In tutorials students often tell me that they are not confident regarding their writing skills and they ask me how to make writing more academic. Every University, every faculty and even departments will have their own philosophy relating to writing, so these guidelines must be adhered to. However, I personally think that students’ attempts to make writing more academic often result in less structured and weaker essays.
In students’ views one way to make writing more academic is by introducing long sentences. We all seem to think that the length of sentences implies more knowledge and more depth. In reality, though, the long sentences make reading more difficult and arguments less accessible. Shorter sentences on the other hand demonstrate that you are able to communicate difficult concepts in an accessible way. You should consider the audience of your writing, too, and ultimately more accessible journals and publications will reach a wider range of readers than those with overcomplicated sentences.
Choice of words:
At University level you are expected to know and apply key terms for your field of study. So therefore you will use words that may not be commonly used within everyday conversations or communications. This in itself helps to make writing more academic. However, using obscure synonyms instead of simpler words does not help to make writing more academic, it merely makes reading more difficult.
Depth and breadth of arguments:
Another important way to make writing more academic is to ensure that your argumentation is appropriate. Superficial statements and unsubstantiated generalisations do not demonstrate that you have genuinely worked with and reflected on the sources you use. In order to make writing more academic you need to add depth to your arguments, consider viewpoints that differ to your own and demonstrate that your ability to justify your views. Depending on the tasks you are given, you will need to use a wide range of sources to add breadth to your argument, but ultimately the deeper engagements and critical considerations make writing more academic.
Practise makes perfect:
Finally, my advice to my students is to keep writing. Practising writing in itself helps make writing more academic, especially if you try to rephrase and explain difficult concepts in such a way that the general public would be able to understand them. Reflective journals are therefore very helpful, and editing and proofing can also be practised in this way. Generally though, unless you practise the skills needed you will find it difficult to make writing more academic.