For many people in universities, writing up projects or producing long pieces of writing is often the hardest part of their course or job. Most people are here because they are interested in their subject, and the academic writing part is often at best a tool – and at worst a significant barrier – to continuing with their work.

Obviously with dissertations or final year projects, which are more significant and spaces over several months, this problem of actually doing the write up can be even more overwhelming. There are some good tips and ideas out there to help you though, and some of these are covered here.

Start in the middle!

If you’re not sure where the best place to start is, sometimes it’s worth starting in the middle, even of a sentence, rather than trying to work out where the beginning is. Trying to find the perfect start can be a big stumbling block to writing, so if you allow yourself to start anywhere, and then come back and edit later, you can get some writing down that you can work with and build upon.

Avoid perfectionism

With a big piece of work that’s worth a big proportion of your final grades, knowing that you want it to sound good can create additional pressure that makes it hard to get writing. A good resource to use here is the Manchester Academic Phrasebank https://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/about-academic-phrasebank/which has lots of academic phrases you can use to get you started or substitute in for parts of your draft, and is helpfully divided into sections such as ‘Introducing Work’ and ‘Reporting Results’. So if you always start your writing with: ‘In this essay I will…’ and then worry that you can’t use the first person and don’t know how else to start, this resource can give you alternative suggestions, such as: ‘This thesis will examine the way in which…’ And you don’t need to reference it!

Dealing with procrastination

If you find it hard to stay focused and are easily distracted, then a method called Shut Up and Write! could be really helpful. This is particularly valued by researchers and academics in the university and elsewhere to help them become more productive, which just goes to show that even as you get more experienced the writing doesn’t necessarily become easier though you may find more effective tools to get better at dealing with it. The approach is covered well in another blog https://leedsunilibrary.wordpress.com/2021/01/29/resources-for-running-your-own-shut-up-and-write-suaw/ and essentially utilises focused time to be more productive, ideally harnessed with peer pressure.

So now you just need to start writing!