What is academic writing? Well, academic is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. It is different from other types of writing as it is more structured and follows a strict set of guidelines and rules, explained here.
A typical college freshman writes about 90 pages in their first year and this number is doubled by the time they become seniors. Most of high school graduates face difficulties with academic paper writing because they did not learn how to write a college-level academic paper.
By the time they face their first academic writing assignment, they realize that they have no clue how to write academically or what are the rules and guidelines to write a decent academic paper.
Academic writing is usually intended for publication such as academic journals, books, reports, and research proposals. They may have different types but all of them have the same purpose and are based on the same principles. This type of writing requires a lot of reading, conducting in-depth research of scholarly literature, planning, revising, rewriting, editing, proofreading, and formatting content or structure.
Even though different paper formats require you to follow different guidelines, there are common instructions that are applicable to all forms of academic writing, regardless of content or document type. These guidelines have worked for millions of college students; they can save a lot of time and students improve their writing.
1. Use active voice
The active voice makes your writing stronger, more direct and makes the sentence sound clearer and more natural. Teachers and professors perceive the passive voice as a bad writing habit.
Don't say: The mystery lady was one who every eligible man at the ball admired.
Say: Every eligible man at the ball admired the mystery lady.
2. Use formal language
Unless a writing assignment explicitly states that a conversational tone is appropriate, avoid colloquial language. Do not use swear words or slang, as they are not appropriate in any academic writing. Try not to use the language of everyday speech and write using formal language.
Don’t say: Group work can be problematic because a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Say: Group work can be problematic when not everyone contributes equally, causing the project’s quality to suffer.
Also, never use the first person point of view (I, me). Distance yourself from your writing, and use facts and studies to support your ideas.
Don’t say: I think the experiment shows…
Say: The results of the experiment imply…
Avoid shortened forms (shouldn't, it’s...).
Popular phrases or clichés are appropriate for writing a blog, but do not sound right in academic writing.
Don’t say: at the end of the day, in a nutshell…
Say: finally, in summary…
3. Use proper sentence structure
Use transition words to express the connection between different ideas within and between sentences. Conjunctions can be used to link your ideas together and show the order of actions or the relationship between sentences. Try to use different types of sentences. Mix up the use of simplex, compound, and complex sentences to keep your readers interested. Make sure to follow rules of punctuation to avoid sentence fragments or run-on sentences. Punctuation and grammar are universally known systems that maintain clarity and avoid ambiguity in expression.
4. Follow a standard organizational pattern
Any academic writing must include introduction, main body, and conclusion. The introduction shows the direction of the writing and includes the main idea of the article and gives background information and context. In the main body, you present each point and explain it, support it, develop it, or give examples for it. It should be written in a logical order for the readers to understand. The conclusion sums up the main ideas and leaves the readers with a key message to consider, or show the importance of this topic and sometimes asks them to take a certain action.
You can even plan your paragraphs (like a mini-essay) using the PEAL format:
P: Sentence introducing the point with any necessary detail.
E: Presenting of point using evidence: research example, case study, figures, etc.
A: Critical analysis of point
L: Concluding sentence summing up the point and linking to the question or your argument.
5. Be clear and precise
The right choice of words adds value to the academic paper. It is important to use clear and precise language to explain exactly what you mean to your reader. You have to be as specific as possible and avoid vague language and ambiguity.
Don’t say: Scientists have been interested in this phenomenon for a long time.
Say: Scientists have been interested in this phenomenon for at least 20 years.
Don’t say: This could perhaps suggest that…
Say: This suggests that…
6. Cite your sources
The main idea or claims in the academic writing must be supported with evidence. This evidence is based on the sources that you use (media objects, books, researches). It is important to consider the credibility of your sources before using them in academic writing. For example, it is not preferred to cite from Wikipedia; instead, use academic databases to find credible sources.
All the sources in academic writing must be cited to avoid plagiarism. There are many different citation styles with different rules such as APA, MLA, and Chicago. You can ask your teacher or professor, or follow the style that your learning institution requires.
7. Edit, revise and proofread
It is very important to use correct grammar and spelling. A wrong letter can change the word and the misuse of grammar may change the whole meaning or cause confusion. You can edit the paper yourself or get advice from a professional editor. Grammatical errors will make you lose points, grades, or professional credibility.
Go through the paragraph that you have written and cross out any words, or phrases or even a sentence that may be unnecessary. Remove any repeated sentences or irrelevant ideas to ensure that all the ideas represented in the paper are coherent and serve the main goal of the paper. Improve word choice by replacing long words with shorter ones.
Academic writing on a college level is not an easy work and requires a lot of time and effort. You have to read as much as you can and read grammar and style guides and know about the sentence structures and writing techniques. Your first academic paper will not be perfect, but your writing will get better by practicing a lot and working for many hours daily.
Grammar is very important to writing a good academic paper. Using correct grammar shows the quality of your writing. Click here to check the guide to understanding English Grammar.