Stages of Writing an Academic Article

One of the first things students notice when they start college is that writing an academic article is significantly different from anything they were asked to do in high school. There’s more planning, more research, drafting, and more editing that needs to go into the assignment if one expects to pull off a well-written academic paper.

Here are the five major stages you should know about writing an academic article:

Analyzing and Defining Your Topic

If you’re writing on an open ended topic you should write out a few questions of things you would like to know. This will help you start on your approach and make your research easier since it limits you to a few specific areas. Consider looking at course outlines, lecture notes, tutorial/seminar readings to identify key themes from the course.

Researching and Reading Your Material

You want to start your research by checking library databases, catalogues and abstracts, and journals on your topic. Consult your advisor for recommended articles, books or chapters that could be of help. It’s always a good idea to skim material that is already required for class to see if you can find useful material before starting your independent research. And don’t forget review the bibliographies you find in your readings, since they are often valuable sources for additional reading.

Take notes as you read and keep an eye out for points of debate or questions surrounding your topic. Look for opportunities for you to make a contribution and develop an original thesis, since this is the essential requirement of most academic articles.

Developing Your Argument

It’s a great idea to formulate your argument in a single and clear sentence when you’re brainstorming your research notes. Your argument requires supporting evidence and ideas, so be sure to consider reading more work if you think you need more content to prove your point.

Consider the different types of arguments, key terms, comparisons, background context and other elements you will need to support your thesis. Once you have done this you should have enough content to create a basic structure for your argument.

Developing Your Outline and Writing Your First Draft

Now that you have the components of your argument you should develop an outline to guide you through your paper’s structure. Write out your draft topic sentences and list each related piece of evidence you have directly beneath each sentence. You can expand or contract your outline to fit the article length requirement. When you write your first draft you should always keep referring back you our outline and thesis statement. Stay on course and remove any writing that doesn’t support your argument. There’s no need to put your reader through a maze of confusing and unrelated writing.

Revising and Editing Your Work

This final stage is perhaps the most important and can be all the difference between a passing grade and a stellar grade. Revision means going through your paper and looking for places where your argument, logic, and structure could be changed in some way to better fit the purpose of your paper. It could mean removing a sentence, a paragraph or possibly a whole section. It could also mean changing the order of your paper. Whatever it takes, be sure you put in the effort to revise your paper with a critic’s mind.

Editing is also a step that needs to be done thoroughly. Look for errors in grammar, punctuation, spelling and sentence construction. Read your paper a few times with a pen or marker checking for consistency throughout and don’t be afraid to replace fancy or long words with more straightforward vocabulary.

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