With more and more Indonesian students embarking a journey to pursue postgraduate education in the UK, academic shock may emerge as a result of the difference education system between the home country and the UK. It might be unsettling, intimidating even, to think about coping with a rigorous academic setting at a higher level, let alone in a foreign country. A study reveals that the Indonesian students in the UK feel that “linguistic barriers, especially academic writing was considered the most frequent challenging activity” (1).
I am also speaking from my personal experience during my study at University College London, Institute of Education last year. Whilst the academic support was excellent, I felt that the academic writing was still a problem looming over the first few months. Probably because to pass a module, students will be judged solely by the quality of a 5000-word essay without any other forms of examination. To add the stress level, the essay will be graded by two examiners. Drawing from informal conversations with my Indonesian friends, academic writing classes at bachelor degree level are few-to-none. So how to deal with this wall called academic writing? The following tips are what I have done to tackle the problem.
- Attend Academic Writing Workshops
I find that academic writing workshops are the must-go classes before I start writing the essays by the end of the term. Fortunately, as I mentioned previously, the academic support from the University is excellent and lots of, if not all of, academic writing workshops are available for free. You also can discuss your essay directly with the tutor(s) in the workshops.
- Understand the Question and the Expectation
Talk with your module lecturer, ask them questions. After all, s/he will be the one who read your essay. Most of the lecturers are happy to answer any questions you have, either during their office hours or by email. Read the programme handbook and/or module handbook which contains comprehensive information about your study. You have to understand what the essay question is and try to answer it clearly, briefly, and to the point.
- Be Critical
Another issue I faced was critical thinking. Critical thinking is, in short, how you set up, defend, and refute an argument. I realise that it needs a lengthy process to familiarise yourself with the critical thinking. There are some good books about critical thinking such as Critical Thinking: A Concise Guide 4th Edition and Critical Thinking Skills for Dummies. However, in the essay, set your own position and defend it. Do not forget to be self-critical and read books and journal articles as many as possible.
- Make the Most of Online Resources
There are plenty of online resources that can be used, for example the phrase bank on The University of Manchester website, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Birmingham City University, and also Purdue Online Writing Lab. There are many other of useful websites, and using these phrases cannot be defined as plagiarism.
- Avoid Plagiarism and Bad Referencing at All Cost
Plagiarism is the worst sin in an academic setting. It is defined as “presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement” (2). Bad referencing can be resolved by using citation and reference management software products, such as Endnote, Mendeley, and Zotero.
- Proofread, Proofread, Proofread
Finally, after those sleepless nights fuelled with unhealthy snacks and agony, you put the last full stop at the end of your essay. It is not the end… yet. Do some check by proofreading your essay. I use Grammarly as the first step. It is a bit pricey for the premium service, but you can split the bill with friends. Then, I print all the pages and check for any flaws with red pen end edit the mistakes directly on the laptop. Finally, you might want to use professional proofreader to polish your essay. I asked a professional proofread for my master’s dissertation.
I wish you good luck in writing your essays!
This article was adapted from a post named “Pengalaman Kuliah di Institute of Education” which originally was published on Indonesia Mengglobal website.
- Aisha S. An Investigation of the Academic Engagement of Indonesian Postgraduate Students in the United Kingdom. London: University College London; 2016.
- Plagiarism: The University of Oxford; [Available from: https://www.ox.ac.uk/students/academic/guidance/skills/plagiarism?wssl=1.]
Lidya Pawestri Ayuningtyas is an English lecturer, translator, and creative writer. An LPDP awardee, she holds an MA in TESOL Pre-service from University College London, a bachelor in English literature from University of Indonesia, and diploma degree from State Polytechnic of Jakarta where she is currently teaching.