Academic Writing

Reminder:  This class satisfies the Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR). Some important considerations as you write your literature review and research paper:

 General Academic Writing Tips

Four Types of Academic Writing

Descriptive – presents or states material as it is.  A summary or report describing results of an experiment utilizes descriptive writing.  Assignment instructions that call for descriptive writing include identification, definition, and summarize.

Analytical – incorporates elements of descriptive writing by arranging the information into different types, categories, parts, groups, or relationships.  Assignment instructions include analyzing, contrasting, comparing, examining, and relating concepts and theories.  Examples:  Defining advantages and disadvantages, differences and similarities.

Persuasive – Integrates all elements of analytical writing and includes the writers’ views.  This writing type is normally part of the discussion and/or conclusion section and is accomplished through arguments, evaluations, interpretations, recommendations, and findings.  Assignment instructions will include arguments, evaluations, discussions, and viewpoints.  (note: does not involve  “I” statements).

Critical – Uses all the elements of persuasive writing.  This style of writing requires a minimum of two viewpoints in addition to that of the writer.  A literature review is a good example of critical writing.  Assignment instructions will call for debating, disagreeing, critiquing, and evaluating.  Good understanding of the material and strong writing skills are key for this writing type.

General Tips from Your Instructor:

  • The number one and most important tip for successful academic writing is: Read and follow assignment instructions carefully.
  • Academic writing involves conveying ideas with evidence and a clearly-crafted and supported argument. Beware of sweeping generalizations without scholarly citations to back up your ideas. Opinion can come in the concluding section of the research paper as you explore what your dive into the information behaviors of your community has taught you and how information services might respond.
  • Academic writing is more formal than blogging and other forms of written expression. Write out contractions (didn’t = did not), avoid informal language, avoid overusing jargon, and do not use a conversational tone. Phrases such as “It is…” or “It has..” should be spelled out. This also avoids any confusion with the use of it’s or its.  This should be polished, concise and clear.
  • Be mindful of using qualifiers such as “great” as in “This is a great article…” My response would be “says who?” A better turn of phrase might be “This article is useful for understanding….” or “The article provides key insights from the study regarding…” or similar.
  • Scholars argue, write, find, discuss, note, etc, in their studies and monographs.  If you are writing about an article, book, study, etc, use phrases such as “Dervin argues that….” or “In the article, Bates writes that information seeking…”or “Kuhlthau finds…” instead of using the verb “talks” (as in “In the article, Stephens talks about a professional development program…”). Other verbs could be: claims, contends, concurs, examines, observes, agrees, concludes, illustrates.
  •  Importance of paragraphs: Academic composition is an advanced type of scholarly discussion, so be sure to consider the importance of paragraphs, and what they do in student papers. The paragraph is a significant tool that allows you to direct the discussion, illustrate the evidence of your research, and flex your critical thinking skills for the audience. As you grow in your compositional skills, you can become more sophisticated in how you organize and develop the elements of a paragraph. For practice in paragraph writing: Notice in scholarly articles, how scholars set up their claims in their paragraphs, how they integrate the evidence, and how they synthesize their ideas with thoughtful discussion.
  • Transitions: APA (2020) advises: “To improve continuity and flow in your writing, check transitions between sentences, paragraphs, and ideas to ensure that the text is smooth and clear rather than abrupt or disjointed” (p. 32, 2.2 Transitions).
  • Sub-headings are useful for guiding the reader through a well-planned outline. Use them in the Literature Review section and Discussion section of the research paper. For example, your discussion might include sub headings that identify your major points from the literature review section and what you learned exploring community-based resources.
  • Avoid including article titles in your text, instead use the APA standard: Last name of author and year published in parentheses. “Stephens (2016) finds that students using blogs….”
  • Academic writing is balanced and uses evidence (studies, peer-reviewed articles, scholarly monographs) to support ideas and concepts. Avoid sweeping generalizations or sharing opinions with our evidence to back the statements up.
  • Use bias-free language. APA 7 has renewed these principles in Bias Free Language Guidelines (Chapter 3 in the manual), which address ways to be sensitive and reduce bias in the language that you use in your papers. Take note of new language guidelines, including age, disability, gender, identity, and orientation.
  • Be mindful of grammar errors and typos. Proof your work closely. Ask a colleague or friend to proof as well.

Action Item: Download Dr. Linda Schamber’s TipsForCoursework – Dr. Schamber was one of my professors at the University of North Texas.

For More help:

SJSU iSchool Writing Support

SJSU Writing Resources for Students

Purdue’s OWL: APA 7 Formatting


American Psychological Association. (2020). Concise guide to APA style (7th ed.).

Selinger, K. (2018). Academic writing:  mastering the fundamentals of academic writing to deliver outstanding essays, dissertations, and papers and to stand out of the crowd. New York, NY: Beryl Assets LLC.