Academic writing is a special style of writing that includes a formal tone, strict focus on the research problem throughout the paper, use of the third-person and attentive word choice.
Talking about academic writing in the sphere of social sciences, it is necessary to mention that all research papers within this sphere should by written with great detail to the following 8 stylistic elements:
I. The Big Picture. Remember that it is not journalistic writing or fiction where you can keep the structure of the text flexible. In academic writing, you need to follow logical and formal style. There should be a logic and easy flow of ideas, where all separate parts are connected in a cohesive and unified form. All sources should be cited properly and all paragraphs and sentences should be linked with one central idea that can be felt throughout the whole paper. The description of how the paper is organized should be included in the introductory part.
II. The Tone. The attitude that you are trying to convey in your paper should be united by one tone. Keep the narrative tone when presenting the arguments of others and make sure that you are presenting these arguments fairly. If you are describing an argument that you strongly disagree with, do not use biased language and try to present it objectively. When explaining the strength of your arguments, be consistent and use language that it not dismissive or confrontational, but neutral and convincing.
III. Diction. The third stylistic element refers to the choice of words. This one is very important because some words can have same dictionary definitions, but different meanings. Therefore, it is crucial to use words, which convey a very specific meaning that you understand and want to use in this particular situation. If it is difficult to achieve clarity with the usage of certain words, then you should explain them with additional sentences.
IV. The Language. In addition to the correct usage of words, you should also strive to use correct language. Clear topic sentences combined with smartly structured paragraphs will enable your audience to read your paper easily, without losing the sense of meaning that you are trying to convey. Use formal and concise language that has no room for multiple interpretations. Do not use vague impressions like “we,” “in other words,” “is not,” “do not,” etc.
V. Academic Conventions. Citing sources and having a list of references is a crucial part of writing academic papers. Acknowledging the source of the quoted text, research findings, data or any ideas that are not yours is an important measure to defend yourself against plagiarism. On the other hand, the necessity to cite sources is also useful for the readers, because they can easily find a book, article or research paper that they get interested in.
VI. Arguments Based on Solid Evidence. Academic writing requires you to express your opinion on the researched subject. However, if your opinions are not reinforced by the actual body of knowledge and relevant researches and findings, your paper will be of little value. Such is the peculiarity of academic writing – you need to reinforce your own ideas with solid and relevant pieces of evidence. The validity and strength of your opinion should be supported with coherent, logically structured and well-documented pieces of writing. This is especially crucial when recommending courses of actions and proposing solutions to the researched problems.
VII. Thesis-Driven. Thesis-driven means that all of your writing, including all paragraphs and sentences in your paper, should be created through the lens of a starting point, which is a particular idea, called “thesis statement” and mentioned in the introductory part of your essay. If you describe a topic without a central research question, that simply is not academic writing.
VIII. Higher-Order Thinking and Complexity. One of the noble goals, which academic writing pursues, is describing complex ideas with simple and easy-to-understand language. You should learn to put difficult ideas in understandable terms and that is possible only when you have this understanding yourself.
There are also three things that you should avoid when writing a research paper in social sciences:
- Using specialized terminology excessively and inappropriately. Do not use specialized terminology to look extra smart, because your readers may think that your paper is written for the sake of style, not substance. You should use specialized terminology only when it is absolutely relevant and necessary.
- Bullet points and numbered lists. These should be used only if the urge for the clarity arises. In all other cases, it is better to analyze items in separate paragraphs, without using lists.
- Personal experiences.You can use it only as an example, because academic writing is based on the evidence-based research, rather than on the personal experience.