Academic writing is an essential part of a researcher’s life; some common examples of academic writing are dissertations, grant proposals, abstracts, and research articles. However, many early career researchers and researchers with English as a second language find themselves struggling with academic writing. Even some native English speakers find it difficult to transition from casual day-to-day writing styles to the more formal, precise, and nuanced writing style expected from students and researchers. In this article, we delve into the most common types and examples of academic writing and the various writing styles employed by researchers and academics.
What is academic writing and how is it different from general writing?
Academic writing is used by scholars and researchers communicate their ideas and findings in academic settings, such as universities and research institutions. It is meant to convey complex ideas and information in a clear, concise, and objective manner, using evidence-based arguments and referencing credible sources. Academic writing samples are characterized by the use of formal language, specialized vocabulary, precision, and strict adherence to specific guidelines, for example, guidelines for citations and referencing.
In contrast, general writing is more informal, the language is often colloquial, and it does not require the same level of precision and accuracy as academic writing. While general writing is common in emails, social media, and personal expression and everyday communication, academic writing is more focused on the presentation of factual information and objective analysis. Academic writing skills are learnt over a period of time through consistent effort and practice. Next, we look at the four common types and examples of academic writing that researchers need to deliver during their academic career.
Types and examples of academic writing
1. Research proposals: A common example of academic writing, research proposals outline a research project that a doctoral candidate or researcher intends to undertake. Since it is usually submitted to funding agencies or academic departments for approval, research proposals must demonstrate why a particular study is needed and highlight key aspects that can increase the chance of securing funds. Typically, research proposals provide a brief overview of the research question or hypothesis, describe the research methodology, and emphasize the intended results. This may also include a literature review and a discussion of the potential significance of the research. As with all other examples of academic writing, researchers must ensure that the research proposal aligns with the guidelines mentioned by universities and funding institutions.
2. Dissertations: A long-form research project, the dissertation is one of the most critical examples of academic writing that PhD students must complete as part of a doctoral program. Dissertations are original research conducted by PhD scholars based on primary or secondary sources and revised and polished based on inputs by faculty experts or doctoral supervisors. Dissertations can span several hundred pages, take several years to complete, and are often published in academic journals or as monographs. Like journal articles, this example of academic writing typically has an introduction, literature review, methodology, results, and discussion, and always follow defined guidelines.
3. Abstracts: Concise summaries of an academic article, book or research project, abstracts are an important example of academic writing. The purpose of an abstract is to provide the audience with a quick understanding of the work’s main ideas and findings, helping them decide whether it is worth going through. Since this short academic text example is usually one of the first glimpses of the book or article’s contents, researchers must spend sufficient time perfecting their abstracts. It is recommended that researchers be aware of the word limits and formats that a journal or an institution has laid down before working on an abstract.
4. Articles: Research articles written for publication in academic journals and publications are probably one of the most common examples of academic writing. Articles are used to communicate specific research findings, theories, and ideas to scholars and researchers around the world and are usually several thousand words long. They also typically follow stipulated formats (e.g., the IMRAD) and guidelines defined by the target publication, so it is critical to know and follow these stringent requirements to a tee. It’s recommended to get your work reviewed by experts, who’ve worked with similar academic writing examples, to ensure the language and structure meet the high standards required for publication.
Familiarize yourself with the different academic writing styles
Good academic writing can be challenging as it requires the right mix of descriptive, analytical, persuasive, and critical writing skills. In fact, for a serious researcher looking to get their articles published in top journals in their field, it is imperative to spend time reading and reviewing different samples of academic writing. Reading the above examples of academic writing, whether focused on general science or their field of research, will offer you valuable insights into how each different piece of academic text is structured and written for the intended audience and purpose. Each of the four academic writing styles has its own unique characteristics and applications.
Descriptive writing is often used in academic writing to help give readers a clear understanding of the research topic. This academic writing style is used to describe and explain different concepts, events, phenomenon, experiments, developments, people, and places, or to simply provide more information or facts about the research. Descriptive writing is often seen in the introductory sections of articles or in literature reviews, which summarize and synthesis existing knowledge on a research topic.
Analytical writing aims to break down complex concepts, events, or phenomenon into its constituent parts and analyze these in detail to identify patterns, relationships, and connections within the topic. The methodology and discussion sections are examples of academic writing where the analytical style is most common; authors must detail the methods used, interpret results in relation to existing knowledge, and corroborate whether the results complement or contradict the research topic.
Persuasive writing aims to convince the reader of the validity of the author’s argument or point of view. It is similar to analytical writing in that it tried to persuade readers to accept the researcher’s stand or argument by emphasizing the evidence and analysis conducted. This academic writing style is often used in the introduction and discussion sections, where authors need to highlight the significance of the research and its contribution to the field. Persuasive writing is also crucial in research proposals, an example of academic writing that helps authors convince funding agencies to support their research.
Critical writing involves the evaluation and analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of an argument or idea; it may result in more than one viewpoint or conclusion based on validated sources. Critical writing helps researchers defend their stand, by identifying biases, assumptions, and logical fallacies in the argument or idea. The most common examples of academic writing that use this style are the literature review and discussion/conclusion sections of a research paper, where authors critically assess existing content and then position their work effectively within the field of study.
In conclusion, every researcher must be aware of and practice these different examples of academic writing. Understanding these diverse academic writing styles and knowing how to tackle different types and samples of academic writing can help research authors tailor their writing effectively to make their work stand out and get noticed.