3 tips for writing an academic paper

Writing the first paper for publication is a really big hurdle to get over for many academics, perhaps most. Not only will these three key tips make your text more attractive to the readers’ eye and easier to read, following them will save you time and perhaps also money when you get to the final stages prior to publication.

1. Structure
Last year I joined the editorial team of the Asia in Focus journal. One of the main goals of the journal to give students a platform where they can get a taste of what it is to go through the process of getting published. The editorial team try to give more guidance on how to structure an academic article than one would receive in a more mainstream journal. Take a look at our basic guide to structuring an academic article here. If your paper does not have structure, the value of your research will be lost.

2. Formatting
When you write, it is also important to make an article easy to read on the eye. One way that is achieved is by using appropriate formatting. Take a look at The anatomy of an academic paper: a brief guide. I recently came across this great piece written by Jørgen Carling from the Peace Research Institute in Oslo. It is a really valuable paper as it contains insightful tips on how to format an academic paper. It is also a really quick read as the content is actually just a series of comments attached to a ‘random’ paper.

3. Referencing
In addition to the tips given by Jørgen, I strongly suggest picking one style of referencing from the very first paper you write and sticking to it throughout your writing career. Most journals will specify the style that you should use, or give you their own style guide to follow. However, often you will write a paper before you decide upon the journal. It is also likely that several people will read it before it goes anywhere. Uniformity in referencing will make your paper easier to breeze through, and you want people to want to read your work.

APA (American Psychological Association) style, Chicago style (The Chicago Manual of Style), the Harvard system, and MLA (Modern Language Association) are most common across the social sciences and humanities.

Good luck with your writing!