Unfortunately, for the students who experience problems with essay writing, the only way to get better at this sort of thing is practice. The more you write, the better every of your subsequent paper gets. It doesn’t matter how much theory about academic writing you study – unless you put your skills to use, they are going to stay at the same level. However, there are ways to speed things up a bit – they won’t make you a master writer by themselves, but when used in conjunction with practice and theory, they can bring about the necessary results sooner. One of such ways is the use of academic paper samples.
It has been long known that learning by example is more effective and efficient than studying theory and trying to figure things out on your own. Having a high-quality sample of a completed task in front of you allows you to make conclusions about which approaches to writing work and which don’t, learn new tricks without having to stumble upon them by yourself, and more. In this article, we will cover some of the most important ways in which you can use examples to speed up the improvement of your academic writing proficiency.
1. Studying Examples Can Help You When Choosing Topics
Let’s say your instructor left the choice of topic for your research project to you. At first this opportunity excites most students – after all, they are free to choose whatever they like (within the boundaries of the discipline, of course), which means that nothing prevents them from selecting a topic that would allow them to demonstrate their scientific prowess in the best possible manner. However, if you haven’t done it before you may find yourself stuck because you have trouble formulating a topic that would meet all the requirements of the task in question. Studying a number of paper samples can be invaluable in a situation like this because it clearly demonstrates the optimal scope of academic topics in your field of study. By following their example, you will be able to select a topic that is both manageable and sufficiently broad to find enough material for.
2. You Learn How to Structure Your Papers
It is one thing to read about how you are supposed to structure your papers, and completely different to actually do it on your own. A common approach in education is to tell a student which parts should be present, in what order they should appear and what each of them should include, without actually showing how it all looks. You can easily rectify the situation by getting a PDF with a paper example: this way you will be able to study it hand in hand with your theoretical guide and see how they correlate to each other. Once you see how professional academic writers prepare an introduction, connect it to the main part of the essay and introduce core points, it will become easier to do the same on your own.
3. You Can Find Sources of Useful Information in Examples
Let’s say you have to write an essay about communication with customers in modern marketing practices. There is little to no relevant material in your suggested course readings, your instructor tells you that finding sources of information is all part of the research you are supposed to carry out, and you have no idea where to turn to. Now, each properly written paper example contains a bibliography page where it lists all the sources of data used by the author. If you collect a number of paper samples dealing with the topic that is more or less connected with the one you are supposed to write about, you will be able to gather all these sources and see if they contain any information that may be useful for your own assignment. Quite often literature found this way is more than enough to write an entirely new paper.
4. You Can Reverse Engineer the Sample
One of the good yet not often used methods of improving one’s writing ability is to take a professionally written essay and try to figure out how it was written. Break it up into its constituent parts (introduction, thesis statement, main and supporting points, analysis, conclusion, further research suggestions) and see how they add up and connect to each other. Once you start seeing the paper not as a whole but as a sum of its parts, you will be able to understand how to do something along the same lines yourself. It is especially true if it deals with a difficult topic you have trouble expressing your opinion about.
5. You Can Use Transitional Words and Phrases
“But what use is an essay sample for me if it deals with a completely different topic than my project?” If this is what you ask yourself, then don’t worry – even essays samples that have completely nothing to do with your topic or even the discipline you study can be effectively used to improve your writing skills. You can, for example, pay special attention to the transitional words, phrases and techniques used by the author to move from one main point to the next. By studying how skilled writers guarantee the smooth flow and connection between individual parts of the paper, you will be able to imitate them in your own writing. Taking into account that insufficient coherence and cohesion of their texts is one of the main reasons why college students get poor grades, this is a very useful skill to learn.
6. You Can Imitate Their Style
Not being able to find their own voice is a common problem among students. Quite often their writing is all over the place, without following any individual style and inconsistent within itself. Having an example written by a mature and experienced author at your disposal, you will be able to mimic their style without having to worry about sounding unique. As you gather experience, you will understand what styles and approaches work better for you. Eventually, you will develop a style of your own – and imitating somebody else can make your path towards this result easier.
7. You Get Better at Understanding Formatting Styles
Getting your formatting right is just as important for the success of an academic paper as gathering information from credible sources, writing in impeccable English and introducing original insights into your study field. Although this part of academic work may seem like a mere formality, it can make or break your assignment. Make mistakes in the way you organize citations or format your bibliography incorrectly, and it won’t matter how brilliant the rest of your work is. At the very best, you will get a poorer grade, at worst your assignment won’t be accepted at all.
Academic style guides used for reference are all fine; unfortunately, even with the examples they provide you often fail to see the bigger picture – how an entire paper formatted according to a particular style is supposed to look. Paper examples give you an opportunity to study finished papers and see how this or that formatting style applies to different individual situations – something you won’t find in a theoretical style guide.
8. You Can Borrow Good Ideas from Examples
If you are at your wits’ end concerning the topic to write about, or the point to support your main idea with, sample papers written on the same or similar subject can be an excellent source of good ideas. Please note that we don’t mean that you should copy/paste them or even rewrite the paper written by somebody else in your own words – in both these cases you are likely to be accused of plagiarism. However, if you don’t lift the contents of a paper wholesale but simply use the general idea behind it as a basis of your assignment, there is nothing wrong about it. Just make sure to check the example after you finish writing to see if it and your essay are too much alike.
9. Get Inspired by Paper Samples
You don’t have to directly lift ideas from an assignment sample for it to be useful. Simply by reading a well-written assignment on a topic related to your own task, you will often get an “Aha!” moment, suddenly realizing the new angle you can view your subject matter from or stumbling upon a brilliant idea that can be used as a foundation for an essay. All academic work is interconnected, and sometimes inspiration can come from an unexpected direction.
10. Borrowing Useful Writing Techniques
In the course of one’s academic career, all writers gradually collect a number of useful tips and tricks that make their work easier, speed up the process of writing or make its results more effective. It may be anything from a colorful turn of phrase to a specific essay structure and beyond. The thing is, it usually takes a lot of time and dedicated practice to stumble upon or invent such techniques, and finding them is entirely random. Studying the works of experienced writers (especially if you can find a number of papers by the same author) gives you an opportunity to learn these tricks directly from those who already know them, without having to do all the work associated with developing them. And they will work for you just as well as they work for them.
As you can see, there is much more to using academic paper samples than it may seem. So don’t neglect them – they may be a crucial part of your path towards being a skilled academic writer!