Showing posts with label writing tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing tips. Show all posts

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Why is Learning How to Write Well in College Important?

Students often ask why they should develop strong writing skills when they are studying business, and its principles take precedence. Students have a hard time understanding how grammar, spelling, formatting, sentence structure, and focus can improve their job prospects.If they know it but can’t say it, they are going to have a hard time highlighting themselves.

What they miss is a perspective of how writing impacts every other action they take at work. Whether one is writing an email, creating a resume, finishing a report or preparing a speech writing is a major part of communicating in a way that improves effectiveness. If a person cannot communicate well, they are also unlikely to obtain the highest paid jobs.

Effective writing communication is a sign of clarity of thought. A person who can write concisely, powerfully, and with focus is seen as a person who understands the material. If a paper mixes topics, is hard to follow, and is full of errors it is unlikely that it will be viewed seriously. In competition with other information, a well-written paper draws more attention.

Writing reflects well on the reader, and potential employers see this writing as a reflection of the quality of the candidate. Those that can write well portray a professional image and can find themselves moving up the ranks faster.Their ideas will have more legitimacy.

Even though writing well takes a time to develop, in many cases years, it is beneficial to implement the professor’s feedback as much as possible. The more feedback a student incorporates into their papers, the faster they will learn new habits that become ingrained into their writing style. As new learning takes place again, and the quality slowly rises.

Don’t expect to be a greater writer quickly. I have written for years and consistently find mistakes, grammar issues, and ways that things can stated clearer in my  works. Most of the time, this is a direct result of not reviewing work enough times to ensure that major mistakes are discovered and fixed. With time and patience, your writing will improve as well.

Some tips on Improving Writing:

-Proofread your work a couple of times.

-Run your work through a spell and grammar checker.

-Use headings to separate major themes.

-Cover a single thought per paragraph.

-Connect paragraphs like you would connect ideas.

-Each section should have multiple paragraphs.

-Use a thesis statement in the introduction.

-Ensure the conclusion is drawn from the information in the paper. .

-Remove excess sentences that don’t contribute to the content of the paper.

-Define terms, ideas, and theories.

-Review your paper from the perspective of a reader and write accordingly.

Monday, November 10, 2014

How To Write for an Academic Journal

Having a paper accepted for publication in an academic journal is an exciting event that comes with a personal sense of achievement. Not only does it validate an academic’s knowledge but it is also a source of industry exposure. Writing in a journal is not impossible but does take preparation like other types of writing. Those who publish in journals not only offer a sense of expertise but also a level of academic writing skill.

Writing at a level that will be published by a peer-reviewed journal requires a significant investment of time. It will take at least a month to write a solid piece of academic literature. The quality must be near perfect depending on the genre of the journal. The topic should contribute a unique perspective or piece of knowledge to a wider body of literature to create relevancy.

(Step 1) Pick Your Topic 

Having some sense of your topic before writing will make a huge difference in the amount of effort and time it takes to complete your work. Some journals will require you to have a broader “how to” approach for industry readers but most will require you to be very narrow in your focus. 

One of the best ways to find your writing focus is to spend time reading on a particular topic that interests you. Find a general interest and start reading until you come across something that you wouldn’t mind learning about yourself. Uniqueness improves your chance of getting your work published while interest will help ensure that you have enough motivation to complete your topic. 

(Step 2)  Find The Journal Genre  

One you have your topic you should start looking at the type of journals that publish works in that genre. Seek open access journals and peer-reviewed journals from your academic library. Read articles that are printed in the journal to discovered insight into what the journal is seeking. Review their paper submission requirements to better align your writing. 

(Step 3) Build an Outline

 Each paper should have an abstract, introduction, body, and conclusion. Building an outline helps solidifying you’re thinking by better managing how information connects together to create a final product. It will also ensure that you are actively seeking information that will benefit your paper without wasting time on dead ends. 

(Step 4) Start Researching

Try and find information that fits under the topical headings within your outline. This will help ensure that you’re not wasting time browsing information that isn’t relevant for your work. Look at libraries, Google Scholar, and even news articles when they are relevant. Try and seek a citation for every couple of paragraphs. Peer-reviewed articles are typically the best and are more scholarly in orientation. 

(Step 5) Start Writing

Writing is an art form and a science. It is important to use an active voice and ensure that you are discussing concepts concisely. Grammar, spelling, punctuation, formatting, and sentence structure should be strong. When you have your draft you may want to share it with others and ask them to help you proofread. A few obvious mistakes will raise the chances your journal submission is rejected. 

(Step 6) Submission

 The type of journal you are submitting your work will have a definitely impact on the quality and time-frame of publication. Peer-reviewed scholarly journals that have a strong reputation in the market are the best for raising credibility. They will not ask you to pay for anything but are exclusive and difficult to be approved. As a beginning writer you can also consider less than premium journals to practice your skills and obtain a few notches under your belt before going after prestige. The choice is yours.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Demystifing APA and MLA Styles

Dr. Andree Swanson, EdD and Chris Crites, MBA

So, you have to write a paper and you were told that it must be in MLA format. Did some of these thoughts enter into your mind?

What the heck is MLA format?
I remember using some sort of style back in high school, but that was ages ago!
At the college I attended everything was in APA style.
I vaguely remember MLA
Oh yes, that’s where you use footnotes, right?

Although this is a comparison of the two styles, ultimately, the decision on whether to use MLA or APA style is up to the University or College that you are attending. 


 Scholars need to lead his or her reader as close to the information as a possible.  The research should be current, typically within the last five years.  As you can imagine in the field of business, engineering, and health care administration, information that is 20 years old would be of little or no use.  The one exception would be historical or literature reviews.  The MLA reference does not provide a means to show the date, volume, and page numbers of the document, only the date of retrieval.

The APA Publication Manual focuses on scientific research versus a literature base.  The study of business and finance is more closely aligned with scientific research than it is with literature.  Scholars must include peer-reviewed, current literature.  The APA style manual allows for this documentation.  Important elements include providing a specific link back to the research.  Currency of data is important in this field as new research is accomplished and published.  Social sciences use the APA Style Manual to document current studies that have been published.  To this end, business courses tend to follow the social sciences (e.g., economics is based on social behavior) than the literature base, thus the importance of using an APA reference.

Comparison of Two Styles

MLA Reference

Bowling, Daniel, & Hoffman, David. “Bringing Peace into the Room: The Personal Qualities of the Mediator and Their Impact on the Mediation.” Negotiation Journal. Jan 2000: 16, 1. ProQuest. Web. 20 May 2012.
Notice: the only date that is shown is the date of retrieval

APA Reference

Borstorff, P. C., & Lowe, S. K. (2007). Student perceptions and opinions toward e-learning in the college environment. Academy of Educational Leadership Journal, 11(2), 13-29. Retrieved from ABI/INFORM Global database. doi: 1432002441.
The date of publication clues scholars and other readers that this information is current, and important in the world of business.  The page numbers provide precise information for scholars so that this information can be located easily for further research.

            Learning to apply APA formatting when writing your papers is something that is truly useful in all business applications.  Perhaps you may not use true APA formatting, but hopefully learning this style will enhance your critical thinking skills.  In future writings, you will consider a statement of fact only to wonder where the author gained the source of this information and check for their parenthetical citations.  The ability to research and document sources garnered her selection as a national training manager in a male-dominated field.  Thus, knowing APA style and understanding the importance of documentation could be what gets you your next job.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Academic Writing Tips

By Dr Andree Swanson

Artwork: Dr.  Murad Abel
You have been tasked to write your first paper and the instructor gave you feedback.  It read: “This is not appropriate for an academic paper.”  

You are now at a loss to understand what defines an academic paper. Here are a few tips to remember when writing.

Most importantly, you are creating a document that is in your own words.  It is imperative to properly research the paper.  It is not unusual to have parenthetical citations after each sentence.  The reason this happens is that you have conducted a great deal of research on your topic.  You are now reflecting on what you have read, so the bottom line is...  you are not presenting new information.  Let me restate this.  You are presenting someone else’s information.  In fact, you may be presenting more than one person’s information and must properly cite each source.

Your paper is filled with ideas that came from many journals, web sites, and books.  Basically, there are no new ideas in the world, especially at the bachelor’s level.  You are not writing a dissertation nor developing your own research on a topic, thus, your academic paper is merely a reflection of your research… not your opinions.  Given this statement, you must properly cite your sources.

A prescriptive formula for writing an academic research paper can be defined in the following equation:

A + B(x) + D(x) = an appropriate academic paragraph

A = A statement in your own words
B = A paraphrase or summary of what you have read on the topic
D = A quote which adequately reflects what you stated above
x = Your APA citation in APA or MLA format*

        Here is an example of this formula in action:

Funding Formula
After World War II, American servicemen and women became eligible for a newly-enacted legislation called the GI Bill. President Roosevelt did not spend much time on this bill; however, Roosevelt saw that America needed a boost at the end of the war. The GI Bill was established (Remembering the GI bill, 2000). The Higher Education Act of 1965 strengthened “the educational resources of our colleges and universities and [provided] financial assistance to students in postsecondary and higher education” (Higher education act of 1965, n.d.).
Figure 1. Example of a properly cited paragraph.

        Another example that incorporates information from more than one source is shown below:

Lujan v. Colorado State Board of Education

This issue of funding and the equity of educational opportunities is an ongoing topic in the Colorado court system. Once again, a group of individuals went to court. These plaintiffs “represented by the Colorado Lawyers Committee brought suit claiming that the deteriorating physical state of the public schools deprived students of educational opportunity” (Hunter, 2006, ¶ 3). In 2000, the Colorado state legislature enacted Senate Bill 00-181 earmarking “$190 million dollars for school repair and construction in the neediest school districts over more than a decade” (Hunter, 2006, ¶ 3; Wham et al., 2000). Finally, in 2000, voters passed an initiative to increase kindergarten through grade 12 school funding in the state. Amendment 23 created the State Education Trust Fund (Colorado Budget, 2005, ¶ 1).
Figure 2. Example of citing more than one resource for a quotation.

In addition to critically thinking, paraphrasing and summarizing, and adequately citing your references, it is important to avoid certain elements when writing.      

Use citations sparingly –

When writing a paper it is important to put the paper in your own words. This means paraphrasing and summarizing what you have read, and to then properly reference the source. In the example below, there are 146 total words. Of these words, 28 are the author’s. This is not good. Nineteen percent of this paragraph is in the author’s own words.

Bad example
It is important to reduce stress because of the bad affects on the body. “When you’re stressed, you feel changes in your body and your mind. Your heart beats faster, your blood pressure goes up, and your face may get flushed. Your muscles might tighten up, or you may feel anxious” (Stress and how to lower it: A health guide for teens, 2007, para. 2). There are many situations that cause stress when you are writing an academic paper. “You might continually postpone working on your assignment and get a late start. If you procrastinate, you do not have enough time to think about and compose what you want to write” (Cone, 2007, para. 3) “Sometimes you might become so nervous that you feel unable to write anything at all. This is known as writer’s block, and it is akin to self-sabotage” (Cone, 2007, para. 4)
Figure 3. Example of multiple quotations strung together

Avoid vague terms… be specific –

Avoid empty words such as “things,” “stuff,” “many,” etc. Use specific terms. I have a vocabulary challenge on my personal website.

Avoid colloquialisms –

It is necessary to avoid colloquialisms in academic papers. For example, although you may use the words below when you are writing an article or a brief narrative paper, but not an academic paper. Can you think of how you might reword this sentence so it is appropriate for an academic paper?

Bad example
It was raining like cats and dogs outside while I was working on this academic paper.

Avoid references to pop-culture –

Quotes are good, but you must use the appropriate quote for the paper. I personally like this quote, but would not include this in an academic paper.

Bad example
Jerry Seinfeld once stated that when average Americans were asked what their number one fear was he said it was public speaking and number five on the list was death. Seinfeld stated, “...that would mean that at a funeral, people are five times more likely to want to be in the casket than giving the eulogy.”

*APA is American Psychological Association and MLA is Modern Language Association


Stress and how to lower it: A health guide for teens. (2007). Center for Young Women’s Health Children’s Hospital Boston. Retrieved February 23, 2007, from