Finesse Your Academic Paper With These Expert Tips

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Improve your credibility. Establish authority. That’s the power of solid writing in an academic paper. After reviewing myriad academic papers, Mike Lehman, Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow and professional consultant in Georgia Tech’s Naugle Communication Center, has encountered many of the issues that can hinder the credibility of an academic paper. He compiled a few of the most common issues he encounters and provided tips for how to correct those issues so you can take charge of your writing skills.    Be clear and concise and avoid jargon. “Clear, concise writing helps to articulate your argument and solidifies your position as an expert,” said Lehman. “If your sentences stretch beyond three lines, then consider breaking up the sentence or simplifying for clarity.” When writing an academic paper, Lehman advised considering writing in a way similar to how you would orally present the information.            Be quotable. “Include ‘quotable phrases’ in your article or dissertation,” said Lehman. “These phrases are what others will cite or remember in the future.”    Follow a consistent citation method. “Familiarize yourself with your discipline’s citation method,” said Lehman. “This can be done by reviewing dissertations from your department, mirroring style and citation methods from a journal you are submitting to, and asking your peers the preferred citation method of your field.”    Identify the topic of every paragraph to stay on track. According to Lehman, topic sentences are the key organizational tool of an article or chapter. “Good topic sentences refer to the overall argument and provide the point or argument of the individual paragraph,” he said. “While writing or revising, make a note about what each paragraph is about. If the topic of the paragraph is not clear in your notation about how it fits into the overall argument, clearer topic sentences and transitions are needed.”    Incorporate signpost phrases. “Signposts are words or phrases that guide your audience through your article or chapter,” said Lehman. “Signposts can be introductory clauses at the sentence level or phrasing that explains when you are moving from one idea to the next. A heading in a new section can serve as a signpost.” Lehman explained that effective signposts buttress structure and give direction, while ineffective signposts increase wordiness and give too much information.    Add sections and sub-sections. “Sections help with focused writing and development of the argument,” said Lehman. “They offer the reader clear expectations for the article.”    Understand the difference between revising vs. editing. Lehman outlined the following differences between the two writing stages: 
  • Revising
    • The initial stage after receiving a round of feedback
    • Includes sentence-level and content revisions
    • Reorganization and cutting of content are often needed
    • Plan and map out how to incorporate suggested revisions
  • Editing
    • The final stage before submission
    • Should not include major revisions
    • Limited reorganization and cutting
    • If major revisions are made, a separate session for additional review is necessary
Ask for help. “Reach out to peers or advisors for feedback and use campus resources,” said Lehman. “The library offers classes on a range of tools, including Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley, and Tableau; the Naugle Communication Center provides one-on-one consultations for all stages of the writing process.” 


  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created By: Sara Franc
  • Created: 01/23/2023
  • Modified By: Sara Franc
  • Modified: 01/23/2023

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