As a student of Roanoke College, no matter what discipline you go into, you will write, write again, and then write some more. Unfortunately, because the academic writing genre has so many rules and restrictions it can be difficult to get comfortable with, even for the most experienced writer.

Have no fear though because the WC blog is here to help! Use this genre guide to help you learn the ropes of academic writing and give you some guidelines to follow. We have confidence that with the helpful tips listed here and some one-on-one advice from our lovely Consultants; you will be a college writing connoisseur in no time!

First of all, what is academic writing?

As defined by the University of Southern California, academic writing “refers to a particular style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and their areas of expertise.” So what does that mean? Well basically it just means that every academic discipline has certain guidelines that they use to express themselves. Each discipline’s style will vary but, fortunately, there are some overall guidelines that hold true across disciplines.

So what should I be aiming for in my own academic writing?

  • Logical Flow: In the papers that you are assigned, your professors want to be able to easily follow your argument. The want to see a clear thesis statement, or argument, that serves as the focus of your paper with body paragraphs that support that thesis. Anything you talk about in that paper needs to clearly relate back to supporting that thesis.
  • Evidence: If you’re going to make an argument, you need to be able to back it up with evidence. This is hands down one of the most important components of academic writing. Make sure you present sufficient evidence to show that readers that 1) you have actually researched the topic you are writing about, and 2) your argument is well thought out and can be supported.
  • Tone: Tone refers to the “attitude” of a piece and can be positive, negative, or neutral. In academic writing your tone should always be neutral. Even though you may be trying to support a specific side of an argument in academic writing, your argument needs to be supported by fact and not opinion. Therefore your tone should be balanced and you should avoid using biased or loaded language (University of Southern California).  You must present evidence plainly and without influencing the reader one way or another through your language.
  • Diction and Language: Always be aware of who your audience is, i.e. who is reading the paper, and stick to language that is comprehensible to them. If your audience is your professor or fellow classmates, then discipline specific jargon is appropriate to use. However, if your intended audience is individuals outside of your discipline, use plain language, defining any technical terms, and convey information in a way that is accessible to a wide range of people. Always be sure to consult with your professor to see who your intended audience is!
  • Citation: Whenever you use information from outside source that is not yourself, you must give credit to that source via citation. There are a variety of citation styles so be sure to check which one your discipline uses!

We hope that this guide will be a useful tool to help you get started with your own academic writing! Be on the lookout for future Genre and Quick Check guides on the WC blog! Happy Writing!


Work Cited:

“Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper: Academic Writing Style”. USC Libraries. University of Southern California, 2 Aug. 2016. Web. 8 Aug. 2016.