You BitchBuzz readers are a brainy bunch. With the new academic year just around the corner, here are the academic writing tips that you won’t find in any university or college study guides
Word counts can be terrifying; the best way to tackle them is by breaking them down into manageable chunks with exciting treats at the end. My tried and tested method is the “Haribo Tangfastic Incentive”: I allow myself one sour cherry per 100 words and a Margarita after every 1000 words. That way, 15,000 words is nothing but 150 sweeties and 15 tequila-based cocktails away!
2. Take shortcuts
Let me be clear here: never cheat or steal anybody else’s work. That is a crumby and shitty thing to do and YOU WILL get caught. By shortcuts I mean simple time saving measures, such as finding useful quotes via keywords in the index rather than trawling through an entire book. Also, get to know Microsoft Word inside and out – it is packed with effective and useful ways to save time with the formatting and structure of your essays or thesis.
3. Footnotes are your friends
This is not exactly best practice, but footnotes can be a godsend when you’ve finished your essay only to find that you are 4,000 words over the word count. Once you’ve cut out any unnecessary waffle and redundant words, it is time to start bumping some short paragraphs to the footnotes. Be careful to ensure that you don’t move any of your important points though, try to only relegate things that aren’t essential to your argument but are too cool/clever to cut out completely.
4. Be obscure
Aim to include some references that the markers will have never encountered before. In doing so, you will impress them and make them feel a teensy bit in awe of you and your mega-brain. Explore the dark corners of the library in search of forgotten texts (try to avoid the dry-humping freshers) or even order something in from the British Library. Use any reading lists as a jumping off point, scour the bibliographies of the recommended texts to find your next move. It is extra effort, but you can guarantee that hardly anyone else on your course will have been arsed, so you are sure to stand out.
5. Write about stuff that you love
If you have any choice in the subject matter, make sure that you pick something that you care about. Even if you don’t have a choice, there are ways to bring in your passions and interests. A warning though: after 20,000 words on a subject, you are pretty much guaranteed to hate whatever it is that you have been writing about.
Finally, check what your university/department expects from you. Referencing systems vary from organisation to organisation, as do word count allowances and rules regarding page layout/font etc. If you are ever in doubt, check and double check with your lecturers and supervisors – university is not cheap, so make sure that you get your money’s worth!
Good luck to all of our readers who are embarking on learning adventures this Autumn. Stay sane and enjoy every minute!
Image by Richard Lawrence Cohen via John Althouse Cohen's Flickr