Academic Writing: 5 Fundamental Principles

Among all things you’re going to learn throughout graduate school, there is a really important skill you didn’t hope to gain: proper writing. You’re not expected to become a novelist, but it’s certainly important for you to develop the skill of clear, convincing argumentation. According to EduGeeksClub’s guide to dissertation writing, most grad students have an impression that academic papers are completely irrelevant to their future careers. They are wrong. Writing skills are valuable not only for the completion of a thesis and dissertation project, but also for the overall career development upon graduation.

Do you know who gets a call for a job interview? The candidate with the best CV/resume and cover letter. You’ll need to showcase some writing skills as soon as you get out of grad school. Do you know who gets the best chances for career progress? The worker who writes great reports, research articles, evaluations, and other types of projects related to a particular position. Whatever career you choose, writing skills will make you better at it.

At this point, it’s important for you to focus on academic writing. A high-quality paper needs to be based on trustworthy resources, but it should also expose your own opinions. There are 5 fundamental principles you need to maintain when writing an academic paper. When you keep them in mind, the entire writing and research process will be much simpler.

1.    Clarity

Many students mistake complexity for being the most fundamental principle in academic writing. Yes, academic content is really complex because a single paper contains many layers and arguments. However, the aim for complexity should not take you in the wrong direction. Many students are using long, unusual words just because they make the content seem more eloquent. That’s a wrong strategy. The structure of the paper and the concept it elaborates may be complicated, but the language itself needs to be as clear as possible.

Try to use fewer passive verbs, participles, adjectives, and words you just looked up in the dictionary. If there are simple words that convey your arguments, then use them. Use Hemingway Editor – a nifty tool that shows where you got carried away. Try to get rid of long sequences of prepositional phrases, passives, and other structures that make the paper unreadable.

This is the main rule to remember: you don’t have to limit yourself to fewer words when you want to be clear; but you need to use the strongest ones.

2.    Specific examples

For example, let’s say that you’re trying to prove that a specific leadership skill (like the ability to motivate other people) influences the success of the overall organization. How are you going to prove that? You need specific statistics and examples from real-life situations, which make your arguments trustworthy.

An academic paper may contain abstract theoretical concepts, especially when the topic is related to philosophy or social sciences. However, you have to clarify those concepts through concrete examples that help a reader understand what you’re talking about. Examples work in every part of the paper, so make sure to use them when you want to attract the attention of the reader and clarify a particular concept.

3.    Objectiveness

Of course you have your own opinions and you want to stand strong behind them. You will emphasize your point of view and you’ll try to prove the thesis statement with strong arguments, but that doesn’t mean you can simply neglect the opposing side. When you’re working on a grad-level paper, you have to prove you’ve studied all sides of the issue and you understand the opposing arguments.

If, for example, you’re writing a paper on the health benefits of marijuana and you really want to prove its value for patients with various diseases, you also have to pay attention to the warnings and side effects. Don’t neglect the studies that showcase warning results; just make sure to explain why your arguments beat the ones on the opposing side.

4.    References

When you’re writing an academic paper, you have to be very precise with the information you use. After the research stage, you will have a pile of resources that can prove your arguments. It’s really important to use them in the right manner. For example, you can’t just say “many cancer patients have found relief in treatment with medical marijuana.” You need to give precise information: how many patients? What studies offer such proof? You will use such information in the paper, and you need to reference it. Google may trick you into using unreliable resources, so you have to be sure you’re getting the data from reliable websites before referencing any online source.

There are three major citation styles, which are usually requested in academic writing: APA, MLA, and Chicago. Make sure to understand the requirements of the style you implement, since each comma and capital letter makes a difference.

5.    Uniformity and logical flow

Consistency refers to two different aspects of the academic paper: the uniformity of your writing style and the logical flow of your arguments. For example, you cannot use both email and e-mail in your paper; you need to commit to one form. Your style should be consistent: if you’re expressing yourself through complex sentences in the introduction, it would be wise to maintain such writing throughout the entire paper.

An academic paper with a flawless logical flow leads the reader from the introduction to the very last sentence without causing any confusion. When you’re done with the first draft, you need to read and revise the paper to make sure there are no information gaps. Read it from the position of someone who doesn’t understand anything about the particular topic. Then, make sure that all arguments are consistent and related to the thesis statement. Don’t think twice before you get rid of repetitive or unnecessary sentences and paragraphs. Each piece of the puzzle has to be relevant to the main impression you want to achieve.

Do You Understand what a Great Academic Paper Is Made of? Now, Practice!

You can’t become a talented academic writer overnight. The principles of skilled writing are basic, so you understood them well when you read the descriptions above. However, you need to put them into practice! You’ll become a better writer if you keep working on your papers and you invest a lot of energy into every single stage of the process.

You don’t have a specific assignment to work on? Then, pick a topic you like and practice writing! The above-listed principles stand for academic writing of all types, so they will work if you’re dealing with an essay, thesis, dissertation, research paper, or any other type of content. Once you get them right, you’ll be ready to deal with any writing challenge that gets in your way.