Main Problems In Academic Writing And Their Reasons

  Writing is a key skill that is emphasized in the United States’ education system right from middle school onwards. The importance placed on this skill is more than justified as good writing skills are essential for success in almost every career—be it a technical field where one would be required to compose user manuals and related documentation, or even in a managerial position, where reports and proposals would be an everyday part of the workflow. However, many students continue to face challenges in academic writing at various levels. Poor self-management and planning, ill-conceived essay structure and flow, and plagiarism are some of the common problems that hinder students from achieving excellence in academic writing.

            Self-management refers primarily to the way students allocate their time to planning and executing an academic writing assignment. Students are often wont to put off their assignments till the night before their papers are due, resulting in a hurried and haphazard paper that is not adequately researched, structured, or even proofread. One of the primary reasons for this last-minute work is a combination of anxiety and a lack of discipline (Lamberg 27). Furthermore, due to bad planning and time management, students often do not devote the necessary time for researching the topics they write about, which leads to weak arguments and inadequate supporting evidence to bolster their assertions. Appropriate planning and self-management, therefore, can significantly address the problems students face in academic writing.

            Academic writing demands a formal tone and, most importantly, a structured format that usually explicates a topic or provides supporting evidence. Students, particularly those at the high school and college levels, often do not understand the formal structure prescribed for different types of academic papers or are not trained sufficiently to recognize and understand the need for these structures. Moreover, this inadequate understanding of the structure, when combined with poor time management, can result in awkward and disconnected arguments that do not smoothly flow from one to the next. This can be a problem for all kinds of academic papers, be they essays or lab reports. According to Fennick, Peters, and Guyon (46), “…all good writing requires that data be selected, interpreted, and shaped for specific audiences; and the process of translating raw data into meaningful texts is similar regardless of the textual product,” which implies that ill-conceived research and structure, therefore, results in distorted or illogical ideas rather than “meaningful” arguments. Students can, therefore, benefit greatly from training and frequent reinforcement of structured writing principles. 

            Plagiarism is yet another major problem in academic writing. While many students deliberately resort to plagiarism because they have not dedicated enough time to their assignment, some instances of plagiarism also occur accidentally, when students do not cite their sources appropriately due to insufficient knowledge regarding the correct method of citation styles required for a particular assignment. Plagiarism can also occur accidentally when ideas are borrowed inadvertently due to a vague or no recollection of the original source material. Accidental or unintentional plagiarism can certainly be addressed by in-depth training sessions with students on various kinds of plagiarism and how to avoid them. These should also cover the severity of the consequences of plagiarism to discourage students from resorting to this practice. 

            In conclusion, challenges like poor self-management and planning, inadequate understanding of structure in academic writing, and plagiarism, are some of the main problems that students face in academic writing today. Teaching students the importance of properly planning for researching, structuring, and writing an academic paper can significantly mitigate some of the obstacles they face in academic writing. Students will also greatly benefit from a thorough understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. These steps can set the path for students to master writing, which continues to be an essential skill in most professions today.

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