Categories
Academic Writing

Referencing

What’s the point in it?

I feel that a lot of students do not like spending much time on accurately and precisely referencing their assignments, because they don’t see a point in it. If you are a first year university student, and you started reading an article found on Google Scholar or your university online library, the name of an author, and perhaps the content of this article might seem so abstract, so remote from your life. Who is this person writing the article? What is she trying to say? And why do I need to acknowledge her in my essay? The article can be a complete mystery, and referencing it properly can be the last thing the student will have on her mind. I was in the same position myself, when I got in trouble for not referencing properly a dozen of articles I used in my International Relations assignment during my Bachelor degree. Soon enough I learnt how to reference properly, but only much later I understood, what the real reason for acknowledging academic literature was. It is basically a gesture of showing respect to someone who shared their knowledge with you. It is like saying thank you for spending years of research and then putting it online for you. 

Choose a style guide that is readable and relatable

The most important thing I’ve learnt while teaching how to reference is that every student needs to find a document or a website with referencing rules that suits his or her individual preferences. There is a lot of material out there on how to reference, finding a resource that resonates with your needs is the key. 

For example, this is a list of referencing guidelines that worked for me and for some of my students. 

APA

Chicago

Harvard

There are a lot of websites for generating references automatically, but I think it is important to know how to reference from scratch, using original guidelines. Otherwise, it is easy to fall prey to inaccuracies and misleading information that are inevitable online.

Happy referencing!

Categories
Academic Writing

How to improve your writing?

The best tip I can give about improving one’s writing is to do proofreading work for someone else. I worked a lot on my own writing skills when I was a student: I had consultations with academic writing advisors, received feedback from my tutors and lecturers. I also asked my friends and family members to proofread my work and give me advice. When it still wasn’t enough, I used online proofreading services to ask for a feedback from experienced tutors. All these methods contributed their bit, but it wasn’t until I started teaching and consulting students on how to improve their writing, when I realised what can really push me to improve. Proofreading someone else’s work taught me how to detach yourself from your own writing, and how to be able to ask the right questions in the right time, which can ultimately lead to finding fresh and sound solutions to overcome common writing mistakes. 

The best way to learn how to write well is to help others write. It might sound contradictory and time-consuming, but it works. Moreover, helping others to write can and will expose you to a range of writing styles that you might not have explored otherwise. Plus, usually, you would allocate a specific time slot to work on someone else’s writing, meaning that it would be in your best interest to find solutions quickly. Writing and rewriting in a quick pace is an essential skill to success. It’s like making super gestural one-minute sketches with charcoal: you feel less responsible for making mistakes and less precious about the final outcome, which surprisingly can give you great final results. 

Give it a go: find a friend or a friend of a friend, who needs help improving their writing, and even if you feel you aren’t good enough as a writer, offering someone your help can be impetus to research new writing styles and structures, plus, working together on a piece of writing is much more fun, especially, if you struggle with it. A sense of shared responsibility can be magical.