How to Write (Even) Better Academic Student Reports and Papers: Some Advices to Students

Thim Prætorius

Research output: Working paperEducation

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Writing high-quality academic reports or papers that demonstrate academic rigor is not necessarily easy for university students. Common problems include developing a clear purpose statement and study aim, identifying the relevant literature, using theory, designing and applying methods, analysing data and discussing your findings. To help you overcome these common challenges, my aim with this academic writing guide is to give students simple and powerful insights about how to improve their academic writing and rigor. Besides being a guide, you can use it as a checklist before you hand the report or paper in.

I cover 31 topics structured into two themes: (a) Structure and content of an academic report or paper and (b) General tips and tricks. Each topic consists of two to five bullet points where I concisely explain and exemplify why each topic is important for writing high-quality academic student reports and papers. This writing style also makes the guide quick and easy to read. I hope that this academic writing guide encourages you to write your report or paper in a (even) more compelling and reader friendly style. This revised 2018 version contains approx. 30% more text and it elaborates on topics that were too briefly explained and exemplified in the 2017 version.

The theme about Structure and content of an academic report or paper covers the seven parts that typically make up an academic piece of work: introduction (setting the hook and stating your study aim); theory or literature review (presenting the literature you use and contribute to); methods (explaining how you studied the study aim); findings (showing the outcome of the data analysis); discussion (reflecting on the findings); conclusion (answering the research question); and references (presenting the knowledge reservoir). The theme about General tips and tricks provides rules of thumb (e.g., that you should kill your darlings), writing style and argumentation hints (e.g., use direct voice) and layout inputs (e.g., use the same format and font throughout).

The themes and topics build on existing literature about academic writing (see the reference list) and my experience with publishing and reading journal articles and super-vising, reading and grading student reports and papers. I am thus sure that most univer-sity supervisors and external examiners will agree with most, if not all, of the topics in this academic writing guide

Please note that this guide is work-in-progress and that it represents a comprehensive, not exhaustive piece of work. Moreover, the guide is written with the Aalborg University model of problem-based learning in mind . Please feel free to comment on the themes and topics.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationAalborg University Copenhagen
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


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