All of us mark our texts. Some of us even write in the columns. But how many of us start writing while we are still searching for and reading through research sources? Most of us take notes during class, but how many of us rewrite those notes within 24 hours in order to make them easier to study and understand later? The academic schedule is, of course, busy. This is even more true for those students who are also working or performing clinical rounds while attending a program.We need to invest in our ability to access academic information from many angles by listening to lectures, by taking clear notes, by exploring surrounding research, by discussing the ideas aloud, by memorizing key terms, and perhaps most importantly, by being able to put our thoughts into clear, concise writing. Does this all sound like a complex endeavor worthy of its own professional career? In some ways, by feeling this, you are absolutely right. But don't mistake the major leagues for the little league. As students, we are expected to know how to practice all of the skills involved. But we are not expected to be at the level of our professors!
Even though we aren't at a professional level yet, we need to be practicing our fundamentals. Just as little league practice includes batting, pitching, fielding, and running the bases, we should also be regularly working on each of the skills involved in academic study. By doing so, the whole “game” becomes more familiar to us. We should always be reading materials in our field. But for most of us, reading is not in quite as much need of practice.
What coach would keep their job if they didn't help the teammates identify their weaknesses and spend extra time in each practice building those skills? What is the weakest part of academic study for most of us? For most of us, writing is easily the most challenging skill. Even those of us with great instincts make countless mistakes in our writing we only realize much later. Do yourself a favor. As you are coaching yourself to be a better writer, remember to find ways to practice academic writing daily.
Here are some ideas that can help you get at least a few minutes practice in each day: