Academic writing can seem like an alien concept to those who have not exercised their skills in the classroom since leaving school

However, if you have recently enrolled on an online masters degree programme, you will realise that not only are you expected to absorb a lot of new and valuable information, but your ability to think critically also plays a significant role in your postgraduate education.

We spoke recently to Hayley Hughes, Manager of the Centre for Student Success at the University of Roehampton, London Online, and she had some useful tips to help you improve your academic writing and achieve your goals:

“Academic writing is actually a way that scholars have a conversation with each other. It’s a dialogue that is changing all the time. So when a researcher completes a new study or develops a new theory, or new findings come to light, people talk to each other; they write a journal article or they publish a book. It’s a dialogue back and forth – so academic writing isn’t just the way knowledge is captured; it’s also the way that knowledge is created.”

Here are three tips to help you write academically at masters level:

  1. Research: select information that is relevant and reputable
    As a student at Roehampton Online, you will have access to a wealth of literature, including eBooks, journals and academic papers via the online library. Your faculty members will also direct you to useful sources you may want to include in your research.

    When researching, it is important to look for academic peer-reviewed articles – this is information, studies or research that your academic community has deemed high-quality and valuable.

    In order to achieve good grades, you will be expected to reference these sources to demonstrate that you have a basic mastery of your subject and that you have based that mastery on information from known, reputable sources.
  2. Construct your argument: point, counterpoint and conclusion
    However long or short your written contribution is, follow is this helpful rule of three: point, counterpoint and conclusion.

    Point: State your argument and show how you have an understanding of your subject – that may be a reference to a discussion question, a case or assignment. Demonstrate your knowledge and make a point!

    Counterpoint: One of the elements that distinguishes a masters-level programme from other programmes is how well the student understands counterarguments or perspectives that differ from the initial point mentioned. You are expected to think critically about your subject, so try to imagine what someone who disagrees with your position might say.

    Conclusion: The third part of your contribution is to draw a conclusion from those two first parts. Your conclusion will demonstrate your perspective and how well you’ve constructed your argument based on the information you provided in the first two parts of your answer. The reader should be able to distinguish which part of your work is original and which is not original; this is achieved by citing and referencing your sources.
  3. Academic integrity: when submitting work for assessment, cite, quote and reference
    It’s really important for faculty members (when making a judgement about you and assessing your work) to understand which parts of your contribution are your own words and which, the words of others.

    You can use information within your work from external sources, and you can also draw on your own views and experiences, but how you distinguish between the two is very important. If you take a piece of work from an author you find particularly valuable, make sure you that you put it in quotation marks.

    For example: Yuki (2001:21) argues that, “[l]eadership is an important role requirement for managers and a major reason why managerial jobs exist.”

    What you also need to do is to cite, stating the author’s name, the year the book was published and the page number. The final part is the reference, which comes at the end of your paper or assignment.

    Yuki, G., (2001) Leadership in Organizations,
    5th edition, Upper Suddle River NJ: Pearson
    (first published: 1940).

    If you adhere to these three points, not only will you increase your chances of getting a better grade in your assignments; you will have demonstrated that your work is a reputable and valuable piece of research. Knowing how to write academically is an important step to becoming an authority in your field.

The University of Roehampton, London Online offers a range of masters degree programmes that adopt learning models designed specifically to meet the needs of busy working professionals or those with other commitments. Find out how you can study at any time from anywhere and reach your full potential.

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