• Simple and Practical Writing Tips from Real Writers

academic writing tips for Australian students

You have probably heard all of the obvious writing tips such as brainstorm ideas, create a plan, create a time schedule, proofread at the end, and all that yawn heard-it-all-before stuff. This article offers you writing tips that professors should be teaching you. They are tips that you usually have to learn through experience.

The First Draft Should Be All Your Own Words

Writing is not the hardest part. Getting a flow going, getting your groove moving, and staying in the zone are the hardest parts. Once you get into the groove, you cannot let things such as a few garbled sentences or a few spelling mistakes slow you down.

You know what you mean, and you know what you meant to write, so leave the ugly bits until later. Do not allow the process of proofreading-while-writing slow you down. Stay in the zone, and come back to the ugly bits after your first draft is finished.

Take Notes by Identifying Pieces of Research And Making Reference Notes

Many students are doing the whole research portion of their work incorrectly. As you skim from one textbook to the next, you do not have to write notes. Identify the resources title, its page numbers and anything else you need to know to find it again, and then write that information down along with a short note on what the source/research is all about.

When you are writing your essay, you may look over these notes and they will lead you to the research/source you need when-you-need-it! You do not have to go through each and every source/book and write notes on each relevant bit; you should leave the bulk of the writing for when you are actually writing the first draft of your essay.

Over-Write and Then Cut It Down At The Very End

This is a classic trick that so many students refuse to try because it seems like extra work, but think of it this way, would you rather:

A – Work your way up to about 75% of your word count and then struggle to fluff up the rest?


B – Write about every idea and research concept that comes to mind and trim it down when you are done?

Yes, it is extra work having to find enough material to go beyond your word count, but when you edit your work down, you are able wash away the mud—leaving only the gold nuggets behind. When you are in the throws of writing, you can ignore the word count and just keep going. It is liberating and freeing to be able to write away to your heart’s content.

If you are really struggling for ideas, then look up other essays on your subject and start stealing ideas and sources from them. Don’t rewrite them verbatim, just use them as inspiration for your own work. When you cut your paper down to the correct word count at the end, you will have a concise piece of academic work.

Set Your Plan in Modules

When you create your plan, try not to set it to a long-single theme. Try to think of it as a book with different chapters. Think to yourself, “I must write a bit about X, a bit about Y, a bit about Z…” Besides the benefits explained in the examples below, you may find the writing process becomes easier because you are breaking your essay down into smaller and easier-to-handle chunks.

Breaking your essay plan into chunks/modules is not as difficult as it seems. Take a look at how this article was written. It is broken up with headers, and each header explains a different idea. Your essay plan need not be so different. What is more, you are able to move elements around when you are finished.

Again, take a look at this article. You could easily move one section up and another down without it affecting the overall meaning of this article. When you edit your work, you may do a similar thing with the elements in your essay, and you may do it because your plan separated your ideas and concept explanations into modules. Doing so allows you to edit your essay so that it makes more sense to the reader, so that it flows better, and so that it highlights your points more thoroughly.

Find More References after You Have Finished Your First Draft

This is a naughty little trick that seasoned essay writers do. Let’s say you have finished your article and you are pretty proud of it. You can increase your score a little by adding further references. Your professor’s marking guide probably has a subsection where students are able to achieve a higher grade if their paper is well researched. Go through your essay and look for points, ideas, or concepts where you may add a reference to others who have written similar things and/or others that agree with your point. Though there is no rule that says you get more marks for having a bigger bibliography, many marking guides have vague rules that professors interpret in their own way, and in such a case, it is better to have more references than to have fewer.

Let the Points System Guide Your Word Count

This is an old trick that some professors are not teaching their students. Let’s say that you have three essay questions, and each has a certain number of marks next to it. You can use those marks to figure out how much word count to dedicate to each question.

Let’s say that you have an essay word count of 2000 words, and you have three essay questions that need to be addressed. Next to question one it says 10 marks, next to question two it says 15 marks, and next to question three it says 10 marks.

Take the total number of marks (35) and divide that number into 2000. It comes to around 57 words per mark. Now, work out how many words each question should have.

Question one has 10 marks = 570 words

Question two has 15 marks = 855 words

Question three has 10 marks = 570 words

It gives you a rough guide around how many words to write for each essay question. It is not perfect, but it is a good place to start. If you over write for each question, then you should be able to trim down your work and generate a well-written essay of just 2000 words.