Writing an Essay? Here’s the Right Way to Brainstorm for Non-Native English Speakers.

Writing an Essay? Here’s the Right Way to Brainstorm for Non-Native English Speakers.

If your native language is not English, chances are that you don’t think in American English. And if you don’t think in American English, it may be difficult for you to compose academic essays for your university week after week. However, with a few simple tips, you’ll be able to master the art of the academic essay in no time.

Think in English

Grab a piece of paper or open the notes app on your phone and in English, write the first thought that comes into your head. Notice the time it took you to formulate your sentence. Once you enable yourself to think in English, half your problems will be solved, as you’ll no longer have to translate your thoughts.

Two best ways to achieve this is by:

  • Journaling in English
  • Talking to yourself in English

Soon, you’ll notice that English has become the default language in your head.

Follow a Simple Structure

When writing an essay, it can be easy to get frustrated trying to include all of the relevant information. To help avoid this, try using a simple structure to convey the information.

  1. Thesis
  2. Evidence
  3. Counter evidence
  4. Response to counter
  5. Conclusion

Jotting down your ideas in the structure will make the process of writing easy. JSTOR is an excellent research source.     

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Do Not Plagiarize

While taking notes during the researching phase of your essay, make notes of where you got the information from. For a university essay, you must credit your source, or risk disciplinary action up to expulsion. There are different citation methods you can use, or you may even be able to use hyperlinks if your university allows it. Learn your school’s standards for citations and stick to them. You can even use this citation generator if applicable.

Use a Thesaurus

Repetition of the same word can make your essay look bland. Ideally, you should develop a varied vocabulary, but doing so can take time, and is not of much help if you have an essay due tomorrow. A thesaurus is a shortcut that can provide you with synonyms of words.

Alternatively, you can also go to google and type: “define (the word)” and the definition with synonyms will appear.

It’s smart to check the definition of the synonym as well, so that you do not stray too far from the actual word. Consider using thesaurus.com as a quick reference.

Practice With a Native Speaker

Ask a native English speaker on campus if they’d be willing to write with you. Pick the same topic and set a timer. After the time is up, exchange your essays. Ask them to review your work and note your errors. Doing this will help you understand where’re your struggling, be it flow, structure, or something else.

Once you identify the problem, you can work on it. This is an excellent way to brainstorm, as it pushes you to think and form a structure in a short time.

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Do Not Use Apps like Grammarly

If your professors haven’t told you this already, it’s probably because they think you’re too smart to make such a mistake. Writing an academic paper involves a lot of jargon that Grammarly simply won’t recognize, nor can it understand context.

As a nonnative speaker, you probably make errors with word orders and complex grammar which Grammarly’s algorithm cannot rectify. So, although Grammarly works for simple articles, it should be avoided at all costs for academic papers. As an alternative, you can ask your fellow classmates, or even your professor to review your work.

Use University Resources or academia.edu to Research

While brainstorming, do not just Google your topic or go on Wikipedia. These sources alone could provide you with incorrect information that results in a chaotic mess of a paper. Your university will provide you with many print and electronic resources. For additional resources, you can visit academia.edu or Google Scholar. These papers will provide examples of what your aim should be, and you can emulate their structure and style (just be sure not to plagiarize) until you get the idea. Doing this will immensely help you achieve the right flow and language.

Mind Maps

If you are unable to put your ideas into sentences, or find it too time-consuming, try making mind maps. There are different types of structures that you can use to make mind maps: Venn diagrams, flow charts or tree diagrams. But the most important thing is to not stress this activity and just use what comes naturally. Your essay is still in the initial phase; it only gets better from here.

Take a class

Are you still struggling with Grammar? Confused between basic verbs and tenses and tired of Googling them? It may be time to take a class. In the long run, using certain words just because they “feel right” may not be the wise choice. The mistakes you got away with in high school can be pretty embarrassing on college papers.

Your university might have a course available. If not, you can always take an online course. There are also TED-Ed videos on YouTube that can help you get started.

Once you employ these tips on a daily basis, writing academic essays will come to you naturally. Pay attention to the feedback you get on your essays, and use it to make an active effort to improve upon them. Doing this will result in better essays, and better grades.

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