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Academic Writing

What is Academic Writing? [1]

 “Academy” means a school or a place for training.  "Academic writing" would therefore mean any writing that fulfills a purpose of education in a school, college or university. The objective of academic writing is to bring new perspectives or new knowledge to what is currently known about a topic. To most teachers, the term implies student writing in response to an academic assignment, or professional writing that trained "academics"—teachers and researchers—do for publications in journals or presentations in conferences attended by other academics. Academic writing is also known as scientific writing. Academic writing refer to a particular style of expression where tone is formal, words are precisely chosen and written in the third-person. Writers employing the formal academic style avoid jargon, slang, and abbreviations.

On the contrary, informal writing include the use of colloquialisms and jargon, writing in the first person or making “I” statements, making direct personal statements, and imprecise word choices. Just as you probably wouldn’t wear shorts and flip-flops to a formal function, there’s a time and a place for informal writing. The most informal writing imaginable is the text message (SMS), full of abbreviations such as “R U OK?” to convey quick questions and responses. In comparison, the most formal writing of all can be found in legal documents.

Informal writing is fine for diary entries, blogs, personal writing, letters or emails to friends. However, writers working on papers for school, college application essays, scientific papers, research papers, conference presentations, and business proposals generally employ a more formal style akin to donning a suit or dress to attend a wedding.


Preparing for academic writing?

1.     Be aware of the conventions of academic writing

2.     Be aware of the qualities of good writing: economy of words, simplicity, and clarity.

3.     Learn to prepare summaries

4.     Learn to carry out literature reviews

5.     Learn to critically analyze and synthesize information

6.     Do not plagiarize; it is a literary crime

7.     Follow correct grammar, punctuation and spelling

8.     Learn ways to improve sentences

9.     Work towards, coherence, vigor, and rhythm

10. Learn correct citation and referencing


Conventions of Academic Writing

·        Use clear, formal and unambiguous language

·        Use correct grammar, punctuation and spelling

·        Do not plagiarize; it is a literary crime

·        Write in third person

·        Construct a convincing argument

·        Avoid abbreviations

·        Follow a clear structure

·        Use accurate referencing and citing


 [1] The content has been drawn and adapted from: Thaiss, Chris, and Terry Zawacki. (2006). Engaged Writers, Dynamic Disciplines: Research on the Academic Writing Life. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, Heinnemann (