This complete guide to academic writing will provide step by step information on how to develop an academic paper

Academic writing is an essential skill for students in higher institution of learning, including Colleges of education, Universities, Polytechnics, among others. It is essential to know and understand the steps in writing an academic paper as the skill is needed in writing assignments, term papers, essays, among others as well as helping write tests and examinations.

Academic writing is helpful to professionals in academia and even those outside the academic world, like organisations and businesses. However, lots of people do not know how to write a sound academic paper; many find it a herculean task. If you are in this category, you are in the right place. This post would introduce you to the basics of academic writing.

Here are eight fundamental principles of academic writing. These should guide your writing.

  1. Clarity: The paper must have a clear and definite purpose. It must also clearly answer your topic or research questions.
  1. Originality: The paper must present your original point of view.
  1. Specificity: The paper must have a single focus. All the paragraphs and content should be evidence that supports your focus or thesis statement.
  1. Set Standard: The paper must follow the laid down standards of writing academic papers. It must have an introduction, body and conclusion along with references.
  1. Simplicity: The paper should be as simple, clear and straightforward as possible. Different disciplines have their jargon and registers; there is no need to use unnecessarily complicated words.
  1. Credibility: Your paper should only contain credible sources such as research articles, textbooks, etc. You can also cite bulletins, reports and various publications of credible international organisations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations (UN), World Bank, among others
  1. References: Referencing a work is giving honour to whom honour is due. For academic integrity, it is required you referenced an article correctly. Also, the citation should be based on the style (APA, Harvard, Vancouver, among others) prescribed for you
  1. Creativity: In writing an academic paper, you need to read various sources, understand, comprehend and write in your own words. Also, as earlier stated, do not try to use big and complex English, that does not make your word sound; instead, it makes it hard to read and understand.
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If you are a beginner, I will recommend these steps to help you in academic writing.

  1. Select an exciting topic: You should select a topic from your area of interest, problems you are interested in solving, questions you have been seeking to answer, etc. You can also search the internet for inspiration or ideas.
  1. Research and record information sources: List and search for various sources that you can get information for your work. That would make it more comfortable as you will not have to keep looking for the databases to get the information
  1. Formulate a strong thesis statement: Your information sources and area of interest can guide you in constructing a sound and solid thesis statement
  1. Plan your paper and create an outline: Create a schedule for all the activities involved in writing the paper, adding feasible deadlines. Also, create an outline for all the paragraphs for all sections and subsections of the work
  1. Write the first draft: The work becomes easy after writing but seems impossible before then. So, write the first draft using the outline, thesis statement and your information sources. Keep writing, do not be deterred by any error, keep writing. Waiting to correct mistakes might dampen your zeal. Keep writing; you cannot expect your first draft to be perfect; you will fix all the errors later.
  1. Review, edit and proofread: Carry this out as many times as possible till you get an excellent job.

Now, let us discuss the major parts of the academic paper writing process

  1. Thesis Statement: This is one of the vital parts of the paper and determines the success and significance of the work. It shows the main idea for the paper, your unique viewpoint, along with the answer to your question. Therefore, it should be concise and specific.
  1. Introduction: This section presents your questions or problems to the reader. It also shows them why it has to be answered or solved. It must, therefore, be writing in a way that would ensure readers read the entire work and enjoy it. It should also contain the significance of the study, your hypothesis, the definition of critical terms, delimitation, among others.
  1. The body: This is the central part of your work, and it is made up of various paragraphs, sections and subsections. Each paragraph in the body should focus on a specific team. An appropriate transition word or phrase such as “Also”, “Furthermore”, “Also”, “Sadly”, et cetera, should be used in transitioning from one sentence to another. This would ensure excellent flow of thought.
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Usually, the first sentence in a paragraph should contain the topic sentence or theme. All the other sentences in the paragraph are meant to support it. For example

The rate of suicide in Nigeria is very alarming and calls for urgent attention. In the past two weeks, at least five cases of suicide are reported on the news by journalists every day. Also, the different social media platforms, especially Twitter, have been booming with reports of twitter. #Suicide, #Notosuicide, among others has been trending over that past one week.

In the passage above, it is clear that the other sentences are supporting the first one, which states that the rate of suicide in Nigeria is high. Also, ensure that your paragraphs are not too long. Long paragraphs discourage people from reading the complete work.

  1. Conclusion: This is one of the essential parts of your papers as readers usually remember the last parts of what they read. It is your last opportunity to make a good impression and present the significance of your work. In conclusion, you should not include any new information. Instead, you should briefly summarise your findings.
  1. Revising: To revise your work, do the following:
  • Add new details and points to strengthen your work
  • Remove any unnecessary information
  • Re-organise and restructure the sentences and paragraphs to make your paper sound
  • Rewrite sentences and paragraphs to present your ideas, opinion, etc. better
  1. Editing and proofreading: The following are types of errors you need to correct
  • Word choice error
  • Wrong article use
  • Grammatical error
  • Punctuation error
  • Technical error
  • Subject-verb disagreement
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