Academic writing research paper

Organizing Academic Research Papers: Academic Writing Style

Academic writing refers to a particular style of expression that scholars use to define the boundaries of their disciplines and their 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 the specialist languages adopted in other professions such as law, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas for a group of scholarly experts.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College.

Importance of Good Academic Writing

I. The Big Picture
Unlike fiction or journalistic writing, the overall structure of academic writing is formal and logical. It must be cohensive and possess a logical flow of ideas, which means that the various parts are connected to form a unified whole. There should be links between sentences and paragraphs so the reader is able to follow your argument.

II. The Tone
Throughout your paper, it is important that you present the arguments of others fairly and with an appropriate 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, confidently state the strengths of your arguments using language that is neutral, not confrontational or dismissive.

III. The Language
Clear use of language is essential in academic writing. 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. Avoid vague expressions that are not specific and 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”], and contractions, such as, “don’t”, “isn’t”, etc.

IV. Academic Conventions
Citing sources in the body of your paper and providing a list of references are very important aspects of academic writing. It is essential to always acknowledge the source of any ideas, research findings, or data that you have used in your paper. To do otherwise is considered plagerism.

V. Evidence-Based Arguments
Your assignments often ask you to express your own point of view on research problem you are discussing. However, what is valued in academic writing is that your opinions are based on a sound understanding of the pertinent body of knowledge and academic debates that are currently being debated in your discipline. You need to support your opinion with evidence from academic sources. It should be an objective position presented as a logical argument. The quality of your evidence will determine the strength of your argument. The challenge is to convince the reader of the validity of your opinion through a well-documented, coherent, and logically structured piece of writing.

VI. Thesis-Driven Analysis
The writing is “thesis-driven,” meaning that the starting point is a particular perspective, idea, or “thesis” on the chosen research problem, such as, establishing, proving, or disproving solutions to the questions posed for the topic. In contrast, simply describing a topic without the research questions does not qualify as “academic writing.”

VII. Complexity and Higher-Order Thinking
One of the main functions of academic writing is to describe complex ideas as clearly as possible. Often called higher-order thinking skills, these 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.

Academic Writing. Writing Center. Colorado Technical College.

Strategies for.

Understanding Academic Writing and Its Jargon

The very definition of jargon is language specific to a particular sub-group of people. Therefore, in modern university life, jargon represents the specific language and meaning assigned to terms 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 philosophy, but its application to understanding and explaining phenomena within the research work of a discipline may have subtle differences based on how scholars in that discipline apply the concept to the theories and practice of their work.

Given this, it is important that specialist terms [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. It is appropriate for you to use specialist language within your field of study, but avoid using such language when writing for non-academic or general audiences.

Key Problems to Avoid

  1. Excessive use of specialized terminology. Although academic writing represents a formal style of expression, it does not mean using “big words” just for the sake of doing so. Overuse of big words and complicated sentence constructions gives readers the impression that your writing is more style over substance; it leads the reader to question if you really know what you are talking about.
  2. Inappropriate useof specialized terminology. Because you are dealing with the concepts, research, and data of your subject, you need to use the technical language appropriate to the discipline. 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–don’t guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries. These can be found by searching the library catalog, by entering, for example, the phrase “sociology and dictionaries.”

Other 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 include:

  • Personal nouns. Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us, etc.] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. Using these words can be interpreted by the reader as being done only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem.
  • Directives. Avoid directives that demands the reader “Do this” or “Do that.” Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations.
  • Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms. Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they are often open to interpretation; be direct and concise.
  • Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and contain no confusing language . By doing so, you help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the research design and purpose of your study.
  • Vague expressions (e.g., “they,” “we,” “people,” “the company,” “that area,” etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper be sure to look for and edit any vague statements that lack context.
  • Numbered lists and bulleted items. The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, “The four main problems with hedge funds are:” and then list them 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item?
  • Descriptive writing. Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study and, in fact, some description is needed because you can’t assume the reader knows everything about the topic. However, the body of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem and not background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
  • Personal experiences. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease] can be a effective way of engaging your readers in understanding the research problem. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.

NOTE: Rules concerning excellent grammar and precise word structure do not apply when quoting someone. If the quote is especially vague or hard to understand, consider paraphrasing it. Otherwise, a quote should be inserted in the text of your paper exactly as it was stated. If you believe the quote is important to understanding the meaning of the work as a whole , consider inserting the term “sic” in brackets after the quoted word or text to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, complete with any erroneous spelling or other nonstandard presentation.

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; Pernawan, Ari. Common Flaws in Students’ Rsearch 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; 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 . Thinking about precedes writing about. Good writers spend sufficient time distilling information and reviewing major points from their sources 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 thay have 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 Jandrisevits Learning Center on campus if you need a lot of help. Proper punctuation use and good proofreading skills measurably improve academic writing [see subtab for proofreading you paper].

Invest in and always refer to these three types of resources to help your grammar and writing skills:

  • A good writing reference book, such as, Strunk and White’s book, The Elements of Style;
  • A college-level dictionary, such as, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary;
  • The latest edition of Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form.

3. Consistent Stylistic Approach . Whether your professor requires you to use MLA, APA or the Chicago Manual of Style, choose one style manual and stick to it. Each of these style manuals provide guidance on how to write out numbers, references, citations, footnotes, and lists. Consistent adherence to one style of writing helps the 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, familiarity 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, ctitically assess the quality of the following elements in your writing.

  • It is shaped around one clear research problem, and explains what that problem is from the outset,
  • Your paper tells the reader why the problem is important and why people should know about it,
  • You have accurately and thoroughly informed the reader what has already been published [or not] about this problem or others related to it,
  • You have provided evidence to support your argument that the reader finds convincing,
  • The paper includes a description of how and why the particular evidence was collected, and why specific theoretical arguments or concepts were used,
  • The paper is made up of paragraphs, each containing only one controlling idea,
  • You indicate how each section of the paper addresses the research problem,
  • You have considered counter-arguments or counter-examples where they are relevant,
  • Arguments, evidence, and their significance have been presented in the conclusion, and
  • The narrative flows in a clear, accurate, and well-organized way.

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; Style. College Writing. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Invention: Five Qualities of Good Writing. The Reading/Writing Center. Hunter College; What Is an Academic Paper? Institute for Writing Rhetoric. Dartmouth College.

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

  1. Types of academic writing
  2. Academic writing is…
  3. Academic writing is not…
  4. Academic writing checklist

Types of academic writing

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.

Type of academic text Definition
Essay A fairly short, self-contained argument, often using sources from a class in response to a question provided by an instructor.
Research paper A more in-depth investigation based on independent research, often in response to a question chosen by the student.
Thesis/dissertation The large final research project undertaken at the end of a degree, usually on a topic of the student’s choice.
Research proposal An outline of a potential topic and plan for a future dissertation or research project.
Literature review A critical synthesis of existing research on a topic, usually written in order to inform the approach of a new piece of research.
Lab report A write-up of the aims, methods, results and conclusions of a lab experiment.
Annotated bibliography A list of source references with a short description or evaluation of each source.

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.

Academic writing is…

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:

  • People have been interested in this thing for a long time .
  • Researchers have been interested in this phenomenon for at least 10 years .

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:

  • It conveys information more precisely than a comparable non-specialist term.
  • Your reader is likely to be familiar with the term.
  • The term is commonly used by other researchers in your field.

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.

  • Always include an introduction and a conclusion.
  • Divide longer texts into chapters or sections with clear headings.
  • Make sure information is presented in a logical order.
  • Start a new paragraph when you move onto a new idea.
  • Use a topic sentence at the start of each paragraph to indicate what it’s about, and make clear transitions between paragraphs.
  • Make sure every paragraph is relevant to your argument or question.
  • Use transition words to express the connections between different ideas within and between sentences.
  • Use appropriate punctuation to avoid sentence fragments or run-on sentences.
  • Use a variety of sentence lengths and structures.

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.

APA citation example

In-text citation Elsewhere, it has been argued that the method is “the best currently available” (Smith, 2019, p. 25).
Reference list Smith, J. (2019). Statistical analysis methods (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Norton.

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.

Correct and consistent

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

  • How to write numbers
  • Introducing abbreviations
  • Using verb tenses in different sections of terms and headings
  • Spelling and punctuation differences between UK and US English

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.

What can proofreading do for your paper?

Scribbr editors not only correct grammar and spelling mistakes, but also strengthen your writing by making sure your paper is free of vague language, redundant words and awkward phrasing.

Writing an Academic Research Paper

A research paper is simply an elongated essay that presents either your personal analysis or general assessment or interpretation of information or facts that are pertinent to your field of study. When you compose an essay, especially a study document, you apply what you know and have considered particularly on a specific topic. Additionally, if you write a research paper, you also make an deliberate effort to learn what others think on the exact same matter. This is known as”reading study” or”reading what other people have written.” You can find the answers to many questions by merely studying what other people have written about specific topics.

Writing research papers may also require some writing and grammatical mistakes. These may be errors in grammar, punctuation, word usage, sentence construction and sometimes in how to put things in English. But don’t hesitate if these occasional errors appear as you’re using a fantastic grammar software. There are loads of grammar checking programs out there (e.g., Thesis Format) that can catch most if not all these. In addition, don’t worry a lot if you occasionally make a punctuation mistake; it’s nothing in comparison with the hundreds of newspapers you’ve done on your academic career which will be much more mistakes than anything else.

Another common mistake made in an academic paper is the over-simplification. When you compose a research document, while it’s an article or a paper for a class assignment, you have to be clear, concise and explain things in an easy yet effective way. If you do not need to go through four or five pages to describe a study subject, stick to what is relevant to your topic.

A strong thesis statement is an essential part of a research paper that should be clear at the beginning of the newspaper and shouldn’t deviate from that at all around. The thesis statement is your statement at the start of the newspaper that says what you are exploring and why you are researching it. That’s why you need to use a strong thesis statement as much as possible and attempt to avoid using feeble tenses such as”the” and”but.” Stronger words are often easier to write because they make it easier to think of a concrete motive for writing a newspaper. You need to earn your thesis statement as strong as possible if you want to impress your audience.

Grammar is one of the most important essay writing service elements of writing a research paper, however it isn’t the most important aspect. In reality, grammar will be the least significant part the whole research process. As soon as you’ve done all your research, you can spend your time on the opposite areas of the research paper such as writing a clear and concise figure, composing an outline of this research project, writing a conclusion and so on. To learn how to write a fantastic paper, all you really need to do is spend a little time studying illustrations written by successful writers and then doing the same thing. It will help you tremendously with your research paper because you’ll learn the basics of grammar and you will know exactly what kinds of sentences to prevent.

Learning the basics of academic research paper writing needs to be a priority in your life if you would like to excel in your chosen area of study. So take the time to learn these tips and get started now! Fantastic luck!

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

Offers detailed guidance on how to develop, organize, and write a college-level research paper in the social and behavioral sciences.

Definition

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.

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 very important aspect 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. Equally 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, 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 opinions 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 opinion 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 opinion 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 research questions posed for the topic. 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 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. 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 a lot of 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 jargon is language specific to a particular sub-group of people. 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 . 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

It’s not unheard of for scholars to 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 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–don’t just guess or assume! Consult the meaning of terms in specialized, discipline-specific dictionaries by searching the USC Libraries catalog or 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:

  • Personal nouns. Excessive use of personal nouns [e.g., I, me, you, us] may lead the reader to believe the study was overly subjective. These words can be interpreted as being used only to avoid presenting empirical evidence about the research problem. Limit the use of personal nouns to descriptions of things you actually did [e.g., “I interviewed ten teachers about classroom management techniques. “]. Note that personal nouns are generally found in the discussion section of a paper because this is where you as the author/researcher interpret and describe your work.
  • Directives. Avoid directives that demand the reader to “do this” or “do that.” Directives should be framed as evidence-based recommendations or goals leading to specific outcomes.
  • Informal, conversational tone using slang and idioms. Academic writing relies on excellent grammar and precise word structure. Your narrative should not include regional dialects or slang terms because they can be open to interpretation; be direct and concise using standard English.
  • Wordiness. Focus on being concise, straightforward, and developing a narrative that does not have confusing language . By doing so, you help eliminate the possibility of the reader misinterpreting the design and purpose of your study.
  • Vague expressions (e.g., “they,” “we,” “people,” “the company,” “that area,” etc.). Being concise in your writing also includes avoiding vague references to persons, places, or things. While proofreading your paper, be sure to look for and edit any vague or imprecise statements that lack context or specificity.
  • Numbered lists and bulleted items. The use of bulleted items or lists should be used only if the narrative dictates a need for clarity. For example, it is fine to state, “The four main problems with hedge funds are:” and then list them as 1, 2, 3, 4. However, in academic writing, this must then be followed by detailed explanation and analysis of each item. Given this, the question you should ask yourself while proofreading is: why begin with a list in the first place rather than just starting with systematic analysis of each item arranged in separate paragraphs? Also, be careful using numbers because they can imply a ranked order of priority or importance. If none exists, use bullets and avoid checkmarks or other symbols.
  • Descriptive writing. Describing a research problem is an important means of contextualizing a study. In fact, some description or background information may be needed because you can not assume the reader knows everything about the topic. However, the content of your paper should focus on methodology, the analysis and interpretation of findings, and their implications as they apply to the research problem rather than background information and descriptions of tangential issues.
  • Personal experience. Drawing upon personal experience [e.g., traveling abroad; caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease] can be an effective way of introducing the research problem or engaging your readers in understanding its significance. Use personal experience only as an example, though, because academic writing relies on evidence-based research. To do otherwise is simply story-telling.

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 word or phrase to indicate that the quotation has been transcribed exactly as found in the original source, but the source has 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; Oppenheimer, Daniel M. “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly.” Applied Cognitive Psychology 20 (2006): 139-156; 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.

What Is Academic Writing?

What Is Academic Writing?

You learn a lot in college, and not all of it can be found in the course catalog. A lot of the skills you acquire you find yourself having to master on your own: managing your time, researching efficiently, and making ramen noodles in a coffee pot.

Another one of the skills you need to master is academic writing. Academic writing isn’t like other types of writing; it’s formal, it’s objective, and for a lot of students just starting college or grad school, it can be daunting.

But once you break down the fundamentals of academic writing and examine them piece by piece, you’ll see they’re nothing to be afraid of. There are rules you need to follow, but once you’ve got those rules down, you’re on your way onto the dean’s list.

Characteristics of academic writing

Perhaps the most prominent characteristic of academic writing is the emphasis on adhering to a style guide. While nearly all content and media outlets use a specific style guide—which is either an already established guide or one of their own creation—correct adherence to a chosen style guide is nonnegotiable with academic writing. In most cases, you’ll lose credit if you don’t adhere to the style guide in your writing.

Two of the main style guides for academic writing are the Modern Language Association (MLA) guide and the American Psychological Association (APA) guide. Others include the American Medical Association (AMA) style guide, the American Chemical Society (ACS) style guide, and the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) . Each of these style guides maintains specific rules for how to format and punctuate your writing as well as how to cite the sources you use.

Beyond the style guide, these are the key characteristics that define academic writing:

Academic writing should be formal, clear, and concise

Academic writing uses formal language. It’s also optimized for clarity and conciseness , which can initially seem contradictory to the use of formal language.

Many writers confuse formal language with flowery language . Generally, flowery language uses elaborate words, lengthy sentences (sometimes to the point of being run-on), and metaphors so drawn-out that they obfuscate the point the writer is trying to make.

Actual formal language is much different. Formal language uses the most accurate, non-colloquial verbiage available to communicate the author’s points, and this verbiage may include jargon. Sentences are only as complex as they need to be in order to express coherent thoughts and positions; you should use literary devices like metaphor sparingly. In instances where literary devices are appropriate, they’re used differently than in other types of writing. Overall, clarity and conciseness are your main goals.

Academic writing takes an objective, detached stance from the subject being discussed. Because this type of tone is essential, the passive voice is sometimes necessary in academic writing, particularly in the sciences.

Academic writing uses prescriptive grammar

When it comes to grammar, academic writing is prescriptive. By that, we mean there are specific grammar and style rules that your writing must adhere to in order to be correct. These rules come from two sources: the style guide for the piece you’re working on and generally established conventions for academic writing. Style guides provide granular requirements, such as instructions on whether to hyphenate certain compound words and when to spell out numbers versus use numerals. Broader academic writing conventions, like writing in the third person and maintaining an objective tone, apply to all academic writing.

In contrast, other, more casual types of writing are not as strict about “proper grammar” versus “improper grammar.” In fact, in certain other types of writing, like blogging and ad copywriting, it’s often necessary to break established grammar rules in order to hook readers’ attention and communicate with them effectively.

Using ellipses to build suspense, ending sentences with prepositions , and using exclamation points to make your sentences exciting are great strategies for catchy, conversational writing—but they have no place in academic writing.

Formatting will depend on your style guide

Beyond adhering to specific grammar and style rules, your academic writing also needs to be formatted according to the style guide for your assignment. Formatting includes how you number your pages, what’s included in your header and footer, how the contents of your cover page are ordered, and how your citations and references are formatted. For example, if you’re writing a humanities paper, you’re most likely going to write it according to the MLA style guide. According to this style guide, the source page is titled “Works Cited” and each reference’s author is named by their last name followed by their first name. For a social sciences paper, you’d typically use the APA style guide, which instead says to title the sources page “References” and lists authors by their last names followed by their first initials.

Types of academic writing

Academic writing covers a variety of types of work. These include:

Essays

An essay is a relatively short piece of writing that, like a research paper, makes and supports a specific point.

Theses and dissertations

A thesis and a dissertation are two types of capstone projects. Generally, the term thesis refers to the culminating project of a master’s program (and some bachelor’s programs) while the term dissertation is used for a project that culminates in a doctoral program.

These projects are lengthy works that demonstrate the author’s candidacy for the degree they are seeking by posing an intellectual question, a persuasive argument, or a thought-provoking position. Both are created through the candidate’s research, under the guidance of their academic advisor.

Research proposals

A research proposal is a document formally requesting sponsorship or funding to support the author’s academic research. A research proposal outlines how the author plans to conduct their research, why they want to conduct this specific research, and what they aim to accomplish through the research.

Research papers

A research paper is a comprehensive work that thoroughly demonstrates the author’s understanding of the subject they researched. Every research paper is formulated around a thesis statement—the statement in the opening paragraph that states the author’s position and summarizes their supporting arguments.

Literature reviews

A literature review is a piece of academic writing that summarizes, describes, and evaluates a topic through analysis of other authors’ works. A literature review examines a topic through two or more works, and these works can be books, scholarly articles, presentations, dissertations, or other published materials.

Academic writing structure

As much as academic writing uses formal language and conforms closely to style guides, it also follows a clear structure. This specific structure depends on the type of writing being produced, but generally follows this type of outline:

1 Introduction that clearly states the thesis and aims of the work

2 Position/finding/challenge supporting the thesis

a. Supporting content

b. Supporting content

3 Position/finding/challenge supporting the thesis

a. Supporting content

b. Supporting content

4 Position/finding/challenge supporting the thesis

a. Supporting content

b. Supporting content

The length of the work and the number of sections included depend on the specific assignment and the topic being covered. While an essay may only be five to seven paragraphs or so and span just a few pages, a dissertation generally clocks in around 150–300 pages.

Citations

Another area where academic writing differs greatly from other types of writing is that in an academic paper, you always have to cite your sources. How to format your citations depends on the style guide you’re using.

Although the citation format for each style guide varies a bit, they all include the same key information about the sources you cite. This information includes the author’s name, the name of the work you’re citing, the work’s copyright date, and the work’s publisher. Take a look at how the most commonly used academic style guides advise on format:

Don’t overlook the importance of properly citing your sources—all of them. Although you probably won’t face plagiarism consequences for an incorrectly formatted citation when you clearly made an attempt to attribute the work properly, an incomplete or missing citation may be deemed plagiarism, as this article explains. Possible consequences for plagiarism include:

  • A lowered grade
  • Automatic failure of the assignment
  • Failure of the course
  • Removal from the academic program
  • Suspension or expulsion from your university

Academic writing tips

Always refer to the style guide

In academic writing, there’s no gray area concerning whether something is grammatically correct or not. It’s either correct or it isn’t. The style guide for your assignment covers all the rules regarding what is and isn’t correct, so if you’re ever not sure, refer to the style guide. And if you’re ever not sure which style guide to follow, ask your instructor.

Actively avoid plagiarism

By this, we mean it isn’t enough to simply avoid stealing others’ words when you’re writing. We mean you should consciously choose to differentiate your writing from your sources as much as possible so you don’t inadvertently plagiarize another writer’s work—and so your work really shines as a unique piece.

As we mentioned above, even unintentional plagiarism can mean failing your assignment and other consequences. Grammarly’s plagiarism checker can help you avoid unintentional plagiarism while making your writing more engaging. It’s easy: Just run a plagiarism check using the Grammarly Editor and your work will be immediately compared against billions of other pieces available online. If there are any pieces of text that appear to need citations, Grammarly will flag them and you can cite them accordingly.

Do not use contractions

Academic writing never uses contractions. This is one of the biggest differences between formal and informal writing.

Do not take it personally

When you’re writing an academic paper, always write it in the third person. The first person (I, me) and the second person (you) are not appropriate for academic writing because they undermine the author’s objectivity.

Academic writing is black-tie writing

Think of an academic paper as a formal event. Your writing needs to show up “dressed appropriately.” This means: conforming to the style guide, using formal language, and absolutely avoiding slang and colloquial expressions. In contrast, think of an email to your professor as business casual and messages with your friends as casual. If the language you use with your friends is shorts and sandals and the language you use with your professor is khakis and a polo, the language in your academic writing needs to be a tuxedo.

Score top marks on your writing every time

Writing an academic paper is a lot different from writing a blog post, an email, a piece of fiction, and even other kinds of writing your professor might assign, like a critical response to a reading or a presentation for class. A piece of academic writing, whether it’s an analytical essay, a research paper, a persuasive essay , or another kind of assignment in this vein, needs to adhere to very specific style and formatting standards. It also needs to have the appropriate tone and vocabulary for an academic work.

Don’t submit your writing without running it through the Grammarly Editor first. In the Grammarly Editor, you can set specific goals for your writing so it strikes the perfect tone for your audience. Just set the domain to “Academic” and in addition to suggestions for grammar and punctuation, you’ll see suggestions for how to change your word choice, sentence structure, and other aspects of your writing to make it shine.

Research paper – the guide to writing a good research paper

Research paper

A research paper in academic writing is an assignment with a basis on the author’s extensive research on a particular topic. In the scientific field, a research paper is a piece of writing a scientist creates to share their original research on a topic. You can also use it to review the research others have done on a topic.

When creating a research paper, the overarching objective is to analyse an area of knowledge for the most valuable information. Once you satisfactorily achieve this, you then put forth a compelling argument on the subject matter.

To write an exceptional research paper, you need at least three to 48 hours, depending on its length. A satisfactory research paper in academic writing requires a thorough exploration of the subject matter and the analysis and interpretation of your findings. You should craft a research strategy to get high quality material and spend anywhere between eight to 72 hours executing it.

What are the steps in writing a research paper?

The steps for writing a research paper can be broken down into 3 sections; research, planning and writing. In the research phase, you choose your topic and establish your research question. Then, you draft your thesis statment before creating the research paper outline in the planning stage. Once you’ve done all of this, you’re ready to start writing. Allow yourself enough time to write your research paper, as you will have a few rough drafts before the final product is ready.

What is the format of a research paper?

There are 8 main parts of a research paper and it’s very important that you keep to the structure when you begin writing. Keep in mind that this format may be slightly altered depending on whether you’re required to use MLA formatting or APA formatting. However, the main parts include:

  1. Title
  2. Introduction
  3. Literature review
  4. Research methodology
  5. Data analysis
  6. Results
  7. Conclusion
  8. References

What should the introduction include in a research paper?

A research paper introduction should grab the reader’s attention. It is vital that the research paper topic is clear and understood from the very beginning. The introduction needs to include the main aspects of the thesis and the thesis statement should be positioned towards the end of the introduction paragraph.

How should I reference sources in a research paper?

How you are required to reference your sources and format your research paper depends on your field of study and your university. The two most common referencing and citation styles are MLA and APA. But you may also be required to use Harvard referencing or Chicago style citation. Once you find out which method you’re required to use, select our corresponding blog article to read all about it.

What is involved when researching for a research paper?

First, you’ll need to conduct some preliminary research to discover the topics that interest you the most. Once you’ve done this, you should decide on a topic and write a research question. Continue researching, but this time, search for information that is more specific to your research question. Then, write your working thesis- this may be slightly altered later in the planning stage.

Research Topics

research paper topic

When you get assigend to write a research paper, it is not easy to decide on a topic you want to deal with in the next few months. The research topic is the basis for your research paper and therefore crucial.

Before you start writing your research paper, you have to think about the topic. It is important that you find a research topic that you are interested in. Thereby it will be a lot easier for you to write something that is really worthwhile reading.

There are a couple of possibilities to find a topic for your research paper:

  • Brainstorming
  • Inspiration from your teachers
  • Literature research

You can use previous research topics as an inpiration or review the assignments you have already completed and select the ones you received good grades in.

Keep in mind that your research topic should be narrow and focused enough to be interesting, yet broad enough to find adequate information.

Of course it is your aim to write a good research paper so the most important points you should check are:

  1. Does the topic provide useful information for you and others?
  2. Is the topic innovative? Has it been used for research papers before?
  3. Is the research question researchable within the given time frame?

Would you like to know more about finding the perfect research topic for your research paper? This article will help you to find a suitable research topic. This way:

Cover Page

Research paper cover page

The first page of every research paper and other academic paper is the cover page. The format depends on the style that, you as the author, choose. Typically it contains the name of the author, the name of the professor, the name of the student’s educational establishment, and the due date of the paper.

Let´s take a look at the essentials of a cover page for your research paper.

A cover page requires:

  • A running head
  • The title of your academic paper
  • The name of your university
  • The name of the author or authors

It is possible that your professor will ask you to add extra information.

You would like to know more about the cover page for your research paper? These tips will help you to create the best kind of cover page for your research paper. This way:

APA Citation

Research paper apa citation

There are different referencing & citation styles . While you are writing your research paper, one of the citation systems you can choose is the APA citation. It is an author-year-system which ensures that the sources in your research paper can be tracked easily.

These are the components of the APA style: (Author´s surname, publication year, page number)

Examples of how to quote in APA citation style:

In the text: […] this is one of many reasons, why sports as well as a healthy diet are essential (cf. Schmidt, 2018, 3).

In the reference section: Whitney, E., & Rolfes, S. (2011). Understanding nutrition (12 th ed.). Australia: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Please note: Different faculties and departments might have another referencing & citation style (e.g. MLA, Harvard , etc.). So make sure you check with your supervisor, if it is allowed to use the APA citation style.

If you need further information about APA citation for your research paper, this article will give you more advice. This way:

Research Paper Abstract

Research Paper Research Paper Abstract

When you have to write a research paper, the research paper abstract is an essential part of it. It’s basically a summary of your entire study. Most students tempt to write it before doing their research. It’s a better idea to finsish your paper before you write the abstract, so you know what results your research includes.

When it’s finally time to write your research paper abstract, there are five steps to follow:

  1. Work out the Target Word Count
  2. Create a Rough Draft of the Abstract
  3. Write the Abstract
  4. Somebody Should Read it Out Loud to You
  5. Confirm That There are no Mistakes

You would like to know more details about writing a research paper abstract? Just read the following article!

Research Paper

A research paper is a part of academic writing upon which an author or a student collects, collates, and analyses information through original research. Writing a research paper involves a series of activities which include coming up with an original topic, formulating a research question, and analysis of the findings based on the objectives. The main idea of a research paper is to expand knowledge.

Research Paper Writing.jpeg

A research paper builds upon a subject and expands it through investigations as well as intentionally sourcing from other experts to establish what they already know about the topic area. Therefore, while writing a research paper, a student or an author digs deep into their specific field of knowledge and attempts to extract the most relevant piece of information that expands the topic.

A Research paper follows a structured formula through which other scholars can easily follow and interpret the findings of the research study. The format and structure allow other scholars or audience to develop into the research findings and the ideas that the research paper proposes.

What A Research Paper Intends to Achieve

A research paper is important since it equips and enhances an individual’s research skills since the exercise involves sourcing for materials.

A research paper intends for the author or the student to form their own opinions about a particular subject topic and critically develop it to the levels of research findings.

A research paper can also be used as a medium through which scholars and academicians create opinions, exchange of ideologies, and or opinions.

Passing and development of knowledge is an important component in the academic discourse, and therefore, a research paper facilitates this exchange.

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What Is a Research Paper?

Student writing a research paper.

Olivia Valdes was the Associate Editorial Director for ThoughtCo. She worked with Dotdash Meredith from 2017 to 2021.

A research paper is a common form of academic writing. Research papers require students and academics to locate information about a topic (that is, to conduct research), take a stand on that topic, and provide support (or evidence) for that position in an organized report.

The term research paper may also refer to a scholarly article that contains the results of original research or an evaluation of research conducted by others. Most scholarly articles must undergo a process of peer review before they can be accepted for publication in an academic journal.

Define Your Research Question

The first step in writing a research paper is defining your research question. Has your instructor assigned a specific topic? If so, great—you’ve got this step covered. If not, review the guidelines of the assignment. Your instructor has likely provided several general subjects for your consideration. Your research paper should focus on a specific angle on one of these subjects. Spend some time mulling over your options before deciding which one you’d like to explore more deeply.

Try to choose a research question that interests you. The research process is time-consuming, and you’ll be significantly more motivated if you have a genuine desire to learn more about the topic. You should also consider whether you have access to all of the resources necessary to conduct thorough research on your topic, such as primary and secondary sources.

Create a Research Strategy

Approach the research process systematically by creating a research strategy. First, review your library’s website. What resources are available? Where will you find them? Do any resources require a special process to gain access? Start gathering those resources—especially those that may be difficult to access—as soon as possible.

Second, make an appointment with a reference librarian. A reference librarian is nothing short of a research superhero. He or she will listen to your research question, offer suggestions for how to focus your research, and direct you toward valuable sources that directly relate to your topic.

Evaluate Sources

Now that you’ve gathered a wide array of sources, it’s time to evaluate them. First, consider the reliability of the information. Where is the information coming from? What is the origin of the source? Second, assess the relevance of the information. How does this information relate to your research question? Does it support, refute, or add context to your position? How does it relate to the other sources you’ll be using in your paper? Once you have determined that your sources are both reliable and relevant, you can proceed confidently to the writing phase.

Why Write Research Papers?

The research process is one of the most taxing academic tasks you’ll be asked to complete. Luckily, the value of writing a research paper goes beyond that A+ you hope to receive. Here are just some of the benefits of research papers.

  1. Learning Scholarly Conventions: Writing a research paper is a crash course in the stylistic conventions of scholarly writing. During the research and writing process, you’ll learn how to document your research, cite sources appropriately, format an academic paper, maintain an academic tone, and more.
  2. Organizing Information: In a way, research is nothing more than a massive organizational project. The information available to you is near-infinite, and it’s your job to review that information, narrow it down, categorize it, and present it in a clear, relevant format. This process requires attention to detail and major brainpower.
  3. Managing Time: Research papers put your time management skills to the test. Every step of the research and writing process takes time, and it’s up to you to set aside the time you’ll need to complete each step of the task. Maximize your efficiency by creating a research schedule and inserting blocks of “research time” into your calendar as soon as you receive the assignment.
  4. Exploring Your Chosen Subject: We couldn’t forget the best part of research papers—learning about something that truly excites you. No matter what topic you choose, you’re bound to come away from the research process with new ideas and countless nuggets of fascinating information.

The best research papers are the result of genuine interest and a thorough research process. With these ideas in mind, go forth and research. Welcome to the scholarly conversation!

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