What is Academic Writing? - Definition & Examples

What is Academic Writing? - Definition & Examples
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  • 0:01 What Is Academic Writing?
  • 0:56 Method
  • 2:43 Example
  • 5:38 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Vineski
In this lesson, you'll learn what academic writing is and how to write an academic essay. You'll get to take a look at an example, and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

What Is Academic Writing?

Imagine someone starting a conversation about sports with questions like, 'So, what do you think Tiger Woods will wear in his next golf match?' or 'Which Raider do you think is the best father?' Sports fans know that sports is not a matter of wardrobe or good parenting; it's about plays, scores, contracts, winners and losers. This person is not asking the 'right' questions because he or she has not understood the terms, values and rules of sports talk.

Likewise, there are terms, values and rules that you must know, accept and use in order to actively participate in the conversations, or discourse, of the academic community. Academic writing is the process of breaking down ideas and using deductive reasoning, formal voice and third person point-of-view. It is about what you think and what evidence has contributed to that thinking.

Method

How do you write academically?

  • Start by introducing your topic. Try using a series of questions about the topic, using startling or unusual facts or figures, defining an important, subject-related term or quoting a well-known expert on your topic or a literary work.
  • State your main idea clearly. This is your thesis statement. It contains the focus of your essay and tells your reader what the essay is going to be about. The thesis statement is usually located at the end of your introduction.
  • State the main idea of each paragraph. These are the topic sentences. They contain the focus of your paragraphs and tell your reader what each paragraph is going to be about. Topic sentences are usually located at the beginning of each paragraph. Each paragraph should flow smoothly from one to the next (e.g. the first sentence in each new paragraph should serve as a link to the paragraph before it).
  • Use supporting examples and details to make complicated ideas easier to understand. Do not assume that your reader will understand what you are trying to say.
  • Use third person point-of-view (e.g. he, she, it and they). No first and second person points-of-view (e.g. I, you, we) are used in academic writing.
  • Use formal voice. This means no slang, colloquialism (common expressions of ordinary speech), contractions, etc.
  • End by restating your main idea, or summarizing important points, and then drawing a final conclusion for your reader.
  • Proofread your work, making any necessary corrections to sentence structure, punctuation, spelling and grammar. Use a dictionary and a writer's guide if you are unsure about the rules.

Example

Let's take a look at a very short example. Watch for the important elements in each section. We'll begin with the introduction:

'Alone one is never lonely,' says the poet and author May Sarton in praise of living alone. Most people, however, are terrified of living alone. They are used to living with others - children with parents, roommates with roommates, friends with friends, husbands with wives. When the statistics catch up with them, therefore, they are rarely prepared. Chances are high that most adult men and women will need to know how to live alone, briefly or longer, at some time in their lives.

Note how the writer has introduced the topic with a quote by a well-known poet. This writer might also have used a series of questions, startling or unusual facts or figures, a definition of the subject or a quote by an expert. Her thesis statement, 'Chances are high that most adult men and women will need to know how to live alone, briefly or longer, at some time in their lives' contains the focus of her essay and tells the readers what the essay will be about.

Next, let's look at the body paragraph:

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