Academic Writing
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What is Academic Writing?

Written by Saira Naeem

What is academic writing?

All of us can write,we write for various purposes. We write letters, jot down notes, post reminders, even update our statuses on social media platforms such as Facebook every day.

So writing is a skill acquired over the years but it is something that we take entirely for granted. There are different purposes, levels and styles of writing. You are likely to have heard the term academic writing, every student in his/her academic career write academic essays, academic papers, academic articles etc. As with any other type of writing academic documents is different in various ways from other informal styles of writing. It is not just students who need to know about how to write in academic style, academic writing has every thing to do with professionals, researchers, academicians etc.

What is academic writing?

It goes without saying that writing in academic style is difficult as compare to other style of writing. There are more rules that one has to follow than in other informal style of writing. . For ease, we have broken the complex definition of academic style of writing into points so that it would be easy to comprehend by the beginning writers.

  • This style of writing is used in scholarly writing
  • It is done in prose style
  • It’s tone would be formal and dispassionate or impersonal
  • It’s target audience is normally well informed and critical
  • Is academic writing based on closely investigated knowledge? The answer to this would be YES!
  • What is the purpose of academic writing? It is usually done to reinforce or challenge arguments or concepts.

Combining the above mentioned points we can say that Academic writing is a form of expression in a formal, dispassionate tone and written as in the third person, it is not merely an expression of the author’s own personal opinion rather the writer has a clear focus on the topic and issue and uses a precise choice of words. The best example of academic style can be found in legal documents.

A common mistake made by the beginning, immature writer is that they fail to differentiate between a formal and informal style of writing when writing for academic purposes. Note that this style of writing prides itself on the formal style of writing that it follows and adheres to a precise structure with an introduction, main body and conclusion.

Formal versus informal style of writing

Formal writing style

Well! In the formal style of writing the writer avoids making personal statements beginning with “I”, avoids using jargon and abbreviations and writes as the third person.

For instance,

given the horrible choices made, the businessman suffered huge losses.

Informal writing style

It is the polar opposite of the formal style with the writer using jargon and abbreviations, writes as the first person and makes personal statements beginning with “I”.

For instance,

I believe he is a failure.

Types of academic documents

So what type of documents fall within the this category of writing? Below is a list to help you understand better. Note that each of these examples belong to a very different academic level

Skills Required for academic writing

Writers who have to write in academic manner would need a special set of skills to be regarded as experts in their craft. These include the following skills. Some of these skills the writer learns with the passage of time. Other skills are innate but could be learnt.

  • Strong writing skill is a must have that the writer needs. You do not need to write informal descriptive paragraphs but you need to know how to pen down precisely and with in the word count limit.
  • The writer would think , outline and organize first before he/she actually starts to write. Solid planning definitely helps to bring out a well written academic paper. So planning is a must-have for this style of writing. You cannot just start writing something that interests you.
  • Excellent grammar is mandatory.
  • The writer needs to have a complete grasp on grammar points. Proper punctuation and proof reading would immensely help to improve the quality of the final document produced.

Types of academic writing

There are four different types of writing, they include the following:

  • Descriptive
  • Analytical
  • Persuasive
  • Critical

Descriptive academic writing

This would be academic writing in its simplest form. This type of writing provides facts and information. A summary of an article or the results of an experiment would be examples of descriptive writing. A person writing a descriptive piece would be asked to identify, record, report, summarize and define things.

In descriptive writing the author does not need to analyze something and that is why it is simple in form. The writer should have good writing skills so that the ideas that are already there can be described. Good grammar and vocabulary helps in writing a descriptive document.

Analytical academic writing

This type of writing includes all the characteristics of the descriptive type but reorganizes the facts and information into categories, groups, parts. A person writing analytically will be instructed to compare, contrast, relate and examine.

Now the writer needs another skill to analyze the results, ideas, people, situations, or phenomenon. The author should know how to analyze without investing any bias to it. The author should also have knowledge of the analytical tools that can be used. In research writing, i-e, research papers, thesis, dissertations one needs to write analytically as well as descriptively.

Persuasive academic writing

The persuasive type of writing is a step forward from the analytical one. Apart from providing facts and information to the readers persuasive writing also includes the writer’s opinion. Research articles and essays are examples of persuasive writing. Instructions for writing this type of documents include to argue, evaluate, discuss and to take a position.

Critical academic writing

This includes combining all the above three types and going beyond persuasive writing. In this type of writing the writer not only expresses his/her own point of view but also looks at alternative points. A critique of journal article and literature review discussing strengths and weaknesses of a certain theory would be examples of critical academic writing. Writers of this type would be asked to critique, debate, disagree and evaluate in their writing.

Key points in writing academic documents

We believe that there are certain key points to keep in mind when doing academic writing. They include the following points:

  • The style of writing should be formal, precise and according to the given set of formal instructions
  • There should be an appropriate sections for all the relevant references
  • The academic paper should have a bibliography for listing all the literature reviewed and articles consulted during the writing process.
  • The academic paper should be free from all kinds of plagiarism, plagiarism being the wrongful presentation of another writer’s work as ones own…this constitutes academic dishonesty and therefore needs to be avoided at all costs.




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