Useful tips for boosting
your academic writing skills
Íde O’Sullivan
Shannon Consortium
Regional Writing Centre
• What I like/dislike about writing………
• Keep writing non-stop for 5
• Write in sentences.
• Do not edit or censor your writing.
• Private writing -- no one will read it.
• Discuss what you have written in
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Reflection and discussion
• Reflection
What impact did the previous
exercise have on you?
How might this type of writing
activity be useful?
• Discussion
What do you worry about or struggle
with when faced with a writing task?
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Difficulties associated
with writing
Anxiety and fear of writing
Lack of confidence and motivation
Cracking the codes of academic writing
Getting started
Getting stuck – writers’ block
Lack of guidance, practice and feedback
Misconceptions of writing
– Good writing skills are innate X
– Think first, then write X
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Writing to prompts
• Strategies that might help boost my
academic writing skills………
Keep writing non-stop for 5 minutes.
Write in sentences.
Do not edit or censor your writing.
Discuss what you have written in
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Strategies to boost your
academic writing skills
• Summarise in writing the main points
of the previous discussion.
• Did this writing exercise help
focus/organise the main points of the
discussion for you?
• Did the writing exercise help clarify
the main points/outcomes of the
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Writing as a process
Editing and proof-reading
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Writing as a process
• Understanding the assignment question
and the instructions
• Brainstorming
• Research
• Planning and organising your essay/report
• Getting started
• Structuring your essay/report
• Developing an argument
• Drafting and redrafting
• Editing and proofreading
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Getting started:
Joining the conversation
Think of an assignment question as an
invitation to participate in the discourse
already taking place in the community that
shares in your academic interests.
• Recall that you have joined an already
on-going conversation.
• Think about the particular conversations
already taking place with respect to
both your topic and the particular
aspect of your topic that you have been
asked to write about.
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Getting started
• Create time and space for writing
• Freewriting
• Writing to prompts
– “What writing have you done for this
assignment, what writing would you
like to do……”
– “The aim of this assignment…”
• Experiment with different types of
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Other types of writing
• Keep a learning diary (Moore and Murphy,
2005:61) / writing diary / process journal
(Elbow and Belanoff, 2003:19).
– When do you feel most/least motivated to
– What strategies have/have not worked in the
• Write a little bit every day (Moore and
Murphy, 2005:117):
“we learn to write through writing” (Hyland,
• Keep a notebook with you to record ideas
when they come to mind (Moore and
Murphy, (2005). Regional Writing Centre
Cracking the codes
• Analysing the genre/text and modelling
• Generate a list of
– The most important features of academic
– Criteria to make your writing more
– The important conventions in your discipline
– What is/is not acceptable in your discipline
• Develop a “writing charter” Murray and
Moore (2006:135), that you can consult
for guidance.
• Journal guidelines for contributors
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• What organisational features/patterns are
in evidence?
• How are arguments and counterarguments
presented and structured?
• What types of evidence are important in
this discipline?
• What stylistic features are prominent?
• Is the text cohesive? How does the author
achieve such cohesion?
• What kind(s) of persuasive devises does the
author employ?
• Are there noticeable features that can be
transferred to other disciplines?
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Dialogue about writing
• Talking about writing
• Getting feedback on writing
– Peer-review
– Generative writing
– The “writing sandwich” (Murray, 2005:85):
writing, talking, writing
– Writing “buddies” (Murray and Moore,
• Engaging in critiques of one another’s work
allows you to become effective critics of
your own work. Regional Writing Centre
Dialogue about writing
• Writing prompt:
“How I go about writing……”
• Reflection
How does talking about writing help
my writing?
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Writing time
• Dealing with issues of time
• Setting goals
• “Binge” and “snack” writing (Murray,
• Do I need a big block of time to
write productively?
• “Short bursts of productive writing”
(Murray and Moore, 2006:17)
• Outlining (Murray, 2005)
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Strategies that work
for you
The importance of reading
Images and diagrams
Mind mapping
Writing dictionaries
Writing is a personal process – find out
what works for you
• Writing can be a positive and enjoyable
• Be proud of your writing
• Get stuck in
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Writing activity
• Write a Limerick commencing with
the following line:
Now that I’ve strategies to write
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Works cited
• Elbow, P. (1998) Writing without Teachers (2nd
edition). New York: Oxford University Press.
• Elbow, P. and Belanoff, P. (2003) Being a Writer:
A Community of Writers Revisited. New York:
• Hyland, K. (2002) Teaching and Researching
Writing. London: Pearson Education Ltd.
• Moore, S. and Murphy, M. (2005) How to be a
Student: 100 Great Ideas and Practical Hints for
Students Everywhere. UK: Open University Press.
• Murray, R. (2005) Writing for Academic Journals.
UK: Open University Press.
• Murray, R. and Moore, S. (2006) The Handbook of
Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach. UK: Open
University Press.
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Downtown Centre: Boosting your Academic Writing Skills