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Features of academic writing


Features of academic writing Alicia Cresswell Writing Development Centre Good academic writing is: explicit clear concise formal in language and style precise in ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Features of academic writing

Features of academic writing
  • Alicia Cresswell
  • Writing Development Centre

Good academic writing is
  • explicit
  • clear
  • concise
  • formal in language and style
  • precise in expression and choice of words

Explicitness and flow
  • Good writers anticipate their readers
  • To achieve this
  • Present general information first (General ?
    Specific text structure)
  • Present known information first (Given ? New
    information structure)
  • Use signposts to guide the reader through
    sections of the work and to link sentences and

Explicitness and flow General?Specific structure
  • Low density-lipoprotein subclasses in children
    under 10 years of age
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles are
    heterogeneous, with many subgroups identifiable
    on the basis of density, size and chemical
    composition. Distinct subclasses of LDL have been
    delineated by density as determined by
    ultracentrifugation, and by size based on
    non-denaturing polyacrylamide gradient gel
    electrophoresis. At least two systems of
    classification are in use (i) a numerical one
    based on density, ranging from 1 (large) to 7
    (very small) and (ii) a dichotomous system based
    on mobility on electrophoresis, which divides LDL
    into two classes, small dense (pattern B), and
    large buoyant (pattern A). Gel electrophoresis
    allows subclass determination on small amounts of
    blood, and is more widely used than

Explicitness and flow Signposting
  • Can you make this text more explicit and improve
  • Lasers have found widespread application in
    medicine. Lasers play an important role in the
    treatment of eye disease and the prevention of
    blindness. The eye is ideally suited for laser
    surgery. Most of the eye tissue is transparent.
    The frequency and focus of the laser beam can be
    adjusted according to the absorption of the
    tissue. The beam cuts inside the eye with
    minimal damage to the surrounding tissue even
    the tissue between the laser and the incision.
    Lasers are effective in treating some causes of
    blindness. Other treatments are not. The
    interaction between laser light and eye tissue is
    not fully understood.
  • Swales and Feak (2004) Academic Writing for
    Graduate Students 2nd edition. Ann Arbor
    University of Michigan Press

  • Avoid excessively long sentences
  • Ensure clear pronoun reference
  • Avoid using too many words for one concept
  • Make sure each verb agrees with its subject in

Clarity Avoiding long sentences
  • How would you reduce the length of this sentence?
  • HT was once the most commonly used drug among US
    women, with prescriptions peaking at 92
    million/year in late 1999 or early 2000, after
    which growth in prescription rates flattened,
    presumably due to the release of null results
    from the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement
    Study (HERS) in 1998, discouraging preliminary
    reports from the WHI, and restrictive guidelines
    for HT use disseminated by the American Heart
    Association 12, 27-29.
  • Hausauer, A.K. et al. (2007) Recent breast
    cancer trends among Asian/Pacific Islander,
    Hispanic and African-American women in the US
    changes by tumor subtype. Breast Cancer Research
    9 R90 (as it appeared upon acceptance, i.e.
    prior to copyediting for publication).

Clarity Ensuring clear pronoun reference
  • How can you make these sentences clearer?
  • Two general practitioners examined the patients.
    Then, they completed a questionnaire.
  • According to a recent survey, 26 of all
    American adults, down from 38 30 years ago, now
    smoke. This can be partly attributed to the
    mounting evidence linking smoking and fatal
    diseases such as cancer.

Clarity Word choice
  • Avoid using too many terms for one concept (e.g.
  • Stick to 1 or 2 terms and use pronominal

Clarity Ensuring that each verb agrees with its
  • Choose the correct verb in each sentence
  • Each of the participants was/were given a
  • Two-thirds of the patients is/are expected to
    respond well to the new treatment.
  • Neither of these methods appears/appear to be
  • None of the results is/are conclusive.

  • If I had had more time, I would have written a
    shorter letter
  • When revising your work, check for repetition
  • Avoid wordiness
  • Use reduced relative clauses where possible

Conciseness Avoiding wordiness
  • Can you make this extract more concise?
  • It has been claimed (Jeeves, 2005) that this
    drug has a number of potentially serious side
    effects which have been known to researchers
    since the initial trials, but nothing has been
    done to restrict its use or at least monitor the
    severity of the said side effects.

Conciseness Reduced relative clauses
  • Make these sentences more concise by reducing the
    relative clause in each
  • In dentistry, enamel is a hard, white inorganic
    material that is on the crown of the tooth.
  • A collagen is a white, inelastic protein that is
    formed and maintained by fibroblasts.
  • An antigen is a substance which causes the
    formation of antibodies, the bodys natural
    response to foreign substances.

Formal language and style
  • You should avoid using
  • Colloquial words and phrases
  • Contracted forms of auxiliary verbs
  • Negative verb forms
  • But you should keep your text clear and concise,
  • Keep the passive voice to a minimum
  • Avoid excessively long sentences
  • Avoid wordiness

Formal academic writing Choice of words and
  • Think of a suitable alternative for these
    colloquial words and phrases
  • Scientists are looking into innovative ways to
    combat AIDS.
  • The purpose of this paper is to figure out the
    causes of the growing increase in type 2
  • Rice and aquatic products make up a major part
    of the diet of the people in the Mekong Delta,

Formal academic writing Auxiliary verbs
  • The contracted form is not used
  • ?cant ?cannot
  • ?isnt ?is not
  • ?shouldnt ?should not
  • ?wont ?will not

Formal academic writing Use of not
  • Where possible, rephrase a sentence to avoid
    using not. How would you paraphrase the
    following sentences
  • The plan did not work.
  • A cure was not possible.

Formal academic writing Avoiding vague language
  • Replace the following with a more precise word
    or phrase
  • We got encouraging results.
  • The problem is getting bigger and bigger.
  • There has been a lot of interest in this new
  • He is the recipient of lots of awards.

Online resources
  • Writing Development Centre Online Resources
  • http//www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc/learning/
  • Academic Phrasebank
  • http//www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/

One-to-one support
  • Book online at http//www.ncl.ac.uk/students/wdc/s
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