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Definition of Academic Writing

A simple definition of academic writing is hard to come by because it refers to writing done for several reasons. Also, academic writing is used in many different forms. Following are characteristics, explanations, examples, and a list of works where academic writing is used.

Writing for Education

A broad definition of academic writing is any writing done to fulfill a requirement of a college or university. Academic writing is also used for publications that are read by teacher and researchers or presented at conferences. A very broad definition of academic writing could include any writing assignment given in an academic setting.
Here is a list of documents where academic writing is used. Some are self-explanatory and some have a brief explanation.

  • Books and book reports
  • Translations
  • Essays
  • Research paper or research article
  • Conference paper
  • Academic journal
  • Dissertation and Thesis – These are written to obtaining an advanced degree at a college or university.
  • Abstract – This is a short summary of a long document.
  • Explication – This is a work which explains part of a particular work.

Characteristics of Academic Writing

Now that you have a definition of academic writing, here are some things to remember about the characteristics of academic writing.

  • Planning – There is a certain amount of planning before you start writing the paper; so, it will be analytical and organized.
  • Outline – A proper outline is a must for academic writing. An outline will not only help you formulate your thoughts, but will sometimes make you aware of certain relationships between topics. It will help you determine the pertinent information to be included in your paper.
  • Tone – A formal tone is used. You do not use slang words, jargon, abbreviations, or many clichés.
  • Language – The language in your paper needs to be clear and words need to be chosen for their precision. A thesaurus is a good tool to help you pick just the right words to explain the issues.
  • Point-of-view – The point of view in the third person, as the focus of academic writing is to educate on the facts, not support an opinion.
  • Approach – Deductive reasoning is a big part of academic writing as your readers have to follow the path that brought you to your conclusion.

Deductive reasoning and an analytical approach are important in academic writing. Much planning and forethought are needed to have a well organized paper.
Always check to see if the school you are writing for has a preferred format and style.

Academic Writing Structure

An academic paper has three distinct sections – the introduction, body and conclusion:

  • INTRODUCTION:  In the introduction, you must grab the reader’s attention and identify the thesis of the paper. You can do this by starting with:
  • Several questions
  • A quote from a famous work or person
  • Some interesting facts or information
  • A definition of an important term related to the work
  • BODY: This is the main part of the work and the paragraphs must be clearly written and be arranged in a logical order, like chronologically or in order of importance. Each initial sentence links the preceding paragraph and the whole section flows smoothly.

Within each paragraph, the sentences need to flow and refer back to the topic. Cohesion is achieved by repeating important words, using synonyms for the main subject, and using transitional words like: however, such as, therefore, and for example.

  • CONCLUSION: In the conclusion, you re-emphasize the thesis and summarize all the main points. The conclusion consists of one paragraph which shows the final conclusion to the reader.

Whether you are writing a research paper, a thesis, or a paper for a conference, these tips should help your paper be authoritative and coherent. Your thesis will be substantiated and explanations clear. Readers of your paper will follow your reasoning and understand your conclusion.


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