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Lesson Navigation IconOnline Guidelines for Academic Research and Writing

Unit Navigation IconThe academic research process

Unit Navigation IconOrganization and project management

Unit Navigation IconLiterature research and application

Unit Navigation IconWriting an academic paper

LO Navigation IconRequirements regarding academic papers

LO Navigation IconFormal structure of papers

LO Navigation IconQuotations and references

LO Navigation IconCreating a bibliography

LO Navigation IconWriting coaching

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Writing coaching

When writing an academic paper, you have to deal not only with scientific content but also with questions of style and form. Good phrasings are essential to a paper's quality and should not be considered as add-ons. Finding the right wording and best form can scarcely be overestimated.


A lot of scholars are afraid of writing the first sentence of a text.

Most of the time the writing process is a bumpy road to success (cf. fig. 13). Your ideas may be clear and elaborated; it can nevertheless be problematic to write them down in a convincing, fluent way. Everybody writing a paper knows what a writer's block is, when it is difficult to find the right words or get to the point.

The following tips can be helpful when having difficulties with structuring your writing process. However, there is no panacea since writing requires different approaches as well as the development of individual strategies.

Fig. 13: Overview of a writing process. Source: Diagram                           by author based on Perrin (1999: 11).Fig. 13: Overview of a writing process. Source: Diagram by author based on Perrin (1999: 11).

General information

The following tips should make it easier to get going.

Arranging your desk wisely: A good arrangement stimulates the writing process while making it more efficient. It is best to have all relevant sources at your fingertips; however, you should avoid obstructing the desk with books needed at a later date. A jumble of notes or several open windows on a screen will make it difficult to keep track (Perrin 1999: 13).

Deliberately changing your place of writing: A change of location can help to see the written text from a distance. Sensory perceptions (such as looking through a window or hearing voices in the background) influence the capacity for remembering and speech while altering how you see and judge a text. It can also be worthwhile to assign different writing stages to different locations. You could spend some time in a park when writing and being creative before editing and searching for the exact phrasing at a more somber place (Perrin 1999: 21). It is also necessary to consider if using the PC directly is better than writing the first version of a text by hand. Handwritten notes can be taken anywhere, regardless of location. When typing these notes at a later date you can already edit the text for the first time. Handwriting is getting more and more uncommon. Students are therefore likely to have cramps when taking lengthy written exams. Or their handwriting is very difficult to read, which will complicate grading exams later on.


Different writing stages can take place at different locations.

Controlling your stress: Stress is a common phenomenon when writing a paper and is not necessarily a bad thing. However, you should only do under pressure what you really like to do. Most of the time, when being stressed out, it will be easier to let your mind wander than to perform difficult tasks (such as structuring a text, for example). In order to avoid getting lost in too many details, it is therefore better to develop a structured plan before being already under pressure (Perrin 1999: 25).

Creating a time and work schedule: It is best to divide the main objective (meeting the deadline) into short, manageable parts in order to keep track of the amount of work still to be done. It is also worthwhile to define deadlines for each single chapter as well as to reserve enough time for editing and proofreading one's text. In order to avoid too much pressure, we recommend advancing as many preparatory tasks as possible.

Outline and emphasis of a text

Outlining disposition and structure: It is important to make a disposition before beginning to actually write your paper. This applies to short term papers as well, even if it is not always mandatory. It will then be easier to identify, discuss, or even solve any problems regarding your outline at an early stage. However, it is essential to already know the questions you plan to deal with in the paper (even if these questions may vary in the course of time).

Planning your chapters: You should consider focus, keywords, structure, and available literature of each single chapter in advance (Perrin 1999: 55). Writing without any concept is pointless; it will just take a lot of extra time to disassemble and restructure your text. In addition, you can avoid repetitions and trivialities whose revision can be very time-consuming.

Defining emphasis of chapters: It is necessary to determine the importance of each chapter by assigning each one an approximate number of pages. One should also try and stick to that number later on. Chapters that have to be shortened afterwards are uncalled-for (Kraas & Stadelbauer 2000: 131).


Noting keywords for each section of a text will make it easier to start writing.

Following through

It is not always easy to focus on your work continuously; however, we recommend at least two hours per day, if possible. Otherwise it will be difficult to resume your task (Kraas & Stadelbauer 2000: 133).

It doesn't matter if you begin by writing the most important chapters or the most troublesome ones. However, most of the time, it is more convenient to deal with the difficult chapters first. When being on the verge of writer's block, it can be helpful to gain some distance and deal with other chapters for a while before getting back.

How to avoid writer's block

Many writers have experienced a writer's block: you cannot put down any ideas on paper. The more you try to take your mind off things, the worse it gets. The following tips should help to avoid or get over writer's block.

Only the last two sentences should be read before going on: It is best not to read the entire text already written when suffering from writer's block. A comparison between good and bad passages at this stage can be quite paralyzing. However, when considering only the last two sentences, it will be easier to find a transition to the next sentence before continuing to write more fluently (Perrin 1999: 69).

E-mail method: It is advisable to tell a friend via e-mail what you try to write and why it is difficult to do so. This mail should be written in one go, without reading or correcting it. By adapting your language and being more straightforward, you can detach yourself from circumlocutions and encourage a more fluent writing style (Perrin 1999: 77).

Crash method: In the worst case, you can also imagine a computer crash; the relevant file has not been saved. Therefore, the entire passage has to be written anew. An earlier version, or parts of it, must not be used. This will also promote a more fluent way of writing (Perrin 1999: 87).

Revising and rethinking your work

Asking others to read your text: People (neither specially trained nor involved in the writing process) should be asked to summarize what is most important. Compared to a writer, a reader will perceive a text differently and focus on comprehensibility, text flow, and a logical structure. A reader's view can be very helpful and tell the writer if there are any stumbling blocks left (Perrin 1999: 61).

Final editing: It is necessary to save enough time for editing your text. Most of the time, there are still a lot of corrections and additions to be made. You should especially focus on checking footnotes, references to other chapters, headings, pagination in the table of contents, and spelling (Kraas & Stadelbauer 2000: 131). Additionally, we recommend looking over a logical sequence of sentences as well as the flow of your text.


Reserve enough time for revisions!

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