3. What is academic writing?
Scholarly style of expression
-Formal tone – no slang
-Usually uses third person (not “I”)
-Focused argument and presentation of
information – no “waffle”
-Precise word choice
Writing that talks to the intellect, rather than
appealing to emotions
4. Academic writing is not “better” or more
“correct” than other styles of writing
but it is what is required in the university space
-Terms, rules and values to learn
-Need to develop the skills and be able to
“jump through the hoops”
5. Harry Potter and the
Harry struggles to write his PHI5000
7. So what makes good academic
1. More than a topic...
You need an approach to the topic.
Are you trying to:
- answer a specific question?
- argue for something?
- compare something – theories, data?
...etc – you could be doing more than one.
Make sure you understand what you are trying to
8. 2. Clear structure and direction
Work out what you want to do in your essay /
chapter– and explain this to your reader up front.
Introduction is key
• Overview / background to the issue
• Specific topic / question
• Your argument (thesis statement)
• Roadmap: what you will be doing to answer
your question / develop your argument.
9. 3. Provide credible evidence for your claims
What counts as evidence in academia?
• Research reported in academic journals / books /
• Government data and statistics, e.g. census data
• Independently produced data, e.g. Large-scale
surveys, United Nations data
NOT: individual opinions (e.g. blogs), common
sense, personal experience
10. …and engage respectfully but intelligently
with your sources
• Acknowledge through correct citation.
• Avoid “straw man” approach.
• Be polite about opposing views.
• Be aware that you don’t have the final answer.
• Use hedging where appropriate.
• Critically weigh up others’ arguments /
• Think independently.
• Develop your own voice.
11. “South Africa has very high levels of violent
crime compared to other countries.”
“South Africans are a sport-loving nation.”
“Getting adolescents involved in sports after
school helps to keep them away from
How do you know this?
What sort of evidence would be relevant here?
12. 4. Tell a coherent story
Work out your overall structure:
• What are your key ideas / pieces of
• How are they connected to each other?
• How should you move from one to the next
one, so that you tell a logical story?
18. One idea per paragraph
Paragraph structure: topic sentence, elaboration,
evidence / examples
or (my personal favourite) PEE: Point, Evidence, Explain
Links between paragraphs
Cohesive writing “hangs together” by showing the
connections / relationships between ideas.
Mechanics of academic writing: