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Professional tips for university academic writing

These are some of the Professional tips for university academic writing. Conventions, if you follow them, show that you belong. Whether it is dining etiquette, use of slang or emojis, or the way you dress, behaving according to expected conventions helps you blend in because others will find nothing amiss and consider you part of the in-group. In the context of writing research papers, observing the conventions means that journal editors, reviewers, and – eventually – your readers will focus on your message and will not be sidetracked or, worse still, will not be prejudiced against you even before assessing the substance of your contribution. This article is meant to introduce you to some of the conventions of academic writing, conventions that you should observe if you wish to come across as someone who is familiar with the genre and not a newbie.

Academic writing is formal. Just as you would not dress casually for a formal occasion, so you should avoid informal expressions in academic writing. Contractions, for example, are taboo; take the trouble to write cannot instead of can’t, it is instead of its, and because instead of ’cause. Avoid colloquial expressions: write people, not guys or folks; difficult, not tough or dicey; abandon, not ditch; and so on. Colloquial expressions date quickly; more important, they are not easily understood by people from different cultures or regions even if they all understand English, for instance. Remember that science is universal, and although English is the predominant language of science at present, when it comes to reading, or even writing, research papers, those whose first language is not English vastly outnumber native speakers of English.

Although idiomatic English comes naturally to native speakers, it can cause difficulties to those for whom English is not the first language; these readers also do not readily understand many idiomatic expressions, including phrasal verbs. It is therefore advisable to avoid such expressions in academic English. For example, he persisted is both shorter and clearer than he dug in his heels and she tried another approach is both formal and easier to understand than she tried another tack. Phrasal verbs refer to typically idiomatic combinations of a verb and a preposition, for example to figure out (to understand or to reason), to cut in (to interrupt), and to bring in (to introduce).

Academic writing is precise. Numbers and quantities matter in academic writing, and you cannot afford to be vague if you wish to be taken seriously. Whereas the more creative genres of writing – fiction or poetry, for example – demand no exactitude, science does. Research is all about measuring and counting: it was careful counting that enabled Mendel to deduce the laws of inheritance. Precision is particularly important in writing the methods and the results sections of your paper. For example, it is not enough to say that beakers were sterilized: How were they sterilized? By using dry heat, as in a hot-air oven? By moist heat, as in an autoclave? (If so, at what temperature and pressure?) By using chemicals? It is not enough to say that most of the patients were elderly; you need to mention the average age. Such details are crucial because reproducibility is important to science: novel results are strengthened and eventually become mainstream when many researchers obtain similar results from similar experiments—which are possible only when the experiments are described in sufficient and exact detail. Hope you have understood Professional tips for university academic writing, start applying them in academic writing in higher education.




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