academic writing style
- Planned and focused: answers the question and demonstrates an understanding of the subject.
- Structured: is coherent, written in a logical order, and brings together related points and material.
- Evidenced: demonstrates knowledge of the subject area, supports opinions and arguments with evidence, and is referenced accurately.
- Formal in tone and style: uses appropriate language and tenses, and is clear, concise and balanced.
Is there such a thing as an “academic style“? You may have come across this, or similar phrases, or you may have heard of “the Cambridge essay”. However, academic style is difficult to describe definitively. There is no simple formula, and there are always exceptions to ‘rules’ such as “never use the first person”. Between supervisors’ individual preferences and students’ individual writing styles, there is the possibility of a good deal of variation and flexibility. However, academic writing does have distinguishing features. It is a genre with its own conventions, although these vary between subjects and allow for personal taste. Therefore, the intention of this resource is not to be prescriptive about elements of style and tell you how you should write, but to help you to identify some of the characteristics of academic writing, consider the impact of style on your work, and make informed decisions about the way that you write.
“Academic style isn’t a single thing. We all write in different ways, and the right style for one essay might not be the same as for another. Some fields lend themselves to clear exposition and the arrangement of facts. Others lend themselves to the savouring of technical terms, or sophisticated metaphorical approaches to sophisticated metaphors. You should always try to think of your reader, though – complexity or bluntness for their own sakes aren’t admirable.”
Adapted from Academic Writing . Writing Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Handbook. New York: Routledge, 2008.
Academic writing refers to a particular style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and their areas of expertise. It is characterized by 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. Being a specialist language, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts for a group of scholarly experts.