5 Mistakes to Avoid in Academic Writing

Mistakes in your writing may result in demerits to your evaluation, but they can be easily avoided as long as you pay attention. Here are 5 mistakes to check for in academic writing.

1. Vague Thesis Statements

A thesis statement should clearly express a paper’s subject, opinion, and supporting points. A vague thesis statement lacks any one of these parts. Here are a few examples:

  • High schools currently take a directive approach to teaching students.
  • High schools should take a facilitative approach to teaching students.
  • Studies show that a facilitative approach to teaching is better at encouraging autonomy and self-confidence

You might have noticed that all three of these statements are actually part of a complete thesis statement. However, when by themselves or when missing even just one part, they are not substantial.

The first statement shows the subject, but that is it. The second statement shows the writer is taking a stand, but it does not show why their opinion is valid. And the third cites a fact, but it has nothing to support it.

Together, these three statements form a cohesive thesis statement that states the subject, gives an opinion on that subject and tells the readers why the opinion is valid: “High schools should shift from a directive approach to a facilitative approach in teaching students as it is better at encouraging autonomy and self-confidence.”

2. Plagiarism

Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as your own.

You have to be careful with plagiarism. The other mistakes listed here can be honest mistakes and can be fixed with a revision. Plagiarism, however, will likely result in severe punishments.

Depending on the college or university, students guilty of plagiarism may face grade penalties, immediate failure of a course, disciplinary action, suspension, or even expulsion.

There are 4 types of plagiarism:

  • Direct Plagiarism: Copying another writer’s work without proper citation
  • Accidental Plagiarism: Unintentionally neglecting to cite a source
  • Mosaic Plagiarism: Directly copying a phrase without quotation marks or substituting a few words without changing the sentence structure
  • Self-Plagiarism: Reusing parts of previous work

Properly cite your sources while following the correct citation style for your field of study. You may also use a tool for avoiding plagiarism and have it check your work for you.

3. Redundancy and Wordiness

writing concept

It can be quite tempting to extend your sentences or repeat some parts in order to meet a minimum word count. But it is obvious when a student does so. Padding a paper with extra sentences and phrases makes your writing harder to follow.

Some common ways a paper is made wordier are:

  • Overusing expletives at the beginning of sentences
  • Overusing noun forms of verbs
  • Infinitive phrases

Expletives are words that have a syntactic role but do not contribute to a sentence’s meaning such as the word “it.” Sentences starting with “It is important” and the like are commonly used to extend word counts.

These are not necessarily bad sentences, and you might have even found some within this article. But overuse makes it apparent that it serves as padding.

An example of using a noun form of a verb is using “localization” instead of “localizing.” This allows writers to pad their papers through longer phrasing: “The localization of a…” instead of “Localizing a…”

Infinitive phrases consist of the word “to” followed by a verb. A few examples are “to see” and “to find.” These cause phrasing to be longer: “The purpose of this organization is to protect the peace” instead of “This organization protects the peace.”

You can avoid most problems of wordiness by writing in the active voice. It forces you to phrase a sentence in a much shorter structure.

4. Informality

This is a simple one. Informal language is when you use contractions, phrasal verbs, slang, and first-person pronouns.

You are likely familiar with contractions. These are shortened versions of words like “can’t” or “wanna.” Phrasal verbs are idiomatic phrases like “turn down” such as when you say “turn down the volume” rather than “reduce the volume.” The other two need no explanation.

5. Not Proofreading and Revising

Neglecting to proofread your work will likely leave it with errors in spelling, grammar, and punctuation. It is easy to spot and will incur demerits to your score.

Proofreading is not enough though, as it is also obvious when work has not been revised. Lack of revision shows itself in the flow of your ideas. If your ideas do not flow well, it becomes apparent that you did not organize them.

Check your papers for these academic writing mistakes, and your papers are sure to be graded higher.

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