22 Best Practices for Student Writers

Tracy L.F. Worley, DM PMP

There are four primary best practices I would recommend for students taking Composition and Research: read often; write even more often; familiarize yourself with APA format; and review the literature of your discourse community.

Reading opens a whole new world, it broadens our horizons, and allows us to experience things we haven’t experienced before. Reading also allows us to see various writing styles and ways of using words that are within the lexicon of your discourse community. If you are a marketing major, immerse yourself in various marketing channels and campaigns, review strategies, and the genres that marketing professionals use. This immersion should be undertaken regardless of your major. Then you write.

Practice writing for your discourse community using the lexis that you discovered through your reading. Determine your audience and practice writing for them. If you are an economics major, put your thoughts down on paper it they relate to a topic in your discipline. Use good English grammar and punctuation. Write in the third person, expository writing style, and try to clearly convey your thoughts using the active voice. See if your thoughts and ideas concur with experts. Review the literature.

A literature review, particularly among researchers and those pursuing advanced studies and terminal degrees, is the process of finding expert and authoritative sources within your topic area. The goal of this process is to discover the available knowledge base and determine what experts are saying about your topic. Finding sources that concur with your premise can validate your point of view. The key is knowing how to properly attribute these sources, and this takes practice. Now is the time to familiarize yourself with APA format.

Your school’s Writing Center provides excellent a resource link for APA style guidance. The Excelsior Online Writing Lab provides for the Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Style Guide, and APA, with specific attention on preparing citations, in-text and in the list. The other option is the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL), a comprehensive and updated source for the latest APA formatting standards.

These best practices are merely suggestions but being prepared with some strategies for success is always a good choice.