Academic writing refers to the scholarly works done to fulfill academic requirements. It includes undergraduate assignments, reports on research, and introduction to Academic Writing or monographs based on new theoretical perspectives and interpretations. 

As a University student or an academic writer, it is essential to develop your writing capabilities. This means being able to identify and utilize the different writing styles, planning and structuring your work properly, and arranging your information sources (references) appropriately.

Academic Writing Language

The academic writing languages include:

  • Formal,
  • objective, and
  • technical

    1. Formal Language

Academic language is free from casual and conversational elements such as contractions and the application of informal vocabulary. The formality of academic work rests on the type of vocabulary used.

See these illustrations:

  • Formal vocabulary involves the use of "somewhat" instead of "a bit". You may also say "insufficient" instead of writing "not enough".
  • To avoid contractions, write the full form of words. For instance, "did not" instead of "didn't", "cannot" instead of "can't", "should not" instead of "shouldn't" etc.
  • Formal writing also means the use of less emotional language. For example, use "helpful" in the place of "wonderful" and "problematic" instead of "terrible". You may also say "less convincing" and not "wrong".
2. Objective Language

Objective language use is when the writer avoids mentioning people or feelings directly. Such an author focuses on ideas, facts, and objects. 

Although Introduction to Academic Writing academic writing emphasizes impersonal language, a writer may at times be asked to present their personal opinions. This happens when the need arises to:

  1. evaluate a given theory
  2. critique work of other authors
  3. establish an argument or
  4. explain findings

Well, it is possible to give your opinion and still remain impersonal. Avoid using the first person "I" and go straight to your point.

For example:

  • Instead of "I believe the research outcomes..." say "These research outcomes indicate that..."

The writing also appears more objective when you cite authoritative sources, such as theories from books and articles written by other researchers or authors. The works you select should support your viewpoint. Introduction to Academic Writing The sources must be cited accordingly in-text and in the reference list.

3. Technical Language

The writing language is technical if the vocabulary used is specific to the field of study or discipline. Every discipline has its unique style and language structures. An excellent writer is one that has a vast knowledge of the specific patterns and systems employed in different areas. 

This process may become easier if you:

  • seek more information about the area you are tackling, and
  • study the language used by authors in your field of study. 

Technical language also requires that you develop a list of relevant vocabulary and practice using them to familiarize yourself with the type of language, and apply it effectively.

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Types of Academic Writing

Types of Academic Writing include:

  1. Descriptive
  2. Analytical
  3. Persuasive
  4. Critical

Each one of these writing forms has unique language elements and purposes. Still, the academic assignment that you have might require that you apply more than just one writing type. An example of such is when writing a research paper. You may be required to do as follows:

  • apply critical writing to explain the gap you discover when analyzing past studies, in the Literature Review section
  • employ descriptive writing present the procedures you employed during data collection and analysis, under Methodology and Results sections
  •  use the analytical writing Discussion section to compare and contrast your findings and those of previous researchers whose work you reviewed

   1. Descriptive Writing

This is the simplest of all these writing forms, and its aim is to present facts and other additional information that support the statements.

It is mostly used when writing research studies and report abstracts or summaries.

To determine if the assignment you have requires descriptive writing, look for the following keywords:

  • define
  • identify
  • record
  • summarize
  • report

For example, the assignment question may go like this:

Read the passage and identify the factors that led to the escalation of the Shay Rebellion


Please summarize the passage you read in Chapter 12 of the course textbook.

2. Analytical Writing

Most academic works tend to go by this format. It is part of any paper that requires a description of categories, groups, parts, or types. 

An assignment that requires you to be analytical will use the following keywords:

  • Compare
  • Contrast
  • Relate
  • Examine

Example: Compare and contrast your academic writing knowledge before and after enrolling in this                             course

 Excellent analytical work requires planning, identification of relationships between factors or ideas, the building of each section around the listed categories, and formulation of the paper structure.

  3. Persuasive Writing

A persuasive text contains all the elements of analytical work, except that it requires the writer to include his or her viewpoint.

A research paper, for instance, requires persuasive content in the Discussion and Conclusion sections. 

Your work becomes more persuasive if you use evidence to support every claim you make. The evidence could be a reference to findings of certain research work or other published sources.

Instructions for a persuasive paper will include words such as:

  • evaluate
  • discuss
  • argue
  • take a position

Example: Evaluate the results of the study by Cohen, 


             Argue in favor of Cohen's findings

  4. Critical Writing

It is common in undergraduate and postgraduate texts. It is very similar to persuasive writing, although it may at times contain a viewpoint of the writer, and at least one more from other authors. 

For instance, you may present the interpretation offered by a researcher in a previous study, then give your personal understanding of the situation.

To identify a critical assignment, check for keywords such as:

  • Debate
  • Evaluate
  • Critique
  • Disagree

Example: Critique Desiree's Baby by Kate Chopin


               Evaluate the main argument in Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson

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Common Academic Writing Guidelines


The overall guideline for academic writing on page formatting is as shown below:

  1. Font type: Times New Romans (size 12) or Arial (font size 11)
  2. Margins: Go to Layout tab on Word toolbar, select margins, and pick Normal

NB: Some assignments may specify the required margins. At times, they differ from what I have written here. If not specified, work with these.


  1. You should have a notebook to record the assignment instructions step-by-step. This enables you to capture all the important assignment details. Seek clarification for every point that you find confusing.
  2. Do extensive research. I personally collect information that is 5 to 10 times more than what I need. Having such abundant information ensures you have enough points to discuss and adequate evidence to back your claims. It saves you the energy you would spend thinking about everything and using your own reasoning when writing. Like they say, whatever you are writing about is already available over the internet.
  3. Ensure you collect information from scholarly sources. Academic assignments require that you gather information from books, journals, and credible websites (like the ones belonging to the government, and large organizations like WHO, IMF, and the World Bank.
  4. Use the correct grammar and tenses. Academic writing is formal, hence significant emphasis is placed on proper tenses and grammar. Use the appropriate tools to check your grammar or tenses (Grammarly) and correct all the mistakes.
  5. When writing your final draft, ensure you paraphrase effectively to avoid plagiarism. Also, use your plagiarism checker to discover and rewrite the areas of your paper that look plagiarized.
  6. Always proofread your work. Many people find this step difficult. The best way to approach it is to take a break after writing and read through the piece later on. Proofreading helps to correct errors and improve the flow of ideas from sentence to sentence and from one paragraph to the next.


A writer needs tools for checking plagiarism and for proofreading. The most commonly used proofreading and editing tools in an academic context are available in Grammarly.

  • Grammarly

The technology firm offers digital writing help to complete your work. Its main purpose is to enable you to write clearly and achieve effective communication.  Introduction to Academic Writing The tool saves you time and there is a free version. Google the name and sign up. You can download options for Word and even install it online so that it checks your emails and helps you proofread and edit everything you write online.

  • Plagiarism checker

Turnitin is the most preferred tool here, but it is built for businesses and is best for institutions, and it can be expensive. For personal use, you can select any alternatives. Note, however, that free versions will offer you limited plagiarism services, so it is best to work with the paid alternatives.

Plagiarism is when you present the work or ideas written by a different person as if they are yours. Even if you seek the owner’s consent, you must paraphrase and fully acknowledge the original author. Introduction to Academic Writing Plagiarism applies to both unpublished and published works.

When it results from intentional (carelessness or writer) behavior, the writer commits an offense and disciplinary action can be taken against him or her.

Therefore, it is appropriate to acknowledge the source owners even when dealing with texts in books or journals, media (like computer codes), graphs, data from websites, and other forms of illustrations. 

Understanding how to avoid plagiarism is the beginning of excellence in academic writing, and the advancement of your career. 

There are various forms of plagiarism. Some are discussed below:

  • Verbatim

This is where the writer copies another person’s work word-for-word. An example is where the writer picks quotations from a different source and makes them part of his or her writing without acknowledging the source.

When writing, ensure that your readers can clearly understand the difference between your independent piece and places that involve ideas/language borrowed from other people. Therefore, use quotation marks when using direct words Introduction to Academic Writing from a piece and indent the borrowed passage if it exceeds one line. 

The APA formatting style video (in the previous chapter) illustrated how to indent direct quotations.

  • Cut/Copy-Pasting

It is not advisable to copy internet contents and directly paste them into your text. You must rewrite the entire piece based on your understanding then clearly acknowledge the author.

  • Paraphrasing

This happens when you spin words in a sentence or a paragraph to make it sound different. It may also happen if you closely align your work to the argument presented in the source text. In these two instances, the percentage of similarity between the works tends to be very high. Therefore, it is improper to simply find synonyms of the words in a sentence while maintaining the order of argument. Ensure you read and present your work based on what you understand from the reading. And the most important part, cite the source (in-text) and include it in the reference list.

  • Inaccurate Citation

No writer is allowed to include in the reference list, Introduction to Academic Writing a source that they did not read at all. Ensure that you read all your listed sources and have each one of them in your in-text citations.

  • Not Acknowledging Assistance

This mostly applies to a research report or dissertation writing. Introduction to Academic Writing in the course of doing research, a student gets help from the tutor, a librarian, laboratory technicians, parents, and additional information sources. Ensure you indicate how their involvement enabled you to improve your work and get great results. 

  • Auto-Plagiarism

It happens when a student resubmits an assignment. It does not matter if the work had been used in a previous course or if you submitted it to a different university.  Introduction to Academic Writing The practice is highly discouraged.

Plagiarism is not supported in academic settings because it violates academic integrity. The intellectual honesty rule requires everyone within the academic community to respect the duty they have towards ensuring that primary sources of ideas, data, and words receive the respect they deserve. 


Plagiarism does a lot of harm. Other than proving that you are unethical, it places a bad reputation on the institution where you study and makes Introduction to Academic Writing the certifications you attained from such an institution be questionable. All these will have a negative effect on a person’s career. 

Reasons to Avoid Plagiarism

The university opens the doors for you to gain more knowledge and be able to comfortably express yourself. There is, thus, no need to copy other people’s work, especially without recognizing them. Again, relying on other people’s pieces denies you the opportunity to establish your personal voice. Make yourself an independent thinker. Introduction to Academic Writing There is high quality in personal work. All you need to do is understand how the source use works and apply it to add evidence to ideas that you generate from your own mind. 

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