to your regular research to calm and energize your mind after a hectic session of writing. Regular breaks are also great when you’re feeling stuck as it can clear the mind and give you a fresh perspective, ensuring you return to writing with a more positive attitude.

We hope the simple tips and strategies mentioned above help you build good writing habits and take your academic writing to the next level. Happy writing!

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