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Definition of Academic Writing With Examples

academic writing at desk by woman

It’s important for students to know what academic writing is and be able to write in this style. Discover key characteristics of academic writing and review some original academic writing examples.

What Is Academic Writing?

Academic writing is the formal writing style used in colleges and universities. It’s what students are expected to produce for classes and what professors and academic researchers use to write scholarly materials. High schools sometimes require academic writing style in certain classes.

Writing for Higher Education

A simple academic writing definition is hard to come by because there are many types and forms of academic writing, produced for a variety of reasons.

Different types of academic writing include:

While this is not an exhaustive list of every possible form academic writing can take, it does contain the most common types.

Key Characteristics of Academic Writing

While specific requirements may vary based on the particular form of academic writing or the class or publication for which a work is produced, some characteristics are common to all academic writing.

Of course, individual assignments may sometimes have different requirements. Always review submission guidelines carefully to verify you are following the proper format and style.

Academic Writing Structure

Papers written in an academic style have at least least three distinct sections: the introduction, body and conclusion.


In the introduction, you must grab the reader's attention and identify the thesis of the paper. Depending on the type of paper you are writing, there are several appropriate hook approaches to consider for the introduction. Consider beginning your introduction with one of the following options:

Example introduction for an academic paper:

The purpose of this paper is to explore the themes discussed in The Metamorphosis (Kafka, 1915). An example of surrealist literature , this book is much more than a classic story about a man who transitions into an insect. The primary theme of this work relates to the dehumanization of man in a capitalistic society. This paper will provide specific examples from the text that relate to the notion that, in a capitalist system, the value of an individual is inextricably linked to the person’s ability to bring in an income.

This is the main part of the work. The paragraphs must be clearly written and arranged in a logical order. For example, it could be arranged chronologically or in order of importance.

Example excerpt from the body of an academic paper:

While the terms diversity and inclusion are sometimes used interchangeably, they do not have the same meaning. Diversity is about the state of being different, while inclusion addresses the extent to which people are truly included. Diversity and inclusion are certainly closely associated with one another, but they are different constructs that have different implications in the workplace.
Whether the staff of a company in the United States is diverse is related to whether or not the employer complies with equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws and regulations. If the diversity that exists in the larger population relative to the types of jobs for which a company hires is not represented in the workplace, that may be an indicator of discriminatory hiring practices. Companies with an appropriately diverse employee population are likely complying with EEO requirements, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re inclusive.
In determining if a workplace is inclusive, it’s important to consider whether all of the organization’s employees are truly valued, welcomed and respected for who they really are – not in spite of their differences, but because of who they are, differences and all. A company that has a diverse employee population, yet expects workers to leave part of their true selves at home when they come to work is one that does not have an inclusive work environment.

The purpose of the conclusion is to cleanly bring the paper to a close for readers. It should reiterate the thesis and summarize the main points or findings. If the paper is summarizing the results of a research study, it is generally best to suggest an area for further research or study, based on the conclusions presented.

Conclusion example appropriate for an academic paper:

With regards to the question of whether or not fear appeals are effective in advertising focused on preventing substance, the results of this study seem to indicate that such messages may actually have no impact on behavior. The results indicate that, while viewers do find such messages to be frightening, they tend to tune out the messages rather than attending to them. These findings suggest that such messages may create cognitive dissonance that keeps them from being effective. More study is needed to explore this possibility.

Prepare for Academic Writing Success

Whether you are writing a research paper , a thesis or a paper for a conference, these tips can help you approach your academic writing assignments and projects from the proper perspective. Remember to write with an authoritative tone and ensure that your work flows coherently. That way, readers of your paper will be able to follow your reasoning and understand the conclusion and its implications. Now that you know what academic writing is, focus on expanding your academic writing skills further.

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What Is Academic Writing? | Dos and Don’ts for Students

Academic writing is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. You’ll encounter it in journal articles and books on academic topics, and you’ll be expected to write your essays , research papers , and dissertation in academic style.

Academic writing follows the same writing process as other types of texts, but it has specific conventions in terms of content, structure and style.

Table of contents

Types of academic writing, academic writing is…, academic writing is not…, academic writing checklist.

Academics mostly write texts intended for publication, such as journal articles, reports, books, and chapters in edited collections. For students, the most common types of academic writing assignments are listed below.

Different fields of study have different priorities in terms of the writing they produce. For example, in scientific writing it’s crucial to clearly and accurately report methods and results; in the humanities, the focus is on constructing convincing arguments through the use of textual evidence. However, most academic writing shares certain key principles intended to help convey information as effectively as possible.

Whether your goal is to pass your degree, apply to graduate school , or build an academic career, effective writing is an essential skill.

Formal and unbiased

Academic writing aims to convey information in an impartial way. The goal is to base arguments on the evidence under consideration, not the author’s preconceptions. All claims should be supported with relevant evidence, not just asserted.

To avoid bias, it’s important to represent the work of other researchers and the results of your own research fairly and accurately. This means clearly outlining your methodology  and being honest about the limitations of your research.

The formal style used in academic writing ensures that research is presented consistently across different texts, so that studies can be objectively assessed and compared with other research.

Because of this, it’s important to strike the right tone with your language choices. Avoid informal language , including slang, contractions , clichés, and conversational phrases:

Clear and precise

It’s important to use clear and precise language to ensure that your reader knows exactly what you mean. This means being as specific as possible and avoiding vague language :

Avoid hedging your claims with words like “perhaps,” as this can give the impression that you lack confidence in your arguments. Reflect on your word choice to ensure it accurately and directly conveys your meaning:

Specialist language or jargon is common and often necessary in academic writing, which generally targets an audience of other academics in related fields.

However, jargon should be used to make your writing more concise and accurate, not to make it more complicated. A specialist term should be used when:

The best way to familiarize yourself with the kind of jargon used in your field is to read papers by other researchers and pay attention to their language.

Focused and well structured

An academic text is not just a collection of ideas about a topic—it needs to have a clear purpose. Start with a relevant research question or thesis statement , and use it to develop a focused argument. Only include information that is relevant to your overall purpose.

A coherent structure is crucial to organize your ideas. Pay attention to structure at three levels: the structure of the whole text, paragraph structure, and sentence structure.

Well sourced

Academic writing uses sources to support its claims. Sources are other texts (or media objects like photographs or films) that the author analyzes or uses as evidence. Many of your sources will be written by other academics; academic writing is collaborative and builds on previous research.

It’s important to consider which sources are credible and appropriate to use in academic writing. For example, citing Wikipedia is typically discouraged. Don’t rely on websites for information; instead, use academic databases and your university library to find credible sources.

You must always cite your sources in academic writing. This means acknowledging whenever you quote or paraphrase someone else’s work by including a citation in the text and a reference list at the end.

There are many different citation styles with different rules. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago . Make sure to consistently follow whatever style your institution requires. If you don’t cite correctly, you may get in trouble for plagiarism . A good plagiarism checker can help you catch any issues before it’s too late.

You can easily create accurate citations in APA or MLA style using our Citation Generators.

APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator

Correct and consistent

As well as following the rules of grammar, punctuation, and citation, it’s important to consistently apply stylistic conventions regarding:

In some cases there are several acceptable approaches that you can choose between—the most important thing is to apply the same rules consistently and to carefully proofread your text before you submit. If you don’t feel confident in your own proofreading abilities, you can get help from Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or Grammar Checker .

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Academic writing generally tries to avoid being too personal. Information about the author may come in at some points—for example in the acknowledgements or in a personal reflection—but for the most part the text should focus on the research itself.

Always avoid addressing the reader directly with the second-person pronoun “you.” Use the impersonal pronoun “one” or an alternate phrasing instead for generalizations:

The use of the first-person pronoun “I” used to be similarly discouraged in academic writing, but it is increasingly accepted in many fields. If you’re unsure whether to use the first person, pay attention to conventions in your field or ask your instructor.

When you refer to yourself, it should be for good reason. You can position yourself and describe what you did during the research, but avoid arbitrarily inserting your personal thoughts and feelings:


Many students think their writing isn’t academic unless it’s over-complicated and long-winded. This isn’t a good approach—instead, aim to be as concise and direct as possible.

If a term can be cut or replaced with a more straightforward one without affecting your meaning, it should be. Avoid redundant phrasings in your text, and try replacing phrasal verbs with their one-word equivalents where possible:

Repetition is a part of academic writing—for example, summarizing earlier information in the conclusion—but it’s important to avoid unnecessary repetition. Make sure that none of your sentences are repeating a point you’ve already made in different words.

Emotive and grandiose

An academic text is not the same thing as a literary, journalistic, or marketing text. Though you’re still trying to be persuasive, a lot of techniques from these styles are not appropriate in an academic context. Specifically, you should avoid appeals to emotion and inflated claims.

Though you may be writing about a topic that’s sensitive or important to you, the point of academic writing is to clearly communicate ideas, information, and arguments, not to inspire an emotional response. Avoid using emotive or subjective language :

Students are sometimes tempted to make the case for their topic with exaggerated , unsupported claims and flowery language. Stick to specific, grounded arguments that you can support with evidence, and don’t overstate your point:

Use the checklist below to assess whether you have followed the rules of effective academic writing.

I avoid informal terms and contractions .

I avoid second-person pronouns (“you”).

I avoid emotive or exaggerated language.

I avoid redundant words and phrases.

I avoid unnecessary jargon and define terms where needed.

I present information as precisely and accurately as possible.

I use appropriate transitions to show the connections between my ideas.

My text is logically organized using paragraphs .

Each paragraph is focused on a single idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Every part of the text relates to my central thesis or research question .

I support my claims with evidence.

I use the appropriate verb tenses in each section.

I consistently use either UK or US English .

I format numbers consistently.

I cite my sources using a consistent citation style .

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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and specific areas of expertise. Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Like specialist languages adopted in other professions, such as, law or medicine, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts within a community of scholarly experts and practitioners.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020.

Importance of Good Academic Writing

The accepted form of academic writing in the social sciences can vary considerable depending on the methodological framework and the intended audience. However, most college-level research papers require careful attention to the following stylistic elements:

I.  The Big Picture Unlike creative or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohesive and possess a logically organized flow of ideas; this means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be narrative links between sentences and paragraphs so that the reader is able to follow your argument. The introduction should include a description of how the rest of the paper is organized and all sources are properly cited throughout the paper.

II.  Tone The overall tone refers to the attitude conveyed in a piece of writing. Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate narrative tone. When presenting a position or argument that you disagree with, describe this argument accurately and without loaded or biased language. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. You should, therefore, state the strengths of your arguments confidently, using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.

III.  Diction Diction refers to the choice of words you use. Awareness of the words you use is important because words that have almost the same denotation [dictionary definition] can have very different connotations [implied meanings]. This is particularly true in academic writing because words and terminology can evolve a nuanced meaning that describes a particular idea, concept, or phenomenon derived from the epistemological culture of that discipline [e.g., the concept of rational choice in political science]. Therefore, use concrete words [not general] that convey a specific meaning. If this cannot be done without confusing the reader, then you need to explain what you mean within the context of how that word or phrase is used within a discipline.

IV.  Language The investigation of research problems in the social sciences is often complex and multi- dimensional . Therefore, it is important that you use unambiguous language. Well-structured paragraphs and clear topic sentences enable a reader to follow your line of thinking without difficulty. Your language should be concise, formal, and express precisely what you want it to mean. Do not use vague expressions that are not specific or precise enough for the reader to derive exact meaning ["they," "we," "people," "the organization," etc.], abbreviations like 'i.e.'  ["in other words"], 'e.g.' ["for example"], or 'a.k.a.' ["also known as"], and the use of unspecific determinate words ["super," "very," "incredible," "huge," etc.].

V.  Punctuation Scholars rely on precise words and language to establish the narrative tone of their work and, therefore, punctuation marks are used very deliberately. For example, exclamation points are rarely used to express a heightened tone because it can come across as unsophisticated or over-excited. Dashes should be limited to the insertion of an explanatory comment in a sentence, while hyphens should be limited to connecting prefixes to words [e.g., multi-disciplinary] or when forming compound phrases [e.g., commander-in-chief]. Finally, understand that semi-colons represent a pause that is longer than a comma, but shorter than a period in a sentence. In general, there are four grammatical uses of semi-colons: when a second clause expands or explains the first clause; to describe a sequence of actions or different aspects of the same topic; placed before clauses which begin with "nevertheless", "therefore", "even so," and "for instance”; and, to mark off a series of phrases or clauses which contain commas. If you are not confident about when to use semi-colons [and most of the time, they are not required for proper punctuation], rewrite using shorter sentences or revise the paragraph.

VI.  Academic Conventions Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references as either footnotes or endnotes is a key feature of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, data, paraphrased, or quoted text that you have used in your paper as a defense against allegations of plagiarism. Even more important, the scholarly convention of citing sources allow readers to identify the resources you used in writing your paper so they can independently verify and assess the quality of findings and conclusions based on your review of the literature. Examples of other academic conventions to follow include the appropriate use of headings and subheadings, properly spelling out acronyms when first used in the text, avoiding slang or colloquial language, avoiding emotive language or unsupported declarative statements, avoiding contractions [e.g., isn't], and using first person and second person pronouns only when necessary.

VII.  Evidence-Based Reasoning Assignments often ask you to express your own point of view about the research problem. However, what is valued in academic writing is that statements are based on evidence-based reasoning. This refers to possessing a clear understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that exist within, and often external to, your discipline concerning the topic. You need to support your arguments with evidence from scholarly [i.e., academic or peer-reviewed] sources. It should be an objective stance presented as a logical argument; the quality of the evidence you cite will determine the strength of your argument. The objective is to convince the reader of the validity of your thoughts through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing. This is particularly important when proposing solutions to problems or delineating recommended courses of action.

VIII.  Thesis-Driven Academic writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or position applied to the chosen topic of investigation, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions applied to investigating the research problem. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how you will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects you believe are most critical, or suggest a method for gathering information or data to better understand the problem.

IX.  Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking Academic writing addresses complex issues that require higher-order thinking skills applied to understanding the research problem [e.g., critical, reflective, logical, and creative thinking as opposed to, for example, descriptive or prescriptive thinking]. Higher-order thinking skills include cognitive processes that are used to comprehend, solve problems, and express concepts or that describe abstract ideas that cannot be easily acted out, pointed to, or shown with images. Think of your writing this way: One of the most important attributes of a good teacher is the ability to explain complexity in a way that is understandable and relatable to the topic being presented during class. This is also one of the main functions of academic writing--examining and explaining the significance of complex ideas as clearly as possible.  As a writer, you must adopt the role of a good teacher by summarizing complex information into a well-organized synthesis of ideas, concepts, and recommendations that contribute to a better understanding of the research problem.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Guide . New York: Routledge, 2008; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Roy. Improve Your Writing Skills . Manchester, UK: Clifton Press, 1995; Nygaard, Lynn P. Writing for Scholars: A Practical Guide to Making Sense and Being Heard . Second edition. Los Angeles, CA: Sage Publications, 2015; Silvia, Paul J. How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing . Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2007; Style, Diction, Tone, and Voice. Writing Center, Wheaton College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012.

Strategies for...

Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon

The very definition of research jargon is language specific to a particular community of practitioner-researchers . Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to words and phrases specific to a discipline or area of study. For example, the idea of being rational may hold the same general meaning in both political science and psychology, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research domain of a each discipline may have subtle differences based upon how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.

Given this, it is important that specialist terminology [i.e., jargon] must be used accurately and applied under the appropriate conditions . Subject-specific dictionaries are the best places to confirm the meaning of terms within the context of a specific discipline. These can be found by either searching in the USC Libraries catalog by entering the disciplinary and the word dictionary [e.g., sociology and dictionary] or using a database such as Credo Reference [a curated collection of subject encyclopedias, dictionaries, handbooks, guides from highly regarded publishers] . It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but you should avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.

Problems with Opaque Writing

A common criticism of scholars is that they can utilize needlessly complex syntax or overly expansive vocabulary that is impenetrable or not well-defined. When writing, avoid problems associated with opaque writing by keeping in mind the following:

1.   Excessive use of specialized terminology . Yes, it is appropriate for you to use specialist language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but it does not mean using "big words" just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of complex or obscure words or writing complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your paper is more about style than substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about. Focus on creating clear, concise, and elegant prose that minimizes reliance on specialized terminology.

2.   Inappropriate use of specialized terminology . Because you are dealing with concepts, research, and data within your discipline, you need to use the technical language appropriate to that area of study. 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--do not just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or the Credo Reference database [see above].

Additional Problems to Avoid

In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should be aware of. These problems include:

NOTE:   Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone.  A quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it or using a different quote to convey the same meaning. Consider inserting the term "sic" in brackets after the quoted text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source had grammar, spelling, or other errors. The adverb sic informs the reader that the errors are not yours.

Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Murray, Rowena  and Sarah Moore. The Handbook of Academic Writing: A Fresh Approach . New York: Open University Press, 2006; Johnson, Eileen S. “Action Research.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education . Edited by George W. Noblit and Joseph R. Neikirk. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020); Oppenheimer, Daniel M. "Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly." Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; Ezza, El-Sadig Y. and Touria Drid. T eaching Academic Writing as a Discipline-Specific Skill in Higher Education . Hershey, PA: IGI Global, 2020; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students' Research Proposals. English Education Department. Yogyakarta State University; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Structure and Writing Style

I. Improving Academic Writing

To improve your academic writing skills, you should focus your efforts on three key areas: 1.   Clear Writing . The act of thinking about precedes the process of writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from the literature they have reviewed before creating their work. Writing detailed outlines can help you clearly organize your thoughts. Effective academic writing begins with solid planning, so manage your time carefully. 2.  Excellent Grammar . Needless to say, English grammar can be difficult and complex; even the best scholars take many years before they have a command of the major points of good grammar. Take the time to learn the major and minor points of good grammar. Spend time practicing writing and seek detailed feedback from professors. Take advantage of the Writing Center on campus if you need help. Proper punctuation and good proofreading skills can significantly improve academic writing [see sub-tab for proofreading you paper ].

Refer to these three basic resources to help your grammar and writing skills:

3.  Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor expresses a preference to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style or not, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide rules on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to a style of writing helps with the narrative flow of your paper and improves its readability. Note that some disciplines require a particular style [e.g., education uses APA] so as you write more papers within your major, your familiarity with it will improve.

II. Evaluating Quality of Writing

A useful approach for evaluating the quality of your academic writing is to consider the following issues from the perspective of the reader. While proofreading your final draft, critically assess the following elements in your writing.

Boscoloa, Pietro, Barbara Arféb, and Mara Quarisaa. “Improving the Quality of Students' Academic Writing: An Intervention Study.” Studies in Higher Education 32 (August 2007): 419-438; Academic Writing. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Academic Writing Style. First-Year Seminar Handbook. Mercer University; Bem, Daryl J. Writing the Empirical Journal Article. Cornell University; Candlin, Christopher. Academic Writing Step-By-Step: A Research-based Approach . Bristol, CT: Equinox Publishing Ltd., 2016; College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Style . College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; Sword, Helen. Stylish Academic Writing . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2012; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

Writing Tip

Considering the Passive Voice in Academic Writing

In the English language, we are able to construct sentences in the following way: 1.  "The policies of Congress caused the economic crisis." 2.  "The economic crisis was caused by the policies of Congress."

The decision about which sentence to use is governed by whether you want to focus on “Congress” and what they did, or on “the economic crisis” and what caused it. This choice in focus is achieved with the use of either the active or the passive voice. When you want your readers to focus on the "doer" of an action, you can make the "doer"' the subject of the sentence and use the active form of the verb. When you want readers to focus on the person, place, or thing affected by the action, or the action itself, you can make the effect or the action the subject of the sentence by using the passive form of the verb.

Often in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is doing an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action. The passive voice is useful in academic writing because it allows writers to highlight the most important participants or events within sentences by placing them at the beginning of the sentence.

Use the passive voice when:

Form the passive voice by:

NOTE: Consult with your professor about using the passive voice before submitting your research paper. Some strongly discourage its use!

Active and Passive Voice. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Diefenbach, Paul. Future of Digital Media Syllabus. Drexel University; Passive Voice. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.  


What is academic writing?

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Academic Writing Seven features of academic writing

Academic writing is arguably the most important skill in academic contexts, since writing is the main method of academic communication. It is also the most difficult skill for most students to master. This page considers what academic writing is , looking in detail at the main features of academic writing , as well as suggesting ways to develop academic writing . There is a checklist at the end for you to check your understanding.

what is ac wr

For another look at the same content, check out YouTube or Youku , or the infographic . There is a worksheet (with answers and teacher's notes) for this video.

Academic writing is writing which communicates ideas, information and research to the wider academic community. It can be divided into two types: student academic writing, which is used as a form of assessment at university, as well as at schools as preparation for university study; and expert academic writing, which is writing that is intended for publication in an academic journal or book. Both types of academic writing (student and expert) are expected to adhere to the same standards, which can be difficult for students to master. The characteristics of academic writing which together distinguish it from other forms of writing are that it is:

Features of academic writing


Check out the features of academic writing infographic »

Academic writing should have a clear structure. The structure will often derive from the genre of writing . For example, a report will have an introduction (including the aim or aims), a method section, a discussion section and so on, while an essay will have an introduction (including a thesis statement ), clear body paragraphs with topic sentences , and a conclusion. The writing should be coherent , with logical progression throughout, and cohesive , with the different parts of the writing clearly connected. Careful planning before writing is essential to ensure that the final product will be well structured, with a clear focus and logical progression of ideas.

Opinions and arguments in academic writing should be supported by evidence. Often the writing will be based on information from experts in the field, and as such, it will be important to reference the information appropriately, for example via the use of in-text citations and a reference section .

Academic writing does more than just describe. As an academic writer, you should not simply accept everything you read as fact. You need to analyse and evaluate the information you are writing about, in other words make judgements about it, before you decide whether and how to integrate it into your own writing. This is known as critical writing . Critical writing requires a great deal of research in order for the writer to develop a deep enough understanding of the topic to be truly critical about it.

Academic writing should be balanced. This means giving consideration to all sides of the issue and avoiding bias. As noted above, all research, evidence and arguments can be challenged, and it is important for the academic writer to show their stance on a particular topic, in other words how strong their claims are. This can be done using hedges , for example phases such as the evidence suggests... or this could be caused by... , or boosters , that is, phrases such as clearly or the research indicates .

Academic writing should use clear and precise language to ensure the reader understands the meaning. This includes the use of technical (i.e. subject-specific) vocabulary , which should be used when it conveys the meaning more precisely than a similar non-technical term. Sometimes such technical vocabulary may need defining , though only if the term is not commonly used by others in the same discipline and will therefore not be readily understood by the reader.

Academic writing is objective. In other words, the emphasis is placed on the arguments and information, rather than on the writer. As a result, academic writing tends to use nouns and noun phrases more than verbs and adverbs. It also tends to use more passive structures , rather than active voice, for example The water was heated rather than I heated the water .

Finally, academic writing is more formal than everyday writing. It tends to use longer words and more complex sentences , while avoiding contractions and colloquial or informal words or expressions that might be common in spoken English. There are words and collocations which are used in academic writing more frequently than in non-academic writing, and researchers have developed lists of these words and phrases to help students of academic English, such as the Academic Word List , the Academic Vocabulary List , and the Academic Collocation List .

Developing your academic writing

Given the relatively specialist nature of academic writing, it can seem daunting when you first begin. You can develop your academic writing by paying attention to feedback from tutors or peers and seeking specific areas to improve. Another way to develop your academic writing is to read more. By reading academic journals or texts, you can develop a better understanding of the features that make academic writing different from other forms of writing.

Alexander, O., Argent, S. and Spencer, J. (2008) EAP Essentials: A teacher's guide to principles and practice . Reading: Garnet Publishing Ltd.

Cardiff Metropolitan University (n.d.) Academic Writing: Principles and Practice . Available at: https://study.cardiffmet.ac.uk/AcSkills/Documents/Guides/AS_Guide_Academic_Writing.pdf (Access date: 4/2/21).

Gillett, A. (n.d.) Features of academic writing . Available at: http://www.uefap.com/writing/feature/featfram.htm (Access date: 4/2/21).

Staffordshire University (2020) Academic writing . https://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/ld.php?content_id=33103104 (Access date: 4/2/21).

Staffordshire University (2021) Academic writing . https://libguides.staffs.ac.uk/academic_writing/explained (Access date: 4/2/21).

University of Leeds (2021) Academic writing . https://library.leeds.ac.uk/info/14011/writing/106/academic_writing (Access date: 4/2/21).

Academic Writing Genres


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Below is a checklist for this page. Use it to check your understanding.

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Find out more about the academic style in the next section.


Author: Sheldon Smith    ‖    Last modified: 24 July 2022.

Sheldon Smith is the founder and editor of EAPFoundation.com. He has been teaching English for Academic Purposes since 2004. Find out more about him in the about section and connect with him on Twitter , Facebook and LinkedIn .

Compare & contrast essays examine the similarities of two or more objects, and the differences.

Cause & effect essays consider the reasons (or causes) for something, then discuss the results (or effects).

Discussion essays require you to examine both sides of a situation and to conclude by saying which side you favour.

Problem-solution essays are a sub-type of SPSE essays (Situation, Problem, Solution, Evaluation).

Transition signals are useful in achieving good cohesion and coherence in your writing.

Reporting verbs are used to link your in-text citations to the information cited.

ENGL002: English Composition II

What is academic research writing.

Not all useful and valuable writing automatically involves research or can be called "academic research writing".

While poets, playwrights, and novelists frequently do research and base their writings on that research, what they produce doesn't constitute academic research writing. The film Shakespeare in Love incorporated facts about Shakespeare's life and work to tell a touching, entertaining, and interesting story, but it was nonetheless a work of fiction since the writers, director, and actors clearly took liberties with the facts in order to tell their story. If you were writing a research project for a literature class that focuses on Shakespeare, you would not want to use Shakespeare in Love as evidence about how Shakespeare wrote his plays.

Essay exams are usually not a form of research writing. When an instructor gives an essay exam, she usually is asking students to write about what they learned from the class readings, discussions, and lecturers. While writing essay exams demands an understanding of the material, this isn't research writing because instructors aren't expecting students to do additional research on the topic.

All sorts of other kinds of writing we read and write all the time – letters, emails, journal entries, instructions, etc. – are not research writing.  Some writers include research in these and other forms of personal writing, and practicing some of these types of writing – particularly when you are trying to come up with an idea to write and research about in the first place – can be helpful in thinking through a research project. But when we set about to write a research project, most of us don't have these sorts of personal writing genres in mind.

So, what  is  "research writing"?

Research writing is writing that uses evidence (from journals, books, magazines, the Internet, experts, etc.) to persuade or inform an audience about a particular point.

Research writing exists in a variety of different forms. For example, academics, journalists, or other researchers write articles for journals or magazines; academics, professional writers, and almost anyone create web pages that both use research to make some sort of point and that show readers how to find more research on a particular topic. All of these types of writing projects can be done by a single writer who seeks advice from others, or by a number of writers who collaborate on the project.

Academic  research writing – the specific focus of  The Process of Research Writing and the sort of writing project you will probably need to write in this class – is a form of research writing. How is academic research writing different from other kinds of writing that involve research? The goal of this textbook is to answer that question, and academic research projects come in a variety of shapes and forms. (In fact, you may have noticed that The Process of Research Writingpurposefully avoids the term "research paper" since this is only one of the many ways in which it is possible to present academic research). But in brief, academic research writing projects are a bit different from other kinds of research writing projects in three significant ways:

Thesis : Academic research projects are organized around a point or a "thesis" that members of the intended audience would not accept as "common sense". What an audience accepts as "common sense" depends a great deal on the audience, which is one of the many reasons why what "counts" as academic research varies from field to field. But audiences want to learn something new either by being informed about something they knew nothing about before or by reading a unique interpretation on the issue or the evidence.

Evidence : Academic research projects rely almost exclusively on evidence in order to support this point. Academic research writers use evidence in order to convince their audiences that the point they are making is right. Of course, all writing uses other means of persuasion – appeals to emotion, to logic, to the credibility of the author, and so forth. But the readers of academic research writing projects are likely to be more persuaded by good evidence than by anything else.

 "Evidence", the information you use to support your point, includes readings you find in the library (journal and magazine articles, books, newspapers, and many other kinds of documents); materials from the Internet (web pages, information from databases, other Internet-based forums); and information you might be able to gather in other ways (interviews, field research, experiments, and so forth).

Citation : Academic research projects use a detailed citation process in order to demonstrate to their readers where the evidence that supports the writer's point came from. Unlike most types of "non-academic" research writing, academic research writers provide their readers with a great deal of detail about where they found the evidence they are using to support their point. This process is called citation, or "citing" of evidence. It can sometimes seem intimidating and confusing to writers new to the process of academic research writing, but it is really nothing more than explaining to your reader where your evidence came from.

Research Writing with Computers and the Internet

There are good reasons for writing with computers. To name just a few, computers help writers:

Chances are, you already know these things.

If you are not using computers or the Internet in your academic research writing process, you need to try and learn more about the possibilities. It can be intimidating and time-consuming to begin effectively using a computer, but there are few things that will be as rewarding for your academic writing career.

The Process of Research Writing: A Guide to Understanding this Book

Writing as a process: a brief explanation and map.

No essay, story, or book (including this one) simply "appeared" one day from the writer's brain; rather, all writings are made after the writer, with the help of others, works through the process of writing.

Generally speaking, the process of writing involves:

An added component in the writing process of research projects is, obviously, research. Rarely does research begin before at least some initial writing (even if it is nothing more than brainstorming or pre-writing exercises), and research is usually not completed until after the entire writing project is completed. Rather, research comes in to play at all parts of the process and can have a dramatic effect on the other parts of the process. Chances are you will need to do at least some simple research to develop an idea to write about in the first place. You might do the bulk of your research as you write your rough draft, though you will almost certainly have to do more research based on the revisions that you decide to make to your project.

There are two other things to think about within this simplified version of the process of writing. First, the process of writing always takes place for some reason or purpose  and within some context that potentially changes the way you do these steps.  The process that you will go through in writing for this class will be different from the process you go through in responding to an essay question on a Sociology midterm or from sending an email to a friend. This is true in part because your purposes for writing these different kinds of texts are simply different.

Second, the process of writing isn't quite as linear and straightforward as my list might suggest. Writers generally have to start by coming up with an idea, but writers often go back to their original idea and make changes in it after they write several drafts, do research, talk with others, and so on. The writing process might be more accurately represented like this:

academic writing definition in research

Seem complicated? It is, or at least it can be.

So, instead of thinking of the writing process as an ordered list, you should think of it more as a "web" where different points can and do connect with each other in many different ways, and a process that changes according to the demands of each writing project. While you might write an essay where you follow the steps in the writing process in order (from coming up with an idea all the way to proofreading), writers also find themselves following the writing process out of order all the time. That's okay. The key thing to remember about the writing process is that it is a process made up of many different steps, and writers are rarely successful if they "just write".

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academic writing definition in research

What is Academic Writing? (and Other Burning Questions About It)

Posted on: June 15, 2021

In this blog  Zhihui Fang , author of  Demystifying Academic Writing , discusses what academic writing is, why it's important as well as essential skills for academic writing.

What is academic writing?

Simply put, academic writing is the writing done for academic purposes. It is entering into a conversation with others, but the way this conversation is carried out differs from how everyday conversation unfolds. Yes, academic writing involves expressing your ideas, but those ideas need to be presented as a response to some other person or group; and they also need to be carefully elaborated, well supported, logically sequenced, rigorously reasoned, and tightly stitched together.

There is more than one kind of academic writing. In academic settings, we write for many different purposes. We write reading responses, book reviews, argumentative essays, literature reviews, empirical research articles, grant proposals, conference abstracts, commentaries, memoranda, and many other text types. Each of these types of academic writing has its own purpose, organizational structure, and linguistic features.

Why is academic writing important?

Academic writing is a means of producing, codifying, transmitting, evaluating, renovating, teaching, and learning knowledge and ideology in academic disciplines. Being able to write in an academic style is essential to disciplinary learning and critical for academic success. Control over academic writing gives you capital, power, and agency in knowledge building, identify formation, disciplinary practices, social positioning, and career advancement.

What makes academic writing ‘academic’ and challenging?

Compared to everyday writing, academic writing tends to be more formal, dense, abstract, objective, rigorous, and tightly knit.

These six features are interrelated, and together, they are what makes a piece of writing at once ‘academic’ and challenging for academic neophytes.

What is the role of language in academic writing?

Language is not a set of prescriptive rules or grammatical conventions. It is, instead, a creative resource for making meaning. Writers use language by choosing from the grammatical options it provides to present information, develop argument, infuse points of view, incorporate others’ ideas and voices, engage readers, sharpen focus, and organize discourse in a way that realizes their intentions and meets their audience’s needs. One major source of writing struggles for non-native and native English speakers alike is language. In other words, it is unfamiliarity with the grammatical patterns of academic writing, above and beyond a lack of deep knowledge of the topics to be written about, that contributes principally to the difficulties that many students and scholars experience in writing for academic purposes.

What are the essential skills for academic writing?

Academic writing communicates complex ideas in a clear, precise, logical, reasoned, and evidence-based way. It is an advanced literacy task that requires a host of demanding skills. Learning to write for academic purposes involves, for example, learning

Developing these advanced literacy skills and a repertoire of linguistic resources and strategies that instantiate them is a challenging process that takes time, experience, and support.

How can I improve my academic writing?

Developing expertise in academic writing is a lengthy and challenging process that can take many years and involves constant mental and emotional struggles. It is simply not realistic to expect one to become a good writer overnight, let alone a good writer for academic purposes, by just attending one workshop, taking one course, reading one book, or completing a few sets of exercises. It takes time, effort, awareness, experience, reflection, stamina, and support to become proficient in academic writing. Here are six tips for improving your academic writing:

How do I increase my chances of getting published?

Writing for publication can be a mysterious process that intimidates novice writers and academic neophytes. Developing and honing academic writing skills is key to having a successful publication record. Additional knowledge, skills, and dispositions are needed to increase your chances of getting published. These include

The road toward publication may seem long and rough, but you will find that the journey becomes less bumpy the more you have traveled on it.

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SciSpace Resources

What is Academic Writing — Everything You Need To Know

Kanu Priya

Table of Contents


Academic writing is potentially the most crucial skill in an educational environment since writing is one of the primary modus operandi of scholarly communication. Its quality strongly influences the readers’ perception of the author. It is highly valued both by academic institutions and academics who wish to acquire knowledge. The ability to write academic papers is one of the critical factors that distinguish scholars from excellent scholars.

Academic writing can be defined as the writing form that aims to transmit scientific or other knowledge through clear and concise means. The main idea behind academic writing is objective and practical in terms of presentation as it needs to be understood by thousands of readers and not just a single person. It enables you to express your ideas and develop them into a structured written format. Academic writing is not just about proving ideas but creating them. Getting an academic paper written on a high level requires experience, so let's dive into it.

Key Tenets of Academic Writing

Academic writing is a genre of writing with several tenets that make it different from other  prose or creative writing forms. Therefore, the characteristics of academic writing are imperative to understand. Five main features of academic writing are often discussed as follows:

1. Formality


Academic writing aims to convey the relevant ideas to suit the nature of the subject being discussed and support opinions with reasoned arguments. It is not about making flowery statements or indulging in superfluous language. It is about communicating your thoughts with the audience accurately and succinctly.

You need to realize that academic writing requires you to be direct, analytical, and precise. The objective is to demonstrate that you can convey your meaning accurately, in context, without uncertainty. To make your writing more formal, you can try to:

2. Accuracy


A word's meaning is an important factor that determines whether it should be used or not in a writing piece. The more accurate the writer is while creating a paper, the better his chances are for obtaining a high-grade paper. All words should be defined clearly and concretely so that their exact meaning can be easily traced. Academic writing does not use words loosely. It must accurately distinguish between "orthocenter" and "orthocentre," etc., and use these words correctly. By using known technical terms correctly, you reflect your proficiency in a particular subject.


Hedging is an action that can be used to reduce the risk of making claims. They are used to avoid answering a question, making a clear, direct statement, or committing yourself to a particular action. Early-career academic writers or authors may find it hard to always convey themselves and their work in their papers using solid and unequivocal statements. Having said that, many academic writers feel compelled to use what is called hedging techniques when writing their academic papers.

Making decisions about the stance you take on a topic is often done by using hedging verbs. These are words that place some kind of limitation or qualifier on your claims. Such as ‘seem,’ ‘appear,’ ‘suggest,’ ‘may’ and ‘might’. For example, Extended screen time can contribute to a range of eyesight problems and may have a negative effect on mental health.

4. Objectivity


Writing is impersonal and uses nouns more than verbs. Think about it! Fewer words that refer to us place greater emphasis on what we have to say. Phrases like “I feel” or “I believe” should be kept out of the picture especially if you are reporting any research findings. For instance “I feel there is life on Mars” should be replaced with “These findings suggest that there is life on Mars”. The reader is therefore left to concentrate on the information you provide and the arguments you make. Objectivity can be induced while writing an academic paper if you do not talk about opinions, but provide valuable information and valid arguments. Readers focus on what the writer knows rather than what they think or feel. This allows the writer to sound more objective and authoritative.

5. Responsibility


Academic writing is as different from every day, ‘general’ writing as a race-horse is from a donkey. Academic writing has rigorous standards and conventions that must be followed. Academic writing attempts to add new information, knowledge, or understanding to an existing body of theory. The key things to note in this criteria are the claims you make,  the evidence that needs to be provided for those claims, and citations; you must cite any sources of information you use at any cost to avoid plagiarism. You should also avoid self-plagiarism .

Types of Academic Writing

If we are talking about “What is Academic Writing”, we must not miss its types. There are four major types of academic writing that you should know about:

1. Descriptive

One of the basic types of scholarly writing is descriptive. It can be divided into several subcategories: a summary, description, narration, explanation, and so on. The goal of descriptive writing is to present facts or information. A report will tell what participants did or did not do during an experiment, how they responded to various stimuli, and what results were obtained. It supplies details such as how many people were involved in the study, when it was conducted, and where.

2. Analytical

Analytical writing is the process of re-organizing (and possibly adding to) the collection of ideas or information that you have organized into a suitable structure, such as categories, groups, parts, or relationships. Analyzing is a way of discovering whether an argument is valid, coherent, and relevant in a logical way to the topic under discussion. To polish your analytical writing, you can:

3. Persuasive

Persuasive writing is just analytical writing plus your own point of view. You may be required to analyze an argument, evaluate the credibility of a claim, or explain why a position is correct. Most essays, including research articles, are written to convince the reader of some viewpoint. Following are the keystones to remember about persuasive writing:

4. Critical

Critical writing involves your own point of view, but also that of at least one other person. You may explain a researcher's argument and then show how it is flawed, or offer an alternative explanation.  For this, you must first be well aware of what the other researcher is attempting to portray through his study. Doing this requires you to read plenty of research papers, which can be challenging at times since a lot of them carry jargon, maths, and complex language. To save time and effort you can use SciSpace Copilot to get simplified explanations of parts of the research paper you don't understand and get the relevance of any math or table by just clipping it. Adding on to that, if you need more clarification on the subject, you can even ask more questions related to the paper, and the research assistant can give you prompt answers.

Benefits Of Academic Writing

Academic writing can help the writer gain some unique characteristics and qualities.

It is ultimately up to you whether these advantages are good enough to spend your time polishing this craft.

1. Increased Focus

Focus has become a very important trait, especially in today's generation as distractions are literally everywhere you look. It is not something everyone is born with but it is something that can certainly be inculcated over time. Academic Writing is one of the finest ways to help you do that. It takes a good amount of focus to turn a blank piece of paper into something knowledgeable. If you like the topic you are working on, you will be surprised to see how easy it can get to focus and get it done.

2. Better Logical Thinking and Improved Knowledge

It takes a serious amount of time, focus, and thinking to write a worth-reading academic paper. You cannot just know everything about the topic you’re working on, therefore, a lot of research and analysis is required to come up with an informative piece of paper that is valuable. Writing a lot of papers can not just increase your knowledge in the fields you’re writing on but can also improve your logical thinking skills.

3. Discovering The Delight Of Writing

Avid academic writers have experienced a change in how they felt about writing in general. Although sometimes for a lot of writers, academic writing becomes anxiety-inducing. But for most, writing becomes joyful and gives an amazing sense of accomplishment.

Studies have shown that attending and participating in retreats have made academics more motivated and less fearful of writing. The key reasons behind it are mainly the peer support that they manage to get and their writing capabilities going over the roof.

4. Boost In Creativity

Academic writing is not just about blatantly stating stuff about your chosen topic, but it is also about creatively analyzing and conveying ideas concisely. This definitely requires creative thinking. Writing on a regular basis can prove to increase your creativity not just in writing but also in real life. It gives the writer a chance to develop out-of-the-box ideas.

The Significance of Clarity in Academic Writing

Clarity is essential in writing. It is a guiding principle that helps writers decide what to say and how to say it. If people don’t understand what you’re trying to say, how much value can you actually add? Below are the five principles for creating a lucid copy:

A Research Writing Platform

If you're doing research, you might be juggling between multiple writing and task management tools. Before you start using them, think about how you want to organize your research and how you'll be using the information you collect. A platform especially designed to meet the basic as well as advanced requirements of academic writers, SciSpace (formerly Typeset ) intends to be the perfect bridge between academic writing and academic publishing, providing the ease of intuitive research writing and collaboration with the combined power of LaTeX and MS Word. A comprehensive, automated research writing and journal production platform like SciSpace that has integrated plagiarism checkers is what you need to kickstart your academic writing!

We recommend you take a look at SciSpace discover since you're looking for platforms that simplify research workflows. It offers access to over 200 million articles covering a wide range of topics, optimized summaries, and public profiles that allow you to showcase your expertise and experience.

academic writing definition in research

Our personalized suggestion engine allows you to stay on track while gaining an in-depth understanding of a subject from one location. Any article page will contain a list of related articles. In addition, the tool lets you determine which topics are trending, which authors are leading the charge, and which publishers are leading the pack.

academic writing definition in research

Whether you are writing a report, a thesis or a research paper, the points covered in this article can help you furnish your project in a formal and structured format. Remember that you need to write your research paper in a professional manner. Avoid conversational language and slang. Now that you have a profound understanding of academic writing, try to apply the best practices practically and take your academic writing skills to greater heights.

But before you go,

If you found the above article insightful, the following article pieces might interest you:

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by Kaelyn Barron | 2 comments

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A skilled writer knows how to adapt their tone and style based on their audience and the type of writing they’re attempting.

For your blog, you might let your signature wit and light sarcasm shine through; for a personal essay, you might be more reflective; and for a persuasive piece, you let your passion take center stage.

For academic writing, there are a few more rules to follow that can limit your creative freedom in some ways, but make this writing style unique in its own right. The important thing is knowing when and how to use it.

What Is Academic Writing?

Academic writing is a formal style of nonfiction writing that is primarily used by students, academics, and researchers. It can include everything from student papers, to journal articles of scientific studies carried out by professionals.

Examples of Academic Writing

Below are several types of writing that can often be considered “academic”:

What Are the Rules of Academic Writing?

Unlike personal essays, narratives, or persuasive papers, academic writing is strictly characterized by the following attributes:

Formal and Direct Tone

There’s no room for eloquent prose, long-winded metaphors , or whimsical imagery in academic writing.

Get straight to the point, and avoid informal language, including slang, contractions, and clichés . Unlike other popular forms of nonfiction, academic writing generally does not feel “conversational.”

Unbiased and Impersonal

Academic writing isn’t about your personal opinions or experiences. You should simply be presenting the facts and evidence of whatever statements you’re making.

That being said, statements like, “In my opinion…,” “I think…,” and “I believe…” should never appear in academic writing.

However, that’s not to say that you have to avoid first person statements entirely. If you were the sole researcher, you might say, “I interviewed…,” “I collected…,” or “I argue that…”. But again, any hypotheses you present must be based on facts.

Accurate and Thoroughly Researched

Since academic writing should be unbiased, it’s important that writers represent the facts and work of other researchers fairly and accurately. You should also cite all of your sources .

Be honest about the limitations of your research, and be upfront about your methodology. How did you conduct experiments? How did you choose specimens? Why did you use one set of data but disregard another? These are all issues that should be addressed in writing if relevant to your work.

Clear and Precise

You can’t be vague or wish-washy in academic writing. This means no unclear statements, such as, “People have long been interested in this subject.” Instead, you should write something like, “Researchers have been studying this phenomenon and its effects for the past 20 years.” Be as precise as possible when you mention years, data, or groups of people.

At the same time, your statements should also be strong (as long as you’ve done thorough research!). Don’t say things like, “This could perhaps suggest…” but rather, “This suggests…”.

In either case, you’re not setting anything in stone (“suggests” just means it’s the most likely possibility). But with the second option, you’re simply eliminating weak words that make your argument look weak as well.

Focused and Well-Structured

When you set out to write an academic text, you should have a clear plan of what your’e going to include and how you’re going to present your evidence in the most clear, logical way to your audience.

Create a solid outline so you don’t wind up lost along the way, with your research and data strewn haphazardly, making it difficult for readers to figure out which conclusions you’re trying to draw. There must be a method to your mad-scientist madness!

What Is the Main Purpose of Academic Writing?

The main purpose of academic writing is to convey information in a clear, impartial way. As such, arguments should be based on evidence, not the writer’s personal biases or preconceptions. Any claims made should be supported with relevant evidence.

The Limits of Scholarly Writing

Although academic writing is used to convey important information and bring new data to light, it’s not always the most accessible. Sometimes the language, though precise and clear to people in academic circles, is simply too elevated.

Just take a look at this example cited by The Atlantic :

The work of the text is to literalize the signifiers of the first encounter, dismantling the ideal as an idol. In this literalization, the idolatrous deception of the first moment becomes readable. The ideal will reveal itself to be an idol. Step by step, the ideal is pursued by a devouring doppelganger, tearing apart all transcendence. This de-idealization follows the path of reification, or, to invoke Augustine, the path of carnalization of the spiritual. Rhetorically, this is effected through literalization. A  Sentimental Education  does little more than elaborate the progressive literalization of the Annunciation. from Barbara Vinken’s  Flaubert Postsecular: Modernity Crossed Out (Stanford University Press)

In 2010, the Plain Writing Act was passed, requiring federal agencies to write “clear government communication that the public can understand and use.”

But while federal entities are required to write in more “plain” language in order to encourage greater transparency and public participation, the academic world can remain as academic as it pleases.

This can be incredibly frustrating to college students and anyone unfortunate enough to come across such an article’s path, but it also limits a writer’s reach, as their work becomes less accessible to the masses. And if a writer is trying to get published by a more commercial publisher than Stanford University Press, this can be a problem.

In such cases, scholars will have to rework their manuscripts to make them more relatable and accessible to the average reader. For tips on how to do just that, check out our post on making the shift from academic to popular writing .

Mastering Academic Tone

If you’re a student, researcher, or someone with a career in higher education, you’ve likely come across academic writing at some point.

This style requires you to be professional, clear, and unbiased, which works well in academia, but isn’t always the right tone for other forms of nonfiction. If you’re not sure if you should be using an academic tone, consider your audience. If you’re not primarily addressing scholars or students, you can likely aim for a more casual tone and use layman’s terms.

Did you find this post helpful? Let us know in the comments below!

If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:

Kaelyn Barron

As a blog writer for TCK Publishing, Kaelyn loves crafting fun and helpful content for writers, readers, and creative minds alike. She has a degree in International Affairs with a minor in Italian Studies, but her true passion has always been writing. Working remotely allows her to do even more of the things she loves, like traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.


I have a journal article for publication. How can I proceed?

Kaelyn Barron

Hi Reckonel, we have a list of academic publishers you can query here :)

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What Is Research?

What is research writing.

Research = the physical process of gathering information + the mental process of deriving the answer to your question from the information you gathered. Research writing = the process of sharing the answer to your research question along with the evidence on which your answer is based, the sources you used, and your own reasoning and explanation .

The essential components or building blocks of research writing are the same no matter what kind of question you are answering or what kind of reader you are assuming as you share your answer.

The Essential Building Blocks of Research Writing

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    Academic writing is a formal style of writing that researchers and educators use in scholarly publications. It focuses on evidence-based

  7. Academic Writing Style

    Academic writing refers to a style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and

  8. What is Academic Writing?

    Academic writing is writing which communicates ideas, information and research to the wider academic community. It can be divided into two

  9. ENGL002: What is Academic Research Writing?

    Research writing is writing that uses evidence (from journals, books, magazines, the Internet, experts, etc.) to persuade or inform an audience

  10. What is Academic Writing? (and Other Burning Questions About It)

    Simply put, academic writing is the writing done for academic purposes. It is entering into a conversation with others, but the way this

  11. Academic Writing

    Academic writing is a written form of reasoning or argument about a topic falling within a field of study, such as history or psychology.

  12. What is Academic Writing

    Academic writing can be defined as the writing form that aims to transmit scientific or other knowledge through clear and concise means.

  13. What Is Academic Writing? Definition and Tips

    Academic writing is a formal style of nonfiction writing that is primarily used by students, academics, and researchers. It can include everything from

  14. What Is Research Writing?

    Research writing = the process of sharing the answer to your research question along with the evidence on which your answer is based, the sources you used