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Types of Academic Writing

Many students have difficulties with academic writing. The requirements are rather strict here, and this type of writing differs a lot from the common one. It is used in scientific publications, research books and journals, academic topics and reports. As a student, you will encounter this style in research papers, essays, assignments, and course work. It is also applicable to theses and dissertations.

Academic writing needs to follow certain rules and regulations you should know about. This article will tell you about the main differences in style, structure, and even content of different types of academic writing.

Various Types of Academic Writing

In general, academic writing is for the texts published in journals, books, and reports. Students use it in different types of assignments.

1. Essays

It is a short argumentative piece of writing that your professor assigns to you. It answers a certain question and is based on the material covered in class.

2. Literature Reviews

This piece describes the existing research papers to critically accumulate and synthesize their content to develop a new part of research based on already accepted approaches.

3. Annotated Bibliographies

This is a list of references to academic sources used for research. It provides a short description of ideas covered by these sources and their connection to the topic and goal of new research.

4. Research Papers

A student chooses a question and gives a substantial answer to it after some independent research, which is conducted within the in-depth process of investigation and conclusion-making.

5. Lab Reports

This piece is written after the completion of a certain lab experiment. It describes its goals, objectives, and methods, as well as the obtained results. The report ends with a comprehensive conclusion based on the experiment results and previous pieces of research.

6. Research Proposals

It covers the outline of the research project on a certain topic, which will be used for your future dissertation.

7. Theses or Dissertations

It is the final summary of the entire research conducted under the chosen topic. It is usually written at the end of the entire course taken for an academic degree. A student can usually choose a dissertation topic based on their previous academic experience.
All types of scientific writing require reporting methods used and results obtained. If we write something in the humanities, the priority is to provide a convincing argument with the help of examples and evidence. This difference between science and humanities does not influence the overall principles of academic writing, though.

You need to know what these types of writing allow and what is undesirable or forbidden. This knowledge is crucial if you want to get your degree, graduate from a high school or university, or succeed in your academic career.

Characteristics of Academic Writing: What Is Allowed

There are essential features of academic writing that are allowed or required.

1. Formality and Lack of Bias

Academic writing should mostly be impersonal. It requires describing facts and making conclusions based on the evidence but not on someone’s personal attitudes and opinions.

A requirement to analyze the work of other researchers and authors of certain concepts is meant to avoid bias. This is called methodology, and you need to represent it clearly and set some honest limitations to your research. Your research should comply with other findings, so you have to compare your results and conclusions with other researchers. You should not use an informal tone, contractions, colloquial phrases, slang, or cliches.

  • Also, a good deal of research seems a little inappropriate.
  • ✔️ In addition, many findings are somewhat inappropriate.

2. Clarity and Precision

Your language should be clear and accurate. Your readers need to understand precisely what you mean to tell them about. Never use vague language in your statements.

  • Everyone has been involved in this stuff for ages.
  • ✔️ Scientists have been dealing with this research for over 10 years.

Do not use words that may signal a lack of confidence, for example, ‘probably’ or ‘perhaps.’ Your words should be chosen directly to reveal what you imply by them.

  • The conclusion could probably mean that…
  • ✔️ The conclusion means that…


You can use special language, terms, and jargon to identify your work representing a certain field of study. Though, avoid using jargon words to make your writing more sophisticated. It should sound natural and add more accuracy to what you want to say. Use terms when:

  • you need to make the information more precise;
  • you know your audience and their field of expertise;
  • the term is widely used by all the experts in this field.
Make sure that you use the correct terms and jargonisms by looking through the papers composed by other researchers in your field.

3. Exact Focus and Good Structure

Your academic writing should not be just a set of random ideas related to the topic. It should have a specific purpose. That is why you need to start with a clear thesis statement or research question. All your further writing should reveal this statement, widen and explain it in more detail.

The structure of your text can be regarded at three levels - the text, paragraph, and sentence structure.

  • Text structure. That includes the introduction and conclusion. Longer texts should have chapters and subheadings. Present all the information in a clear and logical order.
  • Paragraph structure. Every paragraph should cover a new idea. It must start with a topic sentence that will explain what the paragraph is about. Transition phrases are necessary between paragraphs to make your writing consistent. Check whether each paragraph corresponds to the research question or thesis statement.
  • Sentence structure. Sentences should also be connected with transition words and several ideas within the same sentence. Punctuation is important - it helps avoid fragmental thinking or run-on sentences. Sentences can vary in structure and length.

4. Reliable Sources

The sources you use to support your writing should be reliable. You can use the texts of prominent researchers and academics, films, photos, or other media objects.

Sometimes, it is difficult to determine whether the sources are trustworthy. For example, such a popular source of information as Wikipedia is discouraged or even forbidden. Never use blogs and websites that do not relate to scientific research. The most credible sources are university libraries or academic databases.

You should know how to cite the sources correctly. You can quote or paraphrase them. In both cases, alongside the citation, the reference should be included in the list at the end of your paper.

You also need to understand the differences in various citation staples. The most commonly used styles are APA, MLA, and Chicago. Your institution may require a specific style so pay attention to the assignment - the style is always indicated there.

5. Consistency and Correctness

Some stylistic conventions should be applied correctly. You need to make sure that you correctly:

Stylistic conventions that should be correctly applied in academic writing

You need to use all these rules consistently throughout all your work. That is why it is vital to proofread your writing carefully before submitting it.

What to Avoid in Academic Writing

Certain things are completely inappropriate for academic writing.

1. Personalization

Never be too personal while dealing with academic assignments. You can include the information about the author in some specific sections, for example, on an acknowledgment or personal reflection. However, the text should be about the research itself but not about your personal considerations.

Never address your reader with the second-person pronoun ‘you’. The impersonal ‘one’ is an appropriate option. You can also make a generalization.

  • As a researcher, you must understand the purpose of your work.
  • ✔️ As a researcher, one must understand the purpose of one’s work.
  • ✔️ Researchers must understand the purpose of their work.

The first-person ‘I’ is mostly not allowed in academic writing. However, some fields of study have already accepted it. You had better ask your professors about this nuance.

It should be an indisputable reason to refer to yourself, especially when describing what you have done for this research. Nevertheless, arbitrary and emotional statements are inappropriate.

  • I think/believe that…
  • In my opinion…
  • I like/prefer/dislike…
  • ✔️ I argue/state that…
  • ✔️ I hope/expect to obtain/achieve…
  • ✔️ I had interviews with/conducted experiments…

2. Long-winded and Too Complicated Sentences

It is a common mistake to think that academic writing should be complicated and lengthy. This approach does not work - such long-winded sentences are not concise. Try to express your ideas as directly as possible.

Do not use sophisticated terminology. If you can replace the term with a more straightforward and clear word, do it. Never use redundant phrasing. Phrasal verbs are not used in academic writing; try to replace them with one verb with the same meaning.

  • The experiments carried on in the year 2015.
  • ✔️ The experiments continued in 2015.

Try to avoid repetition where it is not necessary. Make sure that your further sentences or paragraphs do not rephrase the points that are discussed in the previous pieces. However, repetition is essential when you summarize the information and make a conclusion.

3. Inspiring Emotional Response

Academic writing differs a lot from journalism, literature, or advertisements. Even if you need to be persuasive, the techniques from these styles are not applicable here. Never appeal to emotions or make exaggerated statements. The topic you are writing about may be interesting for you. However, you just have to communicate ideas clearly and precisely and provide sufficient information and argumentation but not evoke emotions. Avoid somewhat subjective language as well.

  • This horrible episode obviously cast light on the vicious nature of that anti-human regime.
  • ✔️ The episode that resulted in high mortality rates revealed the anti-human nature of that regime.

Sometimes, you may get a temptation to use flowery language and exaggerated claims. Nevertheless, all your arguments should be well-grounded and supported with evidence but not your point of view.

  • William Shakespeare is the greatest writer of the English Renaissance and his influence on the world’s literature is enormous.
  • ✔️ William Shakespeare is a famous writer of the English Renaissance who had a considerable influence on the world’s literature.

Final Thoughts

All in all, academic writing is a specific type of written text that has its requirements and restrictions. You should be aware of them and read this article once again. You may skip some information you already know but pay attention to the points that are not recommended or not allowed.

The quality of your writing will get much better, and your academic rates will grow. It is the right way to succeed in your further academic career.

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