In this tutorial, the School of Advanced Studies access writing coach provides an overview of strategies for academic or scholarly writing.
You will learn 13 tips for improving your scholarly writing skills.
These tips represent important academic writing conventions for completing program coursework and your proposal and dissertation.
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- First, it is important to define scholarly writing.
Scholarly writing is an academic writing style and it’s quite different from other forms of writing that you encounter regularly like journalism, poetry, fiction, or nonfiction from books and other forms of writing.
The following are thirteen tips for developing your scholarly voice or for developing your academic writing skills.
And the following thirteen slides will outline each of these tips.
The first tip is to use third not first, second-, or first-person plural.
So, you want to avoid I, my, me, which is the first person.
Or, we, us, our, and ours which is first person plural, and you and your, which is second person.
And you can see examples here of what the first person is and how to convert that into the third person.
The second tip is to cite in the past tense.
So, the articles that you are reading have already been published so when you’re writing about them you want to cite them in the past tense, not in the present tense.
So, you can see in the first example incorrect present tense Smith 2009 states, but the correct way would be to say Smith 2009 stated because Smith published the article in 2009.
Tip number three is to avoid rhetorical questions.
Rhetorical questions are questions that nobody can answer.
So, writing a question in a paper like are leaders born or made is a rhetorical question because nobody is going to answer it.
So, your responsibility as an academic writer is to offer new knowledge, not to ask questions that nobody is available to respond to.
A fourth important tip is to use direct quotes sparingly.
Quoting is copying and pasting text from the internet, and it doesn’t represent the writer’s voice.
So writers who use excessive quotes either don’t understand what they’re reading, or they don’t feel confident in the way they write so they feel compelled to use other people’s writing.
So, it’s best to avoid using direct quotes and you want to ask yourself these two questions before you use direct quotes.
Are the author’s words so technical that I couldn’t put them into my own? Are the author’s words so unique and distinctive that I couldn’t put them into my own? Chances are you’re going to answer no to both of those questions and if you do, you want to put the author’s words into your own which is called paraphrasing, but you still want to cite your source to show where you got your ideas.
The fifth tip, replace pronouns with specific nouns.
For example, motivation is a critical leadership competency this is to inspire employees to contribute.
The word this is a very vague pronoun, we don’t know what the word this refers to.
So to make your pronouns clear you would say motivation is a critical leadership competency, leaders who can motivate others inspire them to contribute.
So you want to make your nouns and your pronoun references very clear.
And here are two more examples of how to do that.
The next tip is to use tentative, not absolute language.
The purpose of research is not to prove anything, it’s simply to report.
So, there are no absolute answers, perfect solutions, or guarantees in any kind of research.
So, an example of an absolute language that you want to avoid is the results prove that leadership is a learned skill.
A tentative way to say that would be the results suggest that leadership is a learned skill.
And here are two more examples of how you can turn absolute language into tentative language.
Tip number seven, avoid vague time references.
A vague time reference might be, that in the workplace today, employees communicate as much virtually as they do face to face.
Or nowadays, technology is very prevalent.
When is today, when is nowadays? If somebody were to read your paper tomorrow it wouldn’t be today anymore.
So, substitute vague time references with something more specific like, in the 21st-century workplace, employees communicate as much virtually as they do face to face.
And anthropomorphism is assigning human characteristics to an inanimate object.
For example, leadership theories that give employees input into decisions usually inspire them to contribute.
Leadership theories are inanimate objects, they can’t give employees input into anything.
So the way to fix that would be to say, leaders that give employees input into decisions usually inspire collaborative contributions and you’ll notice in the second example we take out the vague them, usually inspire them to contribute.
Who are they? And we replace that with usually inspired collaborative contributions and we know we’re referring to the leaders there.
But keep in mind that you should not assign human characteristics to inanimate objects.
Always use the author-date method of citation when you’re writing.
And here is an example of what not to do.
For example, Smith 2009 noted that emotional intelligence is a core leadership competency.
The article stated emotional intelligence is learned.
He went on to say you could see all these segways that are not APA compliant.
So the correct way to do that is to always ensure that you use the author-date method.
So, you can see in the correct example how all those vague segways are replaced with APA in-text citations.
Another thing that you want to avoid is saying the article stated, the author stated, research shows, again these are very vague references.
He, she, you do not want to refer to authors by gender, ever.
Number 10, create coherent thought patterns.
Coherence means that your writing is understandable.
Incoherence means the reader does not understand the message you are trying to communicate.
So, your writing is coherent when ideas are fully developed, so you develop your thought patterns, and each sentence connects logically to the one that follows.
There are several tricks of the trade to make your writing coherent.
The first trick of the trade is to choose the clearest and most precise language.
So choose words that are very precise that pinpoint what you want to say.
The second tip is to make sure that your paragraphs are at least five sentences long.
And each sentence must provide a supporting example or point to produce clarity.
So, in the incoherent paragraph, while it’s five or six sentences here, the language is not very precise, the words are not clear, and it leaves the reader with a lot of questions.
For example, in our society there are the haves and the have-nots, some do not have equal access to information.
The first question the reader might ask is what do the haves and the have-nots mean? Who do some refer to and what kind of information are we talking about here? But in the coherent paragraph, the writer says students in deprived areas often lack access to technology and other resources.
So, we know that some refer to students in deprived areas.
This may reflect the haves and have-nots, but it’s more precise to say students in deprived areas and the access to information is technology.
So, the coherent paragraph is much more precise, and the reader understands what the writer is trying to communicate.
Tip number 11, create unified thought patterns.
Writing is unified when all the sentences in a paragraph communicate one idea and each sentence relates back to the main topic.
So, in this paragraph, information literacy is the main topic, and all the sentences are about information literacy.
The sentence in red while it sounds good and it’s professionally written and it’s cited correctly in EPA, it’s not about information literacy.
It’s about transformational leaders.
So it doesn’t belong because it’s off-topic.
So the trick of the trade here is to make sure every sentence in your paragraphs is on topic and even if the sentence sounds good and it’s written if it’s not on the topic take it out.
Tip number 12, write in active, not passive voice.
Active voice means the subject of the sentence is performing an action directly.
So, in the active example, all employees understood the solution.
All employees actively understood the solution.
In the passive version, all employees understood the solution.
By all employees indicates passive.
So the tip is when you use the word by you are writing in a passive voice because the subject is not actively performing the action.
So the trick of the trade here is to begin each sentence with a subject, then a verb to ensure you are writing in active voice.
So when editing, look to ensure that each sentence begins with the subject followed by a verb.
Example number two, passive, time must be managed.
There’s no subject actively managing time so there’s the example and there is the clue right there that the sentence is in passive voice.
To make the sentence active, students must manage their time, you must add a subject.
So, a sentence with no subject is passive voice, so when you’re editing if you see sentences with no subject turn them into active voice by adding a subject.
And in this active example, the subject can be anything depending on the topic of the paper.
Students must manage their time.
Employees must manage their time.
Parents must manage their time.
Depending on the topic, add the appropriate subject.
Example number three is a little bit more complicated because it involves compound sentences.
And a compound sentence is two complete sentences joined by and or but.
Every day he goes to work, complete sentences, and tasks must be completed complete sentence.
But the tip here is when you have a compound sentence, both sentences on each side of the and or but must be in active voice.
So every day he goes to work, active, he works, he goes to work, subject, verb, and tasks must be completed there are no subject completing tasks, passive.
The active version is that every day he goes to work, and he must complete tasks.
So the trick of the trade here is to look on both sides of the and or but and make sure each sentence is in active voice.
Tip number 13, write clearly and concisely.
Writing clearly and concisely means avoiding slang, jargon, cliches, casual terms, and long complicated sentences.
Cliches are overused expressions like a diamond in the rough, bridging the gap, and expressions like that.
Casual terms are terms that lean more casual than formal and avoiding casual terms doesn’t mean using big or fancy words because that makes writing convoluted and wordy.
It just means leaning to the formal.
For example, math teachers must know how to handle kids that don’t get along with others.
Math teachers must manage children with interpersonal problems would be more casual, I mean more formal, not fancy, just more formal.
Also you want to make sure that you’re writing is short, concise, and uses the fewest words possible.
So this first paragraph, it’s long, it’s wordy, and probably confusing for the reader.
The second example is short, concise, and probably very clear to the reader.
So the tutorial presented for you 13 tips to improve your scholarly writing ability.
Write at least a 500-word response to the following:
Convey your progress and/or barriers that have had an impact on your academic progress. Be specific in your examples of progress and barriers.
Also, include in your reflection your comments on what you learned from watching the video.
Review your classmates’ posts and respond to at least one in a minimum of 150 words. Explain why you agree or disagree. Then, share an example from your professional experience to support your assertions.