I have spent most of today thinking about writing. Academic writing, to be precise.
I looked up several of my how-to-books, checked out the web, talked to some of my younger colleagues over a coffee, and just now put down this short note on writing an essay, a report, a proposal, a paper, a thesis, or any other text.
The reason for today’s thinking is my invitation to lecture on “how to write a paper” to a class of students who are about to write a report as their assignment. The students are in the 5th semester of their bachelor studies in computer science, computer engineering, or software engineering. Soon they will go about their bachelor thesis, where writing will most likely again be a hot issue.
Writing seems to be so simple and so complicated at the same time. This is a paradoxon.
The value of good writing skills seem to be unknown to all too many students at our university. This is a minor scandal.
The vast inability to guide students to become professional writers in their field is apparent at our university. This is a major scandal.
Not being asked to write a thesis paper within the bachelor project should be banned. That such habits seem to exist in our studies makes me shake my head in disbelief.
To me, developing good writing skills is a way to become a more effective citizen. In your writing you can prove that you can think. In your writing you can prove that you can use what you have learned. It is not what you know that matters—it is how you think.
These ideas come from Alan Barker’s free e-book “How to Write an Essay”.
I just came across this book this morning. Here’s the link: http://bookboon.com and then enter the title of the e-book in the search box.
This book is easy to read, not too long, full of practical ideas about writing, and has a good structure on the overall problem students are facing when being asked to write “a paper”.
Do something about your writing skills and write regularly. Start writing well before you are asked to deliver polished text in some professional context, be it at university or in some business. If you fail now to do so, you will be really pissed-off when you notice that those among your colleagues who can write will advance in recognition (and salary, too) long before you.
At IAIK, we are offering a “Writing Lab” in connection with the “Bachelorarbeit”; in the Writing Lab we aim to help you improving your writing skills. By the way, “Bachelor@IAIK 2015” will be presented on Nov. 26th, 2014. Details will be announced soon: here, in the newsgroups, or in your class.
In case you are interested: You can find the slides for my presentation within the course “Introduction to Information Security” on Oct. 31st here: https://bigfiles.iaik.tugraz.at/get/5a2e90b14baf421cbd18826792d955e8