This week I had two workshops for two different groups of students about academic writing. At the end of these workshops I asked them to do the following practices to enhance their writing skills.
1. Bibliographic Practice: Make a list of 10 well known textbooks in your subject, with their full bibliographic information. Please make sure to include the latest versions of these books in your list. Then have a look at their table of contents and compare their contents and structures.
2. Paraphrasing: Read a recent well cited or hot paper in your subject and write a few paragraphs, or preferably 2 or 3 pages, about it in your own language. Please use simple words and write simple and short sentences.
3. Browsing: Go to the library and browse the recent issues of the main journals in your area of study. Read the paper titles and have a quick look at abstracts. Alternatively, you can browse their websites. In this stage you do not need to read the thoroughly.
4. Free Writing: Select a topic and write about it in 10 to 15 minutes. It can be about anything that you may like. Do not worry about spelling and grammar while you are writing. Just keep writing for 10 to 15 minutes without any uncertainty and hesitation. Then leave it for a day and come back to it later on. Then edit and expand it several times. You will be amazed how much you will have to say.
5. Purposeful Reading: Select a recent paper written by a successful author in your area of study. Then read it while trying to inspire by the style of writing in that paper.
6. Evaluation Practice: Select a few recent papers and evaluate and compare them in terms of their structure. You can use the criteria that I mentioned in the workshop.
7. Abstract Evaluation: Read a number of abstracts and try to sort them based on their usefulness in providing you with enough information about the main documents.
8. Subject Map: Select a topic in your discipline and draw a subject map regarding the broader, narrower and related terms. You can use a thesaurus to find preferred terms and make a better map. Also you can use the 5Ws techniques (What, Why, Where, When, Who and How).
9. Literature Review: Select a topic in your area of study and search for it in an academic database to retrieve a number of relevant papers. Then read the papers to find out how each one covers a specific aspect of that topic. Can you find a missing aspect?
10. Comparison: Compare five papers to find out how clear, concise, comprehensive, and coherent they are. You as the reader should judge them. So, do not worry and trust your feeling. Now, if you want to write a paper on the same topic, what would you do to avoid the possible weaknesses in those papers?