Producing a good piece of writing from scratch, be it a college essay or a professional report, is a crucial skill to have. It’s equally valuable in academia and the business environment. Surveys of companies show that writing is among the skills that many job applicants lack. But it’s important to understand that there are huge differences between composing academic papers and other types of writing. Quality academic papers are formal, objective, easy to follow despite being complex, and most importantly, well-researched. So, check out our list of the distinctive features of academic writing.
1. Formal Language
The number one difference between academic papers and, say, a Facebook post is the use of formal language. A rare professor tolerates a friendly tone in an academic essay.
Here are some of the key rules of formal language:
- No contractions (‘isn’t,’ ‘I’ll’)
- No slang (‘‘stuff,’ ‘okay’)
- No first-person pronouns (‘I,’ ‘we’)
- No phrasal verbs (‘call off,’ ‘give up’)
To be on the safe side, look at free samples online or purchase custom-written papers from CustomWritings – academic writing service or any other professional essay writing service. But be sure to check reviews before you order anything personalized on the web.
Even expert writers often struggle with this one. Some assignments do require students to speak about themselves. If that’s the case, there’s nothing wrong with subjectivity. However, most academic papers are supposed to be objective. Unless you have to write an argumentative paper, try not to sound too assertive. Sure, it’s a good thing to project confidence, but there is a line. You don’t want to misrepresent the topic just because you have a strong opinion on it.
3. Reliable Sources of Evidence
It’s fine to quote Wikipedia in a friendly conversation, but never in academic writing. You may use blogs, general knowledge encyclopedias (like Britannica), and other questionable online sources for initial research. But only scholarly articles, reliable news media, and books should make it to your bibliography. It would be a pity to fail just because you trusted a website filled up by people who know little about the subject.
If you don’t know where to look for reliable sources, these are some excellent places to start:
- Google Scholar
Also, if you aren’t sure about a particular source, it is always a good idea to ask your professor for assistance.
Another huge difference between a blog post (or any other piece of informal writing) and an academic paper is that the latter must be well-structured. It’s unacceptable just to put all of your ideas in one enormous paragraph. Almost every assignment written in college has the same structure: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Stick to it unless the instructions clearly suggest otherwise.
5. Citation Style
Every academic paper has to follow one of the common citation styles.
In the USA and UK, most universities ask students to use the following:
- The Harvard System
- The Chicago System
There are other, less popular citation styles (like MHRA or IEEE). Which one to use depends not only on the college but also on the discipline. For example, MLA is more common in the humanities, while science courses normally require students to use APA. Luckily, many online services offer manuals for all of them. You can even buy a paper version, but those aren’t cheap.
6. Clear Position
While objectivity is vital, the reader should be able to understand what opinion the writer has on the subject. For example, if you think that the book you are writing a review on is unnecessarily long or lacks argumentation, say so. The professor will appreciate your original take as long as you back it up with evidence. The best way to find out if your paper communicates a clear position is to ask a friend for help. If they can instantly understand what your opinion is, you are good.
7. Tentative Language
Still, top writers know that it’s always better to use tentative language when presenting an argument.
Just compare these two sentences:
- Regular exercise lowers the risk of depression.
- Research shows that regular exercise lowers the risk of depression.
The second one sounds more professional and informed. It’s clear that you aren’t making an empty statement, and your position is evidence-based. Don’t forget to reference the source, though.
Writers who value quality never allow vagueness into their texts. Phrases like “a lot of people” or “some author” show that you haven’t spent enough time looking for evidence. Obviously, there’s no need to include in-text citations in every sentence. But make sure that your essays don’t leave the reader guessing, “Who exactly?” and “So, how many?” Remember that an academic assignment is not a piece of fiction. The same is true for business writing. Your future customer will appreciate it.
9. Transition Words and Phrases
Nothing makes reading more difficult than the lack of transitions. Professional papers have to flow well. To make sure that yours do, never neglect transitional words and phrases. They are necessary both between paragraphs and sentences. Otherwise, the reader will struggle to keep up with your ideas.
Transitions vary by their purpose:
- Sequence (‘moreover,’ ‘also,’ ‘first’)
- Cause and effect (‘therefore,’ ‘hence,’ ‘consequently’)
- Comparison and contrast (‘in contract,’ ‘on the contrary,’ ‘similarly’)
- Example (‘for instance,’ ‘for example,’ ‘to illustrate’)
A helpful tip: find a full list of transitions online (or make your own custom one), print it out, and let it keep you company during writing.
10. Exceptional Grammar
Finally, any piece of academic writing must always be 100% grammatically correct. Mistakes are distracting and spoil the reader’s impression of your text, no matter how smart and well-researched. So, the rule of thumb is to triple-proofread. Also, there are tons of English grammar-checking services online.
In Place of Conclusion
Please don’t be intimidated. Yes, academic writing is not an easy thing to master. But thanks to the dozens of assignments you’ll have to complete during the first year of college, you’ll soon turn into a pro. Just remember that practice makes perfect. The more you write (with these great ten tips in mind), the better you get. It is also helpful to enlist the assistance of the Writing Center at your college.