Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tips to Improve Academic Writing for Non-native English Speakers

English is undoubtedly important nowadays especially if you are in academic line.  If you have good findings or new theories but cannot convey people through your writings, it is difficult for people to recognise your work.  As a non-native English speaker I struggle to put my works and findings into words. Below are a few things I learn in my two years of PhD here and some advices from my supervisor (also a non-native English speaker) to improve our writing.

Don’t play safe
This is one of the mistakes I made. I know certain perfect sentences, and I keep using it repeatedly.  This makes my writing monotone and predictable.  We should try to construct different sentences every time and not worry of doing mistakes because mistakes give room for improvement. 

Seek help
If you cannot find native speakers to help you, find someone who you think is better than you in English. Ask them to read your writing/essay. They probably won’t understand the details or theory you write, but they can help in detecting grammar or spelling errors. They also will know if your writing makes sense or not. 

Read thoroughly
Writing thesis is not done in one week time. We write it since first year, and keep updating the details and chapters as we go on. Chances are, by second or third year, we completely forget what we wrote before. We should make it a habit of reading everything thoroughly once in a while to make sure our chapters are synchronised. 

Read academic materials
As a non-native speaker, we tend to be influenced with how our own language works. Direct translation is one of the common mistakes. To overcome this, we usually rely on magazines, movies, songs etc. to improve our English. But, writing a thesis need a more intellectual touch. You need to read more journals, books and academic materials to learn the academic style.  

American or British
Identify which English you want to use. I am studying in the UK, so my thesis should be in British English. Practise using the correct spelling for which English you choose. For example, recognise or recognize, standardise or standardize and colour or color.

That is all for now. Feel free to add anything or correct my mistakes ;-)