Writing is a skill and, like any other, it can be improved and honed. This is a busy time, and you’ll want to work as efficiently as possible so, in this article, we focus on how to get the best out of your postgraduate writing.
Failure to prepare and prepare to fail
Yes, we know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. At least in the sense of completing written assignments at postgrad level. The most important part of any written assignment is the research. If you do your research thoroughly and effectively, the writing part will come much easier. As you read around the subject make notes or highlight important segments, so that it will be easier to collate information later. If you notice, various authors making the same point, note this too. Referencing several authors for the same point will demonstrate your ability to present arguments succinctly, as well as, showing you’re level of research.
What are you writing?
Research the type of document you have been asked to prepare e.g. literature review, non-technical summary. Find examples and look at their structure, layout, the language used and the intended audience. This may seem like extra work initially but familiarising yourself with the type of document you are preparing will help ensure information is presented clearly.
Do not just start writing
Prepare a draft plan. Once you know the general structure your piece of writing should follow and you have done some initial reading, prepare a draft plan of what will be included and in what order. There should be a logical progression of themes. This plan may change as your reading progresses. However, it will help you gather your thoughts and use time more efficiently, as well as, giving your writing focus and clarity.
Referencing isn’t just meant to torment you!
Plagiarism is a big deal so we want to avoid it! So, while referencing is essential it can also be a tool to show that your work is supported by evidence and that you have put a certain amount of work into your assignment. However, be sure to use quality references. This generally means using peer-reviewed, reputable journals. For the most part, avoid opinion pieces and websites. Some websites, like government informational websites, are acceptable but the bulk of your research should not usually come from web pages.
Don’t forget the little things
Proofread the article several times and read it aloud. It’s sometimes easier to hear, rather than read, when sentences don’t flow well. Use spellcheck. Insert page numbers, a cover page and table of contents. There are often marks going for these simple presentation elements.
Consider the word count
This may depend on the individual lecturer or university but I have been told by several lecturers not to use the word count as a target. The general message I was given was that if you can write an essay with a maximum word count of 3,000 words, just as well in 2,000 words, do that. Writing succinctly is an important ‘real world’ skill. For example, when preparing a report for managers, they will probably be too busy to read a long report and will want to be presented with the most relevant information, presented in an easy-to-read format. Graphs, figures and pictures can help convey your information too.