Academic Writing: Quick Guide
What is Academic Writing?
Academic writing is a type of writing used in colleges and universities. It's used to convey information and share knowledge and is the type of writing you'll be expected to use in your essays and assignments
What Are the Features of Academic Writing?
Academic writing has several identifying features:
- Formal - more serious and sober in tone, academic writing avoids contractions, slang and the more informal words or phrases more common in everyday English usage
- Structured - has a beginning, a middle and an end
- Evidence-based - any stated arguments or opinions are based on evidence
- Critical - you evaluate and assess the evidence for your opinions or arguments
- Cautious - avoiding sweeping and definitive statements
- Objective - you avoid bias and consider both sides of the story
- Precise - you use exact language, clearly communicating relevant information
- Puts the writer in the backseat - academic writing is all about arguments and information, not the writer, hence "i", the first-person point of view is dropped in favour of the passive voice - "the door was opened" not "I opened the door".
Much of the time, you'll be putting forward an argument. An argument is a statement or set of statements that you use in order to try to convince people that your opinion about something is correct, for example:
- Government investment in community centres will reduce youth crime and improve neighbourhoods
- Because of its impact on popular culture, The Simpsons is the greatest TV show of all time.*
- Cars more than 20 years old should be taken off the road because they pollute more and are less safe than newer cars
- To prevent emigration, medical staff should be paid more
You will provide the evidence that supports your claim and provide evidence to refute statements that do not support your argument
What Is the Structure of Academic Writing?
Academic writing is well structured, which helps makes it easier to read. In scholarly work there's:
- Abstract* - a short summary of the work that you can choose to read instead of the whole work
- Introduction - introduces the work, provides some background and explains why the work was done
- Methods - All the details on how all the work was done and all the materials used
- Results - what was discovered by the work
- Discussion - Analyse and assess the results, see if argument and opinions hold up or are supported
- Conclusion* - What the authors conclude from the work
- Recommendations* - what the authors think should be done next
* Not always present - sometimes the conclusions and recommendations are part of the discussion.
If you're writing an essay however, you only need:
- Introduction - introduces the work
- Main Body - where you make your points
- Conclusion - sum up your work and restate your point
In your main body you'll write in paragraphs, groups of sentences on a related topic. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence (what the paragraph is about and how it relates to your topic). Each paragraph should have a point that relates to your topic and your argument - so you introduce the topic and then make your points relating to it.
What Is the Purpose of Academic Writing?
You can think of academic writing as having two purposes
- You'll answer the question that has been set to you in your coursework/assignment
- You'll try to persuade the reader or marker that your answer is the right one