Writing tips and tricks for students

Hande Gur - 17 December 2021

Regardless of their level of study, most university students have at least one paper that they need to write for their classes each semester. However, it takes practice to know what you are doing when writing.

As a TA, I read all kinds of student papers and as a PhD student I am writing constantly. It would surprise you how much improvement little changes could provide. Let’s take a closer look at some ways to to make writing easier.

Writing an Assignment or a Final Paper

If you are an undergraduate student in arts, sciences or humanities, this may mean that you will write an essay or a term paper at least once for your degree. To improve your writing:

  1. Understand what the assignment is asking for. Look for the key words in the instructions to see the aim of the paper. Reviewing the grading rubric or asking the professor/TA would also help you to see the most important parts of the assignment. Believe me, they will appreciate you asking more than receiving a confusing paper! And everyone likes students who want to do better and are interested in what they are teaching.
  2. Be clear and to the point. This is affected not only by the grammar but also the intentions of your sentences. Each sentence should be there for a reason that is relevant to the purpose of the assignment.
  3. Still, check your grammar! Fortunately, there are a lot of resources that may help you on this. Aside from using known softwares like Grammarly, you can also check out various university centers and organizations that help students to write better below!
  4. Create a logical structure. Make your paper clear and easy to read with titles, subtitles, transitional phrases, and page numbers. I always like to make an outline before I start. An outline tells the writer the main points of a paper and ensures nothing important is forgotten while helping to create a logical flow throughout the writing.
  5. To ensure you have time to do all of this, start as soon as you can. This way your writing could be improved later and not be affected by rising stress levels.

Writing at a Graduate Level

Writing has a whole different meaning for most graduate students as it is inherently linked to their dissertation. This means that they need long term solutions and plans for their writing. Aside from the more general tips, here are some important points that help me:

  1. Ask for reviews from your professors and other graduate students. Working on the same project for a long time may lead to overlooking some details. It is always a good idea to get honest feedback, so you can address some of the critiques before everyone else reads your work.
  2. Utilize the university’s resources. At this level, using software may not be enough to edit your grammar. Check out the list below to see where you can get support!
  3. Try to master whichever writing software you are using. This will help your structure, time management, and may lead you to include different mediums like graphs, photos, QR codes of videos, etc. You may also use other programs for citation and references. There are many free ones like Zotero that would save you a lot of time and help you build a library to keep all your resources together.
  4. Lastly, create a routine. Having specific times to write may help with procrastination and could facilitate new ideas. The important part is to write regularly even if it’s not for very long. Forming reading or writing groups would also help with this. If you would like to reboot your writing, you may join the Academic Success Centre and Graduate Students Association on Tuesdays at 10 AM in Triffo Hall for a 20-minute writing session or writing groups for international graduate students organized by the Centre for Writers.

Academic Writing Resources

For those who need support, there are various resources in the University of Alberta.

There are also several writing courses, programs, and workshops that students could attend:

There are also resources you could reach out to if you are living in the residence. Your Peer Tutors and Academics or Faculty in Residence will gladly support you.