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❶When in doubt, use the actual last names instead, even if they might sound repetitive.




Whenever you do include such material, i. Jumping back and forth will confuse the reader unnecessarily. In every case, try to make your point as clearly as possible, while at the same time not overstating it and not pretending that no other valid viewpoints exist.

Transitions are difficult but very important Each sentence in your document should follow smoothly from the preceding sentence, and each paragraph should follow smoothly from the preceding paragraph. The world is arguably an unstructured jumble of ideas, but anything that you expect the reader to read from start to finish needs to be a linear progression along one single path.

Transition words and phrases are what make it possible for a reader to follow you easily as you explore the various ideas in your paper. Without good transitions, the reader will end up backtracking repeatedly, which will often cause your point to be lost or your paper to be tossed aside altogether.

One clue that your writing needs better transitions is if you find that you can cut and paste paragraphs from one section to another without doing substantial rewriting of how the paragraph begins and ends.

If making such rearrangements is easy, then you have not been linking your paragraphs into a coherent narrative that reads well from start to finish. In practice, making smooth transitions is very difficult. Learning to do it takes a lot of practice at first, and actually making the transitions smooth takes a lot of effort every time you write or revise something.

One rule of thumb is that whenever you switch topics, you should try to provide a verbal clue that you are doing so, using transitions like "However, If you notice that you have to add these words between most of your sentences, not just the paragraphs, then you are bouncing around too much.

In that case you need to reorganize your document to group related thoughts together, switching topics only when necessary. Once the organization is good, all you can do is read and reread what you write, rewording it until each new item follows easily from those before it. Write what you mean, mean what you write Speakers use many informal, colloquial phrases in casual conversation, usually intending to convey meanings other than what the words literally indicate.

For instance, we often speak informally of "going the extra mile", "at the end of the day", "hard facts", things being "crystal clear" or "pretty" convincing, someone "sticking to" a topic, readers being "turned off", something "really" being the case, etc. Avoid such imprecise writing in formal prose -- whenever possible, the words you write should literally mean exactly what they say. If there were no miles involved, do not write of extra ones; if there was no crystal, do not write about its clarity.

Among other benefits, avoiding such informal language will ensure that your meaning is obvious even to those who have not learned the currently popular idioms, such as those for whom English is a second language and those who might read your writing years from now or in another part of the world. Formal writing should be clear to as many people as possible, and its meaning should not depend on the whims of your local dialect of English. It is a permanent and public record of your ideas, and should mean precisely what you have written.

Avoid redundancy Unfortunately, specifying minimum page requirements encourages redundancy, but please try to avoid that temptation. When two words will do, there is no need to use twenty. Whenever you finish a sentence or paragraph, read over it to see if any words or sentences can be eliminated -- often your point will get much stronger when you do so.

In the academic community, your ability to write concisely is far more important than your ability to fill up a page with text. Academic courses specify page minimums to ensure that you write an essay of the appropriate depth, not to test whether you can say the same thing a dozen different ways just to fill up space. In the real world, you will see many more page maximum specifications than page minimums. Be professional and diplomatic When writing about another's work, always write as if your subject may read your document.

Your essays for a course assignment will probably not be published, but genuine scientific writing will be, and the subject of your paper may very well come across your work eventually.

Thus it is crucial to avoid pejorative, insulting, and offensive terms like "attempt to", "a waste of time", "pointless", etc. If some of the essays I have seen were read out loud to the author under discussion, a fistfight would probably result.

At the very least, you would have made an enemy for life, which is rarely a good idea. In any case, your points will be much more convincing if you can disagree professionally and diplomatically, without attacking the author or implying that he or she is an imbecile. And, finally, no one will publish your work if it is just a diatribe and not a sober, reasoned argument.

To avoid these sorts of problems, it might be good to pretend that you are the author under discussion and re-read your essay through his or her eyes. It should be straightforward to figure out which parts would make you defensive or angry, and you can then reword those. Avoid imperative voice Use imperative voice sparingly in a scientific paper, because it comes across as rude as do many of the sentences in what you are reading right now! Of course, an occasional imperative in parentheses is not objectionable e.

Document organization A formal document needs to be structured at all levels, whether or not the structure is made explicit using section labels or other visible clues. Overall structure The standard format for an effective essay or article is to: Using any other format for a formal article is almost invariably a bad idea.

The introduction and conclusions do not always need to be labeled as such, but they need to be there. Note that an abstract is no substitute for an introduction; abstracts act as an independent miniature version of the article, not part of the introduction. Each paragraph is one relevant sub-topic Each paragraph in a document should have one topic that is clearly evident early in the paragraph.

Every paragraph should have a clear relationship to the main topic of your document; if not, either the paragraph should be eliminated, or the main topic should be revised. Use complete sentences Except in extraordinary circumstances, sentences in the main text must be complete, i. Note that most "-ing" words are not verbs.

To be a sentence that you could use on its own followed by a period, it would have to be "The light turned green", which has both a subject and a verb.

Put appropriate punctuation between sentences Two complete sentences can be divided with a period, question mark, or exclamation point, or they can be weakly connected as clauses with a semicolon. However, they can never be connected with a comma in formal writing!

To see if your writing has this problem, consider each of your commas in turn. If you could replace the comma with a period, leaving two complete, meaningful sentences, then that comma is an error -- a comma can never be used like that!

Instead, replace the comma with a semicolon, in case you have two sentences that need to be linked in some generic way, or make the linkage explicit with a conjunction, or simply use a period, to leave two complete and independent sentences. Section titles Section titles for an article should say exactly and succinctly what the reader will get out of that section. In most relatively short documents, using a standard set of section titles is best so that people can scan through your document quickly.

Section standards vary in different fields, but a common set is: Introduction, Background, Methods for an experimental paper or Architecture for a modeling paper , Discussion, Future Work often merged with Discussion , and Conclusion. If you do not use the standard titles, e. Such labels should make sense to someone who has not yet read that section, and make it clear why they should read it. For instance, a section about adding a second eye to a simulation of single-eye vision could truthfully be called "Multiple eyes", but that title is meaningless to someone scanning the document.

Instead, it should be something like "Extending the model to explain stereo vision" whose meaning will be clear to the type of person likely to be reading the paper. Everything important goes in your introduction and conclusion Everyone who looks at your paper will at least skim the introduction and conclusion, and those who read it in depth will remember those two sections the best.

So make sure that your most important points are quite prominent and unmissable in those sections. Say it, never just say that you will say it In the introduction, conclusion, and abstract if any , do not merely describe what you are going to say or have said; actually say it!

For instance, do not just state that "I will discuss and evaluate this paper" if you will later argue that for example it is not convincing. Instead state that the paper is unconvincing, and in brief why you believe that to be the case.

Then you can elaborate on that point in subsequent paragraphs. Subsections If you have sections 1, 1. If you have 1. Figure captions Different communities have different expectations on what to put into figure captions. Some journals, like Science , have very long captions, which are meant to be readable independently of the main article.

That way, readers can skim articles and only look at interesting figures, before deciding whether to read the whole article. In such cases, you must ensure that all of the main points of the figure are also mentioned in the text of the article, so that someone reading the article straight through will not miss them. Other journals and other publications like books, theses, and proposals tend to have very little in the caption, with the figures being understandable only when reading the main text.

Even in such cases, I myself prefer to put all the graphical details like "the dotted line represents" in the caption, plus enough context so that the import of the figure is clear. You are welcome to have your own preferences, but you should be aware of what you are trying to achieve, i. Word-level issues Try hard to avoid ambiguous references Conversation is replete with ambiguous words like "this", "these", "his", "it", "they", etc.

These words have no meaning in themselves, but in conversation the meaning is usually clear from the context. In written text, however, the intended meaning is quite often not evident to the reader, because there are e. It is a good idea to read over anything you write, searching for this sort of word.

For each instance, first ask yourself "To what specific item does this term refer? For such a reference to make sense, the object, person, or concept must have been explicitly mentioned just prior to your reference. Often you will find that "it" or "they" refers to something vague that was not even discussed explicitly in your paper, in which case you should reword your text entirely. Even if the item to which you refer is explicitly mentioned in your paper, ask yourself whether there is any chance that the reader might not know to which of several items you might be referring.

If so then state the actual name of each; "he" would be ambiguous. Often an ambiguous "this" or "these" can be disambiguated by adding a noun that specifies precisely the type of object or concept to which you are referring. As well as this it is in the standard written form of the language. There are ten main features of academic writing that are often discussed.

Academic writing is to some extent: It uses language precisely and accurately. It is also well organised and planned. Written language is relatively more complex than spoken language.

Written language has longer words, it is lexically more dense and it has a more varied vocabulary. It uses more noun-based phrases than verb-based phrases.

Written texts are shorter and the language has more grammatical complexity, including more subordinate clauses and more passives. Academic writing is relatively formal. Brackets In formal academic writing, brackets are used for in-text referencing systems other than footnoting. In informal writing, brackets are often used to enclose non-essential information.

It is better to use a pair of commas and say what you mean. Many students had difficulties with using information correctly in their writing e. Many students had difficulties with using information correctly in their writing, for example, paraphrasing and summarising.

If you do use brackets, be careful that you use them correctly. Round brackets are usually first choice for enclosing non-essential information unless you are asked to follow another convention. Be careful with your use of spaces and punctuation rules if you choose to use bracketed information—really, it is simpler not to use them!

Dashes Dashes are used in a similar way to brackets. Most students use them incorrectly as the rules are complicated. Therefore, it is better to avoid using dashes in your formal writing unless you have a very good grasp of the rules. In dealing with plagiarism, lecturers warned the students that they should: In dealing with plagiarism, lecturers warned students that they should: There are some forms of writing e. Some subjects also allow bullet points in academic essays. Check with the lecturer and ensure that you use the appropriate format and punctuation for using bullet points in that discipline.

The tense of a verb indicates whether the time of an event is in the past, present or future. In academic writing, you should take care to check the tense consistency of verbs. Students often change verb tense by mistake. One minute they are writing in one tense, then you abruptly switch to another tense.

This makes your writing confusing and annoying. You will need to check for this when you are proofreading your work. Many students experience present tense difficulties with plagiarism until they were assisted past tense to understand some basic rules.

Many students experience present tense difficulties with plagiarism until they are assisted present tense to understand some basic rules. It is customary to write most academic papers in the present tense. You should report your own findings and those from research in present tense e. Jackson and Smith argue [present tense] that …. Be consistent in your use of tense throughout your paper. When you have finished your writing, check that the tense matches in the introduction, body and conclusion paragraphs of your essay.

If you are referring to future action, verbs such as will, shall, is going to, are about to, tomorrow and other adverbs of time will assist you to indicate future tense e. Exclamation marks have no place in formal academic writing. They speak volumes in personal writing e. However, in academic writing, you should say what you mean in words.

All students should have lessons in plagiarism avoidance from day one!!! Students may require assistance in plagiarism avoidance at the start of their first year to assist them to succeed in their university studies. Academic writing uses language to report, argue and critique. You must use statements at all times to do this. This means that you do not revert to using personal address such as questions and commands. Often students attempt to answer the question with a question or toss in a question to give the impression of putting in a point of view.

This point of view should be expressed as a statement. Sometimes writers try to invite the reader along. This is not surprising as many journalists use this technique to write much of our everyday reading matter e. Directly addressing your reader is not appropriate academic writing as you tend to use personal pronouns and issue commands rather than using statements. The first issue is to find ways to assist students to avoid plagiarising in their academic essays.

Many students become creative with fonts e. Comic Sans and font styles e. However, this is NOT required. These tools follow set conventions that must be adhered to. Fonts Use only those fonts recommended in your study guide. Readability is the key issue.


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Academic writing is relatively formal. In general this means that in an essay you should avoid colloquial words and expressions. Formality. Precision. In academic writing, facts and figures are given precisely. Precision. Objectivity. Written language is in general objective rather than personal.

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Academic writing style Key words: formal/informal, objective, discipline terminology, standard English, correct English, non-discriminatory language, colloquial language/slang For most academic essays, you are expected to use a formal writing style.

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Unlike fiction 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. Formal writing is often used for academic and business work To decide between an informal or formal writing style, consider your audience first Formal writing has a serious tone, facts, standard.

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Formal writing is used in academic and scientific settings whenever you want to convey your ideas to a wide audience, with many possible backgrounds and assumptions. Unlike casual conversation or emails to friends, formal writing needs to be clear, unambiguous, literal, and well structured. Writing for professional purposes is likely to require the formal style, although individual communications can use the informal style once you are familiar with the recipient. Note that emails tend to lend themselves to a less formal style than paper-based communications, but you should still avoid the use of "text talk".