What Is Academic Writing - Definition and Guides

What Is Academic Writing - Definition and Guides

Academic writing is, essentially, the writing you have to do for your university courses. Your instructors may have different names for academic writing assignments (essay, research paper, term paper, argumentative paper / essay, analysis paper / essay, informative essay, position paper), but all of these assignments have the same goal and principles.

The truth is that academic papers are a specially-designed torture instrument. They are preferred because instructors are not directly involved in the torture. Usually students torture themselves by waiting until the last minute to write their papers and by not knowing what they are doing. Our online academic writing service provides all the needed essential help in such cases!

In an academic writing assignment, you will start by asking a good question, then find and analyze answers to it, and choose your own best answer(s) to discuss in your paper. Your paper will share your thoughts and findings and justify your answer with logic and evidence. So the goal of academic writing is not to show off everything that you know about your topic, but rather to show that you understand and can think critically about your topic (and this is what earns you a good grade).

Likewise, there are terms, values and rules that you must know, accept and use in order to actively participate in the conversations, or discourse, of the academic community. Academic writing is the process of breaking down ideas and using deductive reasoning, formal voice and third person point-of-view. It is about what you think and what evidence has contributed to that thinking.

Methods of Writing Academically

Oops! – misconception is coming…

The first and the most widely spread of the methods is – "Use formal voice. This means no slang, colloquialism (common expressions of ordinary speech), contractions, etc." Many of us read this and think "Huh! I can do that! Piece of cake!" and get down to creating a "masterpiece of the modern world". But these "masterpieces" are not that often appreciated by our instructors… Not THAT often. Why? Cause sounding formal when writing an academic piece is not (and has Never been!) enough…

How do you write academically?

  • Start by introducing your topic. Try using a series of questions about the topic, using startling or unusual facts or figures, defining an important, subject-related term or quoting a well-known expert on your topic or a literary work.
  • State your main idea clearly. This is your thesis statement. It contains the focus of your essay and tells your reader what the essay is going to be about. The thesis statement is usually located at the end of your introduction.
  • State the main idea of each paragraph. These are the topic sentences. They contain the focus of your paragraphs and tell your reader what each paragraph is going to be about. Topic sentences are usually located at the beginning of each paragraph. Each paragraph should flow smoothly from one to the next (e.g. the first sentence in each new paragraph should serve as a link to the paragraph before it).
  • Use supporting examples and details to make complicated ideas easier to understand. Do not assume that your reader will understand what you are trying to say.
  • Use third person point-of-view (e.g. he, she, it and they). No first and second person points-of-view (e.g. I, you, we) are used in academic writing.
  • End by restating your main idea, or summarizing important points, and then drawing a final conclusion for your reader.
  • Proofread your work, making any necessary corrections to sentence structure, punctuation, spelling and grammar. Use a dictionary and a writer's guide if you are unsure about the rules.

Key Problems to Avoid

  • Excessive use of formal (specialized) terminology. Although academic writing represents a formal style of expression, it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of big words and complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your writing is more style over substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about.
  • Inappropriate use of formal terminology. Because you are dealing with the concepts, research, and data of your subject, you need to use the technical language appropriate to the discipline. However, nothing will undermine the validity of your study quicker than the inappropriate application of a term or concept. Avoid using terms whose meaning you are unsure of – don't guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries. 

10 Principles of a Complete Academic Writing

  1. Clear Purpose. The goal of your paper is to answer the question you posed as your topic. Your question gives you a purpose. The most common purposes in academic writing are to persuade, analyze / synthesize, and inform.
    a) Persuasive purpose – In persuasive academic writing, the purpose is to get your readers to adopt your answer to the question. So you will choose one answer to your question, support your answer using reason and evidence, and try to change the readers’ point of view about the topic. Persuasive writing assignments include argumentative and position papers.
    b) Analytical purpose – In analytical academic writing, the purpose is to explain and evaluate possible answers to your question, choosing the best answer(s) based on your own criteria. Analytical assignments often investigate causes, examine effects, evaluate effectiveness, assess ways to solve problems, find the relationships between various ideas, or analyze other people’s arguments. The “synthesis” part of the purpose comes in when you put together all the parts and come up with your own answer to the question. Examples of these assignments include analysis papers and critical analyses.
    c) Informative purpose – In informative academic writing, the purpose is to explain possible answers to your question, giving the readers new information about your topic. This differs from an analytical topic in that you do not push your viewpoint on the readers, but rather try to enlarge the readers’ view.
    Some assignments will have a predetermined purpose (see the examples above); for other assignments, you will have to choose a purpose when you choose a topic 3 (research paper, term paper). And some assignments may have two purposes. In all cases, the purpose will be clear at the beginning of your paper, and your paper must achieve its purpose in order to be successful.
  2. Audience Engagement. As with all writing, academic writing is directed to a specific audience in mind. Unless your instructor says otherwise, consider your audience to be fellow students with the same level of knowledge as yourself. As students in the field, they are interested in your topic, but perhaps not so interested in reading a paper. So you will have to engage them with your ideas and catch their interest with your writing style. Imagine that they are also skeptical, so that you must use the appropriate reasoning and evidence to convince them of your ideas.
  3. Clear Point of View. Academic writing, even that with an informative purpose, is not just a list of facts or summaries of sources. Although you will present other people’s ideas and research, the goal of your paper is to show what you think about these things. Your paper will have and support your own original idea about the topic. This is called the thesis statement, and it is your answer to the question.
  4. Single Focus. Every paragraph (even every sentence) in your paper will support your thesis statement. There will be no unnecessary, irrelevant, unimportant, or contradictory information (Your paper will likely include contradictory or alternative points of view, but you will respond to and critique them to further strengthen your own point of view).
  5. Logical Organization. Academic writing follows a standard organizational pattern. For academic essays and papers, there is an introduction, body, and conclusion. Each paragraph logically leads to the next one.
    - The introduction catches the readers’ attention, provides background information, and lets the reader know what to expect. It also has the thesis statement.
    - The body paragraphs support the thesis statement. Each body paragraph has one main point to support the thesis, which is named in a topic sentence. Each point is then supported in the paragraph with logical reasoning and evidence. Each sentence connects to the one before and after it. The readers do not have to work to find the connection between ideas.
    - The conclusion summarizes the paper’s thesis and main points and shows the reader the significance of the paper’s findings. 
  6. Strong Support. Each body paragraph will have sufficient and relevant support for the topic sentence and thesis statement. This support will consist of facts, examples, description, personal experience, and expert opinions and quotations.
  7. Clear and Complete Explanations. This is very important! As a writer, you need to do all the work for the reader. The reader should not have to think hard to understand your ideas, logic, or organization. English readers expect everything to be done for them; your thoughts and thought processes should be clearly and completely explained.
  8. Effective Use of Research. Your paper should refer to a variety of current, high-quality, professional and academic sources. You will use your research to support your own ideas; therefore, it must be integrated into your writing and not presented separately. That means that source material will be introduced, analyzed, explained, and then cited.
  9. Correct APA Style. All academic papers should follow the guidelines of the American Psychological Association, regarding 4 in-text citations, the reference list, and format.
  10. Writing Style. Because this is your work, you should use your own words whenever possible. Do not try to write like a boring, overly formal scholarly article. Use the natural conversational style that you would use in the classroom. Your writing should be clear, concise, and easy to read. It is also very important that there are no grammar, spelling, punctuation, or vocabulary mistakes in academic writing. Errors convey to the reader that you do not care.