Writing assignments can be scary, confusing and frustrating. Even more so if it’s been a while since you’ve had to write an essay. You’re not alone in this as many struggle with written work. It could be that English is your second language and writing in English doesn’t come as easily.
Writing doesn’t have to be scary. There are practical things you can do to improve your writing skills and do well in your studies.
1. Don’t panic. When you get your unit outline for your subjects and see the assessments, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The first thing to remember is that you can break it all down to bite-sized pieces that are manageable. If you chip away at your assignments (rather than leaving them to the last minute), you will be able to get through the semester and do relatively well.
2. Plan ahead and manage your time. Mapping out your semester in advance can help to keep you focused and stay on task with due dates. Students who work, have family and church commitments, know all too well how busy the semester can get. Managing your time is key to surviving and even thriving throughout the semester. Planning ahead means working out a routine for study and working out deadlines for your assessments. If you like using Apps, there are study plans that you can download (e.g., SQA My Study Plan).
3. Staying disciplined is key to helping you write effectively for assignments. If you stick to your schedule, read widely in your research and write portions of your essay well in advance before the due date, you will be able to produce quality assignments that are well structured and coherent. Lecturers can usually tell when a student has crammed much of their essay writing at the last minute. We see in some cases that the temptation to plagairise becomes more prevalent when students have not spent much time planning, researching and writing their essays. Some plagairism is simply unintentional, but because of the lack of discipline and attention to detail, students make mistakes. Plagairism is considered Academic Misconduct at BST, so students should be mindful of this in all their essay writing.
4. Before the semester starts, do a refresher course on grammar. Training yourself to write using good grammar and style will go a long way to helping you clarify your thoughts in a written piece, and will impress those lecturers who have to mark your essays. There are countless times we’ve heard lecturers say, “I have no idea what that student was trying to say in their assignment!” The University of Queensland’s WRITE 101x English Grammar and Style is an online course we highly recommend. It introduces you to key concepts and strategies related to grammar and style. What we love about WRITE 101x is that it is a self-paced course, the videos are short and to the point, there are practical resources you can access, and it’s FREE!
5. Use active not passive voice. You’ll be able to articulate your point/argument more clearly in an essay if you use active voice. Check out the grammar course we recommended above which covers the use of active voice.
6. Avoid weak words (see the chart below).