Tips And Methods For Getting Academic Writing Right

Have you seen any Stanley Kubrick classics? What is it that made him one of the world’s premier directors in his time? Have you seen a single movie of his in which there is a fun manner in the story narration? Have you seen the slightest casualness in the manner in which he makes his actors perform? Or, has the flow of the plot been remotely jovial in any of his movies? No way.

I would like to believe that had Kubrick chosen an alternative profession, he would have made an excellent academic writer. This should give you an idea of what you should carry if you chose to become an academic writer. This brings me to the central point of my blog. All the qualities I have described of Kubrick are just made to order for academic writing!

His movies are known for the painstaking depth to which he plays out his understanding of the mind of his characters, the obsession with the detail to which he creates the scenes, the meticulousness of how the plot moves, and the excruciating detail of its development, sometimes even to the point of causing the audience to yawn.

In this blog, I will dissect academic writing. This paper is for those who want to get deep into this highly interesting subject. In the course of this discussion, I will be traversing this path:


What Is Academic Writing?

The basis to understanding academic writing can be had from its name: it is academic in nature, which means that it is nonfiction, serious and in-depth. Evidence, borne out of research, is the fulcrum of academic writing, which is where it differs from other kinds of writing like feature writing, blog writing, or fiction writing. It is meant for academic consumption, which makes it highly focused in its orientation. There is little scope for humor and rambling in this kind of writing.

It takes a highly disciplined, detail-oriented mind to do academic writing. The more detail and depth you can capture into your writing, the more effective you make your academic writing. Remember what I said about Stanley Kubrick?  It is much the same way.

Objectives Of Writing A Research Paper


In this section, I will deal with the objectives of a research paper, or why research papers are written. The main purpose of writing academic papers is to give a detailed and insightful information into the topic on which it is written. In this sense, it goes much beyond a blog or a casual article. It is not the same as a feature piece, too. Any of these can be insightful, too, but academic writing is specially so.

While all these types of writing mentioned here can bring in the writer’s creative ways of writing, academic writing mainly requires depth of understanding of the topic. It involves a clearly laid out structure and formal expression of the topic. A blog writer can write from a personal experience point of view. If you have read a travel blog, for instance, you will notice how the personal experience angle comes in. If you were to write an academic article about the same topic, you would research the place, write its origin or its historical importance in detail, and explain what value the visitor to the place gains by being there.

In other words, the objective of an academic/research paper is to inform with utmost depth and clarity, and to offer insights into the topic for the reader. This should leave the reader with a higher level of understanding of the topic than what she had before she read the piece. Of course, articles and blogs too, can be informative, but an academic piece differs in one crucial area; the depth and clarity.

Structure Of The Research Paper


As in the case of most other types of writing, an academic piece also has an introduction, body and conclusion. However, it is in what goes into these that academic writing differs from other kinds of writing. This is how an academic paper is usually structured:

Introduction: States the nature and purpose of the paper. It sets out the outline, i.e., how the paper is going to be written, what it is going to contain, the reason for which this research is being carried out, and what the piece seeks to show. This is another area in which academic papers vary from the other kinds of writing. You may keep the core of the work towards the end if you are writing a novel or a blog, but here, you state the findings (or what you will prove to the audience) right at the beginning.

Let us say, you are researching the common factors behind the various ethnic conflicts taking place in the world. You would state the nature of these conflicts, how these have unfolded, the historical context of these conflicts, and also the finding, or what your paper seeks to establish, all of each in the introduction itself.

The introduction will not explain all these, but will state all these in ways such as:

  • A historical background to ethnic conflicts: Why ethnic conflicts have been happening;
  • An explanation of all the ethnic conflicts around the world: A description of selected ethnic conflicts:
  • Commonalities between the various ethnic conflicts: The common thread that runs through the many ethnic conflicts around the world;

Findings: One of the major components of an academic research paper; findings are essentially what the writer seeks to show the audience. To take the example above, the description in the paper could be about the preconditions or historic situations in which ethnic conflicts have evolved. It will seek to present how different ethnic conflicts have been fueled by factors that are particular to the country or region.

Conclusion: As opposed to a regular blog or article’s ending, at which the writer could be posing a question to her readers as to whether they liked the ideas expressed in it; a research paper reinforces the thesis question and uses this section to prove or justify or vindicate the thesis statement.

Thesis Statement/Problem Statement


This is an elucidation of the central theme or idea which the academic piece seeks to convey. This statement is an iteration of the core idea of the paper. In other words, it is a summary or encapsulation of all that the paper seeks to explain. You could think of this as an extended subject line.

To go back to the given example of ethnic conflicts, the thesis statement could be something like: “Disputes between the natives and settlers are the root of all ethnic conflicts in history”. As can be seen, this gives a clear idea of what to expect in the paper. From this thesis/problem statement, the reader gets an idea of what the paper is going to be about.

From this statement, it is clear that a research paper on this topic will cover:

  • Native settler conflicts around the world have been on ethnic lines
  • Ethnicity of the warring groups is an indispensable feature of ethnic conflicts
  • There would have been no ethnic conflicts but for differing ethnicity between the native and the settler.

Literature Review

This is another prime section of a research paper. It is one in which the writer makes a description of all the sources she has taken for researching this paper. It gives an introduction to each of the works referenced; it also explains why each of these has been chosen for this paper, and what each of these has contributed to the final paper.

Findings/Results

This section of a research paper lists the results of the paper. Again, to go back to the subject given above, an academic paper could have findings pertaining to the various aspects of ethnic conflicts in alignment with the problem statement. The paper should be written in a manner that shows consistency between the problem statement and the findings. The findings corroborate the thesis statement throughout, and in this section, summarizes them.

How To Write Summary/Conclusion


One of the researcher’s writing skills is in how she is able to convince her audience about the essence of the entire paper in a few words. It is in the conclusion section that this is done. In a nutshell, the research paper summary should capture the heart of the paper in consonance with the problem statement and findings.

Academic research can bring in different angles to a topic. These, of course, should relate to the main point, just like the way a movie is narrated. In this instance, it could bring out the various differing sub-components of ethnic conflicts around the world and draw parallels between them, or explain divergences between them, but should draw a connection between these and the main theme of the paper.

Citations/Bibliography

One of the core parts of an academic paper, citations are an alphabetically arranged list of sources from which the paper is written. This is critical because not citing your sources properly could invite accusations of plagiarism.

These days, most programs such as MS Word come with built-in options for citations. Most academic sources also have automated citations and bibliographies. However, the writer has to be clear about which part of the paper the citation should be inserted.

Do’s And Don’ts Of Academic Writing

In this section, I will make a very small list of do’s and don’ts in a research paper:


Conclusion

As can be seen, an academic research paper is a higher, focused and tightly knit narration of a chosen topic. It should convey the researcher’s depth and interest of understanding of the topic. The overlap in the nature of the various components of an academic paper listed above underlines the need for coherence in the way in which an academic paper is to be written. It is the kind of writing that does not allow any scope for flippancy. The example of Stanley Kubrick perhaps best illustrates the nature of academic/research writing.

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