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Features of academic writing

Academic Skills Office

❶Staying on topic does not mean being one sided To avoid being misleading, you will often need to acknowledge some weaknesses in your argument or discuss some merits of an opposing argument.




We need to be aware that our views are contributing to a much wider debate surrounding your given topic. Your use of language must show that we you making suggestions which contribute to this wider discussion:. Page maintained by Philip Adams. How to write in an academic style. Structuring an introduction, a paragraph and a conclusion. The 'idea into sentence' chart. How to summarise, paraphrase and use direct quotations. Using and developing new vocabulary. Tips for when you don't want to write.

Create an objective, confident voice Use the third person this means not using 'I' Most of the time you will be expected to use the third person as it enables you to show that you are being objective. You could try using: This essay discusses the importance of This research shows that It could be said that Smith's argument illustrates that There is somewhat of an obligation for universities in the provision of services to the student population to educate their students in the intricacies of essay writing early in their undergraduate first year.

Essay writing is an important skill for tertiary students. Academic essays can attract a considerable proportion of assessment marks in most degree programs. Therefore, students may require a firm grounding in academic essay writing skills at the start of their first year to assist them to succeed in their university studies.

Academic writing is objective i. You should deal with facts in an impersonal way, without distortion by personal feelings or prejudices. While you are expected to develop your own ideas from your research and reading about a topic, you must express those ideas in an impersonal objective manner.

An objective tone in your writing is achieved by:. Clarity in your writing ensures that the person who is reading marking your work can understand what you are saying. Do not ASSUME that your reader will understand what you are trying to say—try to write so that another person will grasp your ideas. The opposite of clear writing is muddled text that has to be deciphered by the reader.

Following are a few tips to help you to write clearly:. Every subject you study will have some specialised vocabulary that should be used when you are writing about that subject. Most text books have a glossary of terms or use discipline specific dictionaries with explanations so that you can use these terms correctly. You do NOT have to put quotation marks around these terms e. If you use these words fluently in your essay, it shows your marker that you are mastering your subject.

This is English used by the general community e. You will lose marks for incorrect sentences, spelling and punctuation, so always proofread your work. Use a good Australian dictionary e. This is language that avoids offending groups of people e.

See the ASO fact sheet on Using non-discriminatory language. There is much to learn from what is NOT wanted. Following are some of the small but specific mistakes in style that are made mainly unconsciously in formal written work. Colloquial language and slang Do not use everyday conversational English or slang terms in your academic writing. Everyday conversational English including slang is practised daily in our lives. When you begin academic studies, you will be expected to conform to the academic standard of using formal language.

What does this mean in REAL terms? It means that you will have to recognise colloquial language in your own writing and systematically edit your work to replace words, phrases and sentences with the acceptable academic form so that your writing sounds objective and informed. This takes time and practice. If you do use these abbreviations, then they must be placed inside brackets. As most academic writing should be objective, you are usually advised to avoid using personal pronouns e.

I, me, my, we, us, our, you in your writing. This sometimes poses difficulties for the writer when a set question implies that your opinion is required. Evaluate the effectiveness of plagiarism training workshops for university students. My observations of the literature on student essay writing are that students who participate in a training program on plagiarism perform better in their assignment tasks.

Therefore, I think that all university students should be trained in how to avoid plagiarism. Studies reference required of student performance on essay writing reveal that students who receive training in plagiarism avoidance are more likely to perform well in their essay tasks. Therefore, training in plagiarism avoidance is recommended for university students.

If you are asked to use examples from your personal experience in your writing, then it is quite appropriate to use personal pronouns in that part of your essay.

Be careful that you use language in a neutral way so that you keep your likes and dislikes emotions to yourself. Appealing to your reader by using strong words is not acceptable in most academic writing.

It was extremely disappointing that the bureaucracy chose to target students who did not understand the rules of plagiarism in the first year of their university studies.

Some caring lecturers approached the issue by delivering a series of brilliant workshops to assist the students to overcome their referencing problems. It was a fantastic strategy as most of their students did not have to face being accused of plagiarism.

First year university students were challenged when university administrators expected them to abide by the plagiarism rules set by the university. Some concerned lecturers approached the issue by delivering a series of well-presented workshops to assist the students to overcome their referencing problems. It was an effective strategy as most of their students were able to avoid having any significant plagiarism problems. If you feel strongly about a topic, you may be tempted to use emotional words that are inappropriate for academic writing.

When you are evaluating theories and discussing implications, lecturers expect that your argument should appear to be well-considered and reasonable. This technique is called hedging. Its objective is to inform rather than entertain. As well as this it is in the standard written form of the language. There are ten main features of academic writing that are often discussed.

Academic writing is to some extent: It uses language precisely and accurately. It is also well organised and planned. Written language is relatively more complex than spoken language. Written language has longer words, it is lexically more dense and it has a more varied vocabulary. It uses more noun-based phrases than verb-based phrases. Written texts are shorter and the language has more grammatical complexity, including more subordinate clauses and more passives.


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Academic writing is relatively formal. In general this means that in an essay you should avoid colloquial words and expressions. Formality. Precision. In academic writing, facts and figures are given precisely. Precision. Objectivity. Written language is in general objective rather than personal.

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Academic writing style Key words: formal/informal, objective, discipline terminology, standard English, correct English, non-discriminatory language, colloquial language/slang For most academic essays, you are expected to use a formal writing style.

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Unlike fiction 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. Formal writing is often used for academic and business work To decide between an informal or formal writing style, consider your audience first Formal writing has a serious tone, facts, standard.

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Formal writing is used in academic and scientific settings whenever you want to convey your ideas to a wide audience, with many possible backgrounds and assumptions. Unlike casual conversation or emails to friends, formal writing needs to be clear, unambiguous, literal, and well structured. Writing for professional purposes is likely to require the formal style, although individual communications can use the informal style once you are familiar with the recipient. Note that emails tend to lend themselves to a less formal style than paper-based communications, but you should still avoid the use of "text talk".