(Steps 1–5 can be found here.)

Good writing skills are something that all of your instructors/classes are looking for, yet not something always easy to pick up. In this and the previous post, I’ve share ten steps, or tips, that will help you take your academic writing to the next level.

6. Reread your instructions.
Before turning in your assignment, go back and re-read all of the instructions to make sure you haven’t missed anything. I’ve had to downgrade too many papers because students miss answering one part of a multiple-part question, or the paper isn’t formatted correctly or submitted the right way. It’s such a simple thing to re-read the instructions before submitting your work, yet so few seem to.

7. Use credible online sources.
Your instructor/professor’s syllabus most likely says that you cannot use Wikipedia as a source for researched work. That doesn’t mean that you can’t start there. At the bottom of each Wikipedia page, you’ll find a list of references from which the Wikipedist gathered his or her information. Look for sources that link to publications (USA Today, New York Times, Newsweek, etc.), sites that end with .org or .gov or .edu, or to books that can be accessed through Google Books or the Project Gutenberg website. You can get a good overview of a topic from Wikipedia, but use that to develop questions to lead you to research on more reputable sites.

8. Proofread and revise judiciously.
Never turn in a paper that you have not proofread, edited, and revised thoroughly. This process can and probably should take just about as long as writing your first draft, if not longer. Your instructors can tell by reading your paper how much work you’ve put into the assignment by the quality of the writing. And they will grade you accordingly.

9. Draw a conclusion.
Your conclusion is your parting shot, your chance to get the last word in. It’s the chance to leave your reader with something memorable about your topic and/or the argument you’re making. It’s more than just a summary of the points that came before. It’s a chance to leave the reader pondering the subject of your paper long after he/she has finished reading it. Keep it short, don’t try to introduce a new idea or question, and end decisively. Essays without conclusions leave readers (instructors) frustrated, because no matter how well written, without a conclusion, the essay seems aimless and without a distinct point. The conclusion is the point.

10. Write as much as you can as often as you can.
Write letters to family and friends, blog posts, comments on blogs, letters to the editor of your paper, responses to letters you see in the paper, responses to articles or news items you see on TV. Do something, anything, to start stringing words together on paper (or on a computer). The more you write, the more you will want to write and the easier you’ll find it.

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