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What is Academic Writing? Types and 5 Interesting Facts

The truth is that academic writing is not nearly as comprehensible as it appears to many people. This includes people seeking freelance writing jobs or those offering essay writing services. So, what is, and is not an academic text, and what are its types?

What is it?

Academic writing, also referred to as scholarly writing, encompasses a set of rules adopted by various scholars to distinguish their respective disciplines.

This art has existed for decades, yet many people, especially students, have not fully grasped what it really takes to become an academic writer.

Perhaps the most effective conventional approach to understanding this form of writing is not the same thing as a literary, journalistic, or marketing text.

Fundamentally, scholarly writing employs more arguments than narratives, as opposed to other forms of writing. This is especially apparent in essay writing.

An academic writer can thus articulate their thoughts objectively and aim at questioning existing presuppositions, rather than merely narrating them. So, what are the things to keep in mind when writing academically?

Let’s get to the facts…


5 Interesting Facts About Academic Writing

1. Academic Writing is broad

Academic writing is broad and extends from classroom activities to other elements in society. Thus, writing skills are not just intended to help a student cope with college life and move on. Instead, they acquire skills that will be rudimental for the rest of their lives.

As Rankins-Robertson et al. (2010) argue, the narrow perception of academic prose is not meaningful as it makes students ignore the rhetorically situated and social bases for writing and the potential role of writing to span the personal, professional, and civic areas of students’ lives.

Using the topic of family in writing courses provides opportunities for students to engage in non-threatening primary and secondary research and involves students in writing that is multimodal, cultural, academic, and public.

Rankins-Robertson et al. (2010)

2. It is a dependent discipline

Academic writing relies significantly on other genres and disciplines of writing. Such dependency aims to ensure that scholars and specialists of scholarly writing cannot independently provide their guidelines to the art.

An excellent writer understands how to gather data, whether primary or secondary, analyze it and form a judgment. You are expected to consult previous studies to reach a conclusion.

In fact, research acknowledges that writings for academic purposes can never be separated from other disciplines.

Besides, successful academic writing instruction depends on a sound understanding of the complexity of writing in university content classrooms.

Therefore, unlike creative writings, academic works (writings) can never be original. Just take a random paper, whether a scholarly article, a book, or a journal – the authors must have cited other works.

That’s why, instead of writing “I think that” or “in my opinion,” you are expected to write “I concluded that” or “research infers that…”

3. Academic Writing is universal

All rules of academic writing are universal to ensure uniformity and consistency. There exist multiple types of scholarly writing, all of which have been developed from a set of universally accepted principles.

There are four major different types of academic texts that every student needs to know. They include; descriptive, persuasive, analytical, and critical writings. Learners should differentiate between the four, and know how to write them.

Although the formatting of academic texts may vary with the institution or professor, the context is still the same.

First, the writing serves a similar purpose – to evaluate the learner’s ability to engage external sources. Also, a student is expected to apply critical thinking and class theories while writing their academic papers.

Scholarly writing is also universal in that there general format of different papers is the same across universities. For instance, any essay should have an introduction, body, and conclusion paragraphs.

Similarly, writings like research papers, term papers, thesis or dissertation, and projects have a universal format.

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4. It is a game of words

Scholarly writing is a game of words intended to help students understand the effect of words in different contexts–words are the building blocks of academic writing.

As Elton (2010) puts it, a deeper understanding of words can help in elucidating the problems arising in writing.

Many students ask – can academic reports be written in the first person? Others wonder, why is it too important? Or possibly, are such types of writings written in past, present, or future tenses?

Well, unless permitted by the professor, or writing a reflection or personal essay, do not use first or second person while writing your papers. Most professors recommend the use of third persons.

Avoid being personal while writing papers for academic evaluation purposes. For instance, do not write “As a teacher, you must treat your students fairly.”

Instead, write, “As a teacher, one must treat one’s students fairly” or “Teachers must treat their students fairly.” Mind what you write (based on the type of paper), how you write it and when you write it.

5. Writing is systematic

Academic writers must partake in a series of activities before formulating a commendable paper. In essence, scholarly writing combines the skills of brainstorming, clustering, and freewriting.

Now, brainstorming entails thinking beyond the obvious paths of reasoning and expounding on interesting or questionable aspects of a given topic.

So, what is clustering? It involves mapping ideas before formulating them and usually requires a considerable amount of time.

You need both brainstorming and clustering skills to become an astute academic writer. Want to know the tricky part? It takes more than just the two aspects to master the craft of scholarly writing.

But here’s the kicker: Academic writing is a critical aspect in all disciplines and requires tremendous practice–it is a game of rules. These guidelines are intended to help disambiguate possible complexities when writing scholarly works.


Learn how to format your paragraphs like a pro…

Types of academic writing

There are many types of academic papers, such as thesis, reports, term papers, research projects and proposals, dissertations, essays, annotated bibliographies, and the like.

However, they can be grouped into four broad categories; descriptive, persuasive, analytical, and critical writings. And each writer must understand the meaning of each of the four varieties, purpose, and format.

In most instances, while writing an academic text, expect to use more than one of these types. For instance, while compiling an empirical research report;

  • You should employ critical writing in your literature review to prove existence of a research gap or opportunity.
  • The methods section can be descriptive, as you’re simply stating how you’ll conduct the research, correct and analyze data.
  • Your results section should be descriptive and analytical, reviewing the results you corrected.
  • And lastly, your discussion section should be analytical, as you interpret the finding of the report while answering the research question(s).

So, you see, you have to understand all the four types of academic texts.

1. Descriptive Writings

Descriptive texts are the simplest to write, as their purpose is simply to provide facts or information about a particular subject. An example would be an essay describing why you love your math teacher or a summary of a particular article.

The instructions in such types of writings are clear and descriptive. And, some of the common terms include ‘describe’, ‘identify’, ‘list’, ‘summarize’ or ‘define’.

2. Analytical Writings

Descriptive texts are rare, especially at the university level, where most texts are analytical in nature.

While analytical texts include descriptive writing, they require a writer to re-organize facts into different categories and groups and interpret them to answer the question at hand.

For instance, while comparing two models, explain, among other things, what they are, how they are similar or different, any limitations or strengths, and outline their practical use.

Instructions could ask you to ‘analyze’, ‘investigate’ or ‘interpret’ a particular subject.

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3. Persuasive Writings

Persuasive papers have all the features of analytical writing but go further to present your point of view and convince the audience why it is the right direction to take.

In academic writing, the professor expects you to give your point of view in the conclusion or recommendation sections.

However, you can also give your views while interpreting the findings or evaluating other people’s works in the literature review section.

The instructions could ask you to ‘discuss’, ‘evaluate’, ‘argue against’, ‘argue for’, or ‘take a position.’

For instance, you can write a 5-page persuasive or argumentative essay on why organ donation should be banned.

4. Critical Writings

These are the most common types of academic writings in research, undergraduate and postgraduate writings. They have all features of persuasive writing but require you to present at least one other point of view.

For instance, while analyzing an article, you can interpret the author’s argument or interpretation, give its merits, and then offer your own interpretation.

Critical writings include a literature critique that analyzes a particular article or book, then identify strengths and weakness, and gives views on how the author could have done better. You could also identify research gaps and opportunities.

The instructions could ask you to ‘debate’, ‘critique’, ‘disagree’ or ‘evaluate.’

While completing such assignments, make sure you understand the topic inside-out and use as many reliable sources as possible. Don’t just summarize facts.

Conclusion

In brief, academic writing should not be written in the first or second person, unless otherwise stated. And some of the facts about it include;

  • It is broad – includes essays, thesis or dissertation, research papers, and proposals.
  • This type of writing is dependent – very hard to be 100% original
  • It is universal – types and format of different academic papers are similar
  • Game words – mind not only what you write, but also why, when, and how you write it
  • It is systematic – follows a continous and unique process

Scholarly writing is formal and unbiased, clear and precise, well-sourced, correct, and consistent. However, it is not personal, long-winded, or emotive.

They are classified into four broad categories namely;

  • Descriptive texts (most basic)
  • Analytical writings
  • Persuasive texts
  • Critical writings

In most cases, expect to apply more than one type of writing. And should you have any other concerns, feel free to ask in the comments section.

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