Writing academically

Academic writing provides facts in the descriptive form to evaluate, learn knowledge, provide codification, explain or introduce theories, processes, and practices, or produce information for the academic community. It focuses on precise, balanced, objective, formal, critical, structured, cited, argumentative, and evidenced write-up.
It has been observed that young students, especially young graduates, are not familiar with academic writing while entering universities, which is a basic and vital to learn being a necessary part of their disciplines. In fact, it is important for all disciplines as written assessments, research papers, or a thesis is a compulsory part of their degrees. In this regard, it is good to see the inclusion of the Academic Reading and Writing Course at the university level as one of the foundational courses. The course enables the students to effectively write with an outcome of purposeful reading.
A familiar proverb says that you should think before you speak. The same formula applies on write ups as a progressive activity. One has to plan what to write. It keeps on changing the structure with corrections and improvements for clarity. It is based on several steps–i.e. pre-writing, research, drafting, revising, editing, and proofreading. Many new students at the university level are observed with weak expressions, doing grammatical and structural errors in sentence making. Introducing foundational courses like this one is an appreciable step to make familiarise students with the basic requirements in the initial semesters of their degrees. The students have a responsibility to attend regular classes to practice and learn the instructors’ teachings. It has been observed that most students assume they can pick up the lectures if they miss classes. Their performance can be seen in the assessments, where many concepts are not well-explained and they lose marks. Regular participation and attendance in classes is key to improvement. In this regard, the comparison in performance of regular and irregular students is seen in private as well as in public universities of Islamabad, where regular students show progress far better than irregular ones.
However, focusing on the structural error in a sentence, the students mostly ignore subject-verb agreement, where the verb is the controlling head in a phrase. Other mistakes in grammatical functions include the relationship of subject, direct or indirect object, second object, and oblique object. Thus, the syntactical structure of a sentence requires it to be well-understood along with logical, and psychological subject. Furthermore, subjects have syntactical as well as morpho-syntactic properties. Under syntactical properties, it has control over reflexives, characteristics of agent, clause position, and functions as a pivot in infinitives and coordinate constructions. While morpho-syntactical properties include grammatical characteristics either inherited or effect from the context. The basic problem which is being practiced by students mostly is of using incorrect tense and avoiding mood and voice in a sentence.
Additionally, weaknesses in academic writing occur due to a lack of inventive ideas, inadequate vocabulary, rhetorical conventions, and weak teaching methodologies. It is suggested to keep molding the syllabus and teachings per students’ requirements for productive outcomes. There is a need to take along the whole strength of the class by picking up individual teaching techniques also per requirement for producing the 5Cs of academic writing i.e. clarity, completeness, cogency, concision, and conventionality. Some of the other factors that have varying degrees of influence on students’ writing skills’ improvement include positive student-teacher relationships, motivation, classroom environment, and positive constructive feedback.
Thus, it’s progressive learning in a positive environment that should motivate students to improve their writing skills. Academic writing is the quiet expressive form of language that is descriptive, persuasive, critical, and analytical. For a long-lasting impression in the form of a message or research or academic article, there is a need to focus on academic writing skills for making your voice reach out expressively and effectively.

The writer is an award-winning columnist, researcher and Visiting Asst. Prof. (Ph.D. in Linguistics, Malaysia) at Riphah International University & Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. She can be reached at saira.asad2011@gmail.com.

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