Academic Writing: Basic Tips and Definition

It is difficult to come up with a simple definition of academic writing because this notion entails a variety of paper kinds that should be written according to specific requirements. Besides, it may be complicated to understand what is academic writing because it may be used in numerous realms. In the article below, you will find an academic paper definition, its main features, as well as illustrations and explanations of how it should be properly written.

Academic Writing Definition

Imagine a situation that a person who has just got interested in sports starts a conversation with an avid sports fan. As a rule, a newbie to sports will not ask the right type of questions and the sports talk will not be successful with a sports fan. From my own experience, the most frequent questions recorded concerned some personal matters (i.e. parenting style of a sportsman, looks, clothing style, accounting, finance, etc.). The sports fan would expect the talk about the game, the skills, scores, winners, losers, contracts, etc. This is a perfect example that when you want to join some kind of a conversation, you should be well versed in specific terms that will help you initiate the talk. To be an interesting and active participant in the communication process, you should know the discourse and get used to the language and style of a particular company or a community. Just agree: your conversational style in the family differs from that among your friends or colleagues. The same goes for academic writing: you need to learn specific terms, style, and usage of certain words to succeed.

When you are enrolled into a college or university, you are accepted into a specific academic community that is renowned for its particular way of thinking, writing, speaking, and valuing things. As such, as you tend to join different conversations with numerous people who are also a part of this academic community, you will gradually develop your capabilities to think, write, and speak in the corresponding discourse. However, even at the very beginning, when you have just been accepted into the academic community, you need to have the basic set of key terms, values, rules, methods, and conventions that will allow you to communicate effectively. Apart from learning some new information about the academic discourse before trying to master academic style writing, you will most probably derive benefits from acquiring specific strategies that are used by successful students when they intend to efficiently join the academic conversation or master academic writing styles.

You must probably know that to adhere to the proper academic style, it is important to follow the main rules of grammar and punctuation, format, and overall paper organization. However, apart from all these basic things, you also need to use proper vocabulary that will help you successfully communicate the message. Language, particularly its forms, manners, and vocabulary, is what really matters.

Tips on Writing

Tips on Writing an Academic Papers

Main Characteristics of Writing for Academic Purposes

Now that you have defined what writing for academic purposes is, you can move on to learning other things about its characteristics:
  1. Planning. Actually, writing demands rigorous planning before you start writing a composition. Only when you provide a detailed plan and can see a clear picture of all the ideas under discussion will you ensure that the paper will be analytical and properly structured.
  2. Devising an outline. An extended outline is a must for successful writing. While some students may regard it as a waste of time, outlining the paper helps organize thoughts logically and coherently.
  3. The tone of the paper. Academic papers require a formal or semi-formal tone of writing. You are not allowed to use abbreviations, phrasal verbs, idioms, slang, jargon, clichés, etc.
  4. Language. You need to express your thought clearly and distinctly. So, the words should be chosen really thoroughly. You need to make sure that each word you use is acceptable for an academic way of writing. Therefore, it is advisable to consult a thesaurus, collocations dictionary, and other handbooks.
  5. Expressing viewpoint. Whenever you need to express a specific viewpoint, it should be done in the third person unless it is an opinion essay or you are given the assignment to provide a paper in the first person.
  6. Approach. An analytical approach for academic essay writing is strongly encouraged. There should be sufficient argumentation and logical support when you discuss something. Besides, deductive reasoning should be applied as your target readers have to know how you have arrived at specific conclusions.
  7. Paper formatting. Carefully follow the formatting style required by your school or choose the preferred formatting style indicated in the task description.

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As you sit down to write your academic essay, make sure to answer the following questions:
  1. What do I already know about the topic I am going to write about?
    • Can I answer the questions what, who, why, where, when, and how?
    • Is my topic a part of some larger classification?
    • What is known to me about this genre of writing?
    • What cultural and historical influences are important for a successful reflection on my topic?
    • What information is familiar to me in the context of the chosen topic?
  2. What is the most significant to me about my assigned topic?
    • If I had to provide a summary of what I already know about the topic, what aspects would I include?
    • What seems to draw less of my attention?
    • What made me think so?
  3. How is the selected or assigned topic related to the adjacent areas in which I am well versed?
    • How can my knowledge about the topic help me better explain it to my target audience?
  4. What do I not know about my topic?
    • What information needs to be obtained?
    • How can I derive that additional information?

How to Avoid Frequently Occurring Mistakes

Regardless of the research field in which you need to provide your academic essay, you will face some common challenges in the writing process.

To help you avoid common mistakes in the future, we have created a list of the most frequent mistakes.

  1. Wordiness. Actually, your main goal is not to express your ideas in the most sophisticated manner possible but to communicate the main message coherently and concisely.
  2. A weak or missing thesis statement. Make sure that you provide a strong and understandable thesis statement (which should actually be a statement – not some kind of question whatsoever). Besides, it is recommendable to make the thesis argumentative.
  3. Informal language. According to the standards of academic paper writing, the tone should be formal. As such, you need to avoid slang, idioms, clichés, phrasal verbs, and so on.
  4. Description or arguments without analysis and supporting evidence. Whenever you put forward a claim, it should be supported with strong evidence and clear examples. In other words, argumentation should be clear.
  5. Uncited sources. Whenever you provide information taken from outside sources, you need to cite it. When citing, make sure you consistently follow one of the citation styles.

How to Format Your Paper

Start with an introduction. It is the very first paragraph of your composition, which should actually fulfill two main aims: hook the attention of your target audience and express the central message that you intend to convey further throughout the body paragraphs. How can you draw the attention of your readers? Actually, you can provide an opening paragraph beginning with some controversial questions on the topic. Second, you can indicate some interesting or surprising statistics, figures, or facts that will not leave your readers indifferent. Third, you might want to define some term that seems interesting and catchy for a reader. Another option, especially when you are writing a literature paper, is to provide an opener with some quotes from the book or story.

After the introduction, switch over to organizing the body paragraphs. Actually, this is the bulk of the paper and its most important part. First of all, the paragraphs should be logically structured: you should provide clear transitions. Second, the information discussed in the body paragraphs should be directly related to the thesis statement. Third, the ideas, topics, or notions that you cover should be provided chronologically.


In the conclusive paragraph, you must succinctly summarize the main findings or core aspects of the discussion in the paper. Remind the reader of the most important points but do not introduce any new ideas into the conclusive paragraph.

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Overall, that is all you need to know about the structure of academic papers. Follow the guidelines above and improve your skills in practice.

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