Write your academic paper

With a good writing process you avoid getting stuck while writing an academic paper. You will be able to use your writings to develop your thoughts behind a paper. Your fellow students and supervisors are able to give you valuable response on your writings during the process.

This page can be used when you:

  • Want to speed up your writing process

  • Are creating a thesis for a paper

  • Are setting up a meeting with your supervisor

Generating Ideas

Base the topic of a paper or thesis on something you find interesting, and start thinking of a topic early.

You can use techniques such as brainstorming and mindmapping to generate ideas for a topic.

Ideally, your idea for a topic for a paper or thesis will be based on something you find interesting:

  • something you already know a bit about
  • something you want to find out or learn more about
  • something you feel you can use in your future employment.

Note that if your knowledge or interest is related to a course you have already done, special restrictions apply so you don’t duplicate your own previous independent work. Check the academic regulations for your study programme.

Advice on writing exam papers

An experienced professor from the Department of Aesthetics and Communication gives advice on choosing a topic.

Brainstorming and Mindmapping

The content of the interactive free writing exercise was written by Tine Wirenfeldt Jensen.

Brainstorming and mindmapping are effective ways to generate ideas for your academic assignments or final thesis.

Brainstorming is a method of writing that enables you to open up your mind and see where it takes you.

  1. Start by defining a topic for your brainstorm.
  2. Then write down whatever you can think of in connection to it.

Your text may contain questions, answers, ideas and even words or sentences that do not seem to be connected to the topic. Write everything down and then select the useful ideas when you are done.

Mind Mapping - organise your ideas

Mind mapping gives you a chance to organise your ideas and clarify the connections between different aspects of your argumentation and your paper as a whole.

  1. You start by writing a key word or phrase on a large piece of paper. This word or phrase forms the root from which all your other notes will branch out.
  2. You then write down your ideas, thoughts and arguments around the main word or phrase and connect them to each other by lines.

This can give you a new perspective on how to structure your paper as it allows you to see how the different notions and arguments fit together.

Advice about the Final Thesis

There is not necessarily a right order in which to do things, since reading and thinking and planning probably happen a bit simultaneously at this stage.

Once you have your thesis idea sorted out and your supervisor in place your logical next step is to work out an outline and read up. Work out a “problemformulering”, based on which you can set up an outline, incl. chapter suggestions, and start compiling a preliminary, commented bibliography.

  • Often one can be tempted to keep reading and reading, adding more sources, hoping to know everything in advance. This is not a bad ambition but can eventually become a delaying factor, holding off the time when you have to sit and write your own text.
  • Some may be more comfortable working most things out in advance of putting pen to paper. Others will move sooner to the writing phase, filling in additional sources as needed and setting aside time to thoroughly edit the text afterwards.
  • This latter strategy is called “process writing” and can also be a good tool to combat a writing block. However, should you have trouble getting started or keeping up your writing, never struggle on your own.
  • Talk to your supervisor before you get seriously stuck. Your supervisor may help you find a balance between study/reading and writing.

Start early

It is not a bad idea to start thinking about what you might want to write about early. Take advantage of (spare) time to see whether your idea fits you and get comfortable with it – or think of another topic.

If you have an idea for a Master's thesis several semesters in advance, you have time to read and collect material “on the side” and let some ideas sink in at leisure – before you have to think of your thesis in terms of a strict 6-month deadline.

Part of the content of this page was written by Inger H. Dalsgaard, Associate Professor, PhD, Department of Aesthetics and Communication, Aarhus University.

Scribo

Scribo is an interactive tool that helps you improve your assignments, exams and the final thesis.

Scribo is an interactive tool which supplies suggestions and information on research papers and library searches.

With a dialogue of 28 questions sequenced to supply the work-in-progress, Scribo helps you to process initial ideas and structure the research. Scribo further assists with supervision and helps you conduct a literature search.

Students from Aarhus University can access Scribo via their online self service login. Press the icon "Login using WAYF" and use your self service login.

If you are having problems with Scribo you can contact the publisher at slforlagene@samfundslitteratur.dk

Exersice: Free Writing

Free writing is a method for efficient writing. Practise free writing with an interactive exercise and get feedback on your use of the method.

You may find it difficult to get started on your academic paper. Instead of trying to write the perfect version of the final text at once, it may be a good idea to do some pre-writing in order to express your ideas and main points down.

Free writing helps you develop your arguments and theories and you can use it to focus your paper. 
This way of writing enables you to get a hold of what is in your head.

Free writing can help you to become a more efficient and productive writer.

During normal writing, a lot of time is spent checking the screen correcting spelling. This is not actual writing.

By using free writing, you make the process more efficient. The method requires uninterrupted writing for a set period of time.

You can sit down and write whenever you have planned to do this. Free writing does not require inspiration or a lot of time. Just set your mind to it and start writing.

New ideas

Free writing uses the act of writing as a tool for stimulating the thought process. This method can improve your written work as it will often give you new ideas to work with.

You will produce a larger amount of written work, and can therefore choose the best parts of this for the final product.

Can I use it in my paper?

Free writing does not provide you with a piece of text that you can use directly in your paper, but it may give you some good ideas and bring out thoughts that you did not even know you had.

Exercise

 

The subject of your free writing will normally be academic, i.e., the topic of your assignment, what the main issue/problem of the assignment should be, how you can develop a certain chapter further.

You can familiarise yourself with the free writing method by writing about any topic that you have some knowledge of. The interactive free writing exercise allows you to select your own topic or choose one from a list.

If you get stuck

It is important to avoid stopping the free writing, even if you cannot think of anything else to write. Instead, write that you have run out of ideas, or write the name of the topic a few times.

If you keep writing, you will often find that the ideas start to flow again – ideas you would not have had if you had stopped the exercise.

Try again

Some people find it challenging to produce text without continually revising and correcting it.

Perhaps you felt you did not gain very much from free writing after trying it for the first time. If this is the case, keep trying and see how things go. Like all other things, free writing can be learnt.

Once you have got to know the method, you can use it when writing assignments. Open a document in your word processing programme, switch off the monitor, set a stopwatch – and write.