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Features of Academic Writing

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Facts vs. Opinions | Bias | Sarcasm & Irony | Alternatives | Reasons & Evidence | Organisation | Rhetorical Questions

Here are some features of academic writing that may be useful in your first assignment:

Academic writing:

  1. shows the difference between facts and opinions by:
    l grammar - using simple tenses to describe facts; eg. London is the capital city of England.
    l using phrases like 'seems' to be' and 'looks like' to describe opinions; eg. The problem seems to be in the operating system.
    l using phrases like 'there is some evidence to suggest' to show how sure or unsure you are; eg. There is some evidence to suggest that too much typing and using the mouse can injure your wrist.

  2. avoids bias ('bias' means preferring one thing to another)
    l avoid using expressions that mean; 'If you don't accept my opinion then you are stupid.'; eg. 'of course', 'there is no doubt that...'
    l avoid using words and phrases with very positive or negative connotations; eg. 'irresponsible' and 'goose-stepped', both of which have negative connotations.

  3. avoids sarcasm and irony, which are jokes that make someone or something look stupid, for example doesn't use phrases such as; "What can you expect?"

  4. considers various alternative reasons for something. It may be difficult to think of alternatives, so use the 'journalistic questioning' techniques from the note-taking lessons. Some guidelines are:
    l who - use alternative people; eg. new or different personnel
    l what - do something else to achieve the same aim
    l where - do something in a different place
    l when - do something at a different time
    l how - do something in a different way
    l how many - do something in different numbers (fewer or more)
    l how fast - do something more quickly or slowly
    l why do it - maybe you could do nothing
    l whom - do something to different people; eg. different customers

  5. gives reasons and evidence to accept or reject these alternatives by using:
    l logic - showing the thinking process used to arrive at a conclusion
    l references - referring to the work of experts
    l evidence - reasons to support the writer's point
    The best arguments use more than one of the above points.

  6. is well-organised, so that it is easy to follow the writer's thinking. Ways to help the reader understand the organisation of a text are:
    l having an introduction, a body and a conclusion
    l using headings and titles
    l using words that refer back to something written earlier in the text; eg. 'it', 'this' 'they'
    l using ordering words; eg. 'first', 'firstly', 'lastly'. Don't mix together words ending and '-ly' and words without '-ly' - be consistent.
    l using connecting phrases; eg. 'In addition...', 'However...', 'This is because...', 'Therefore...'
    l 'Moreover' is over-used in Hong Kong. It shows bad organisation because it means that the second point is more important than the first.
    l 'Besides' is often wrongly used in Hong Kong. Either check the example sentences in your dictionary to find out how to use it properly, or avoid it.

  7. avoids asking and answering rhetorical questions such as, "What are the reasons for this? Firstly..." This is bad style in English.


Last updated on: Friday, March 23, 2012