Academic Writing

Information and resources about academic writing

What Is Academic Writing?

Academic writing (also known as scholarly writing) is the kind of writing that teachers generally expect students to use when writing essays and reports because it’s the standard used in institutions of higher learning. The characteristics of academic writing include the following:

  • A certain degree of formality (colloquial language, especially slang, is usually avoided)
  • A generally detached and rational tone and style
  • The use of reason-based argumentation
  • Specific standards for formatting and citation of sources (e.g., MLA and APA)

Many of the resources in the Grammar, Literature, and Writing sections of Camilla’s English Page are appropriate for students seeking to improve their academic writing skills because they are based on the grammar and usage of (American) Standard English, and they include topics and skills such as literary and rhetorical analysis, vocabulary building, and essay writing.

Academic Writing Resources

The Academic Writing section of Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab (OWL) has useful information about the standards and practices used in writing in an academic context. Topics include argumentation, essay writing, using appropriate language, and e-mail etiquette.

In writing anything that involves references to information from specific sources, you’ll need to cite those sources and format your piece according to a specific academic standard. The most widely used standard for writing dealing with the humanities (e.g., literature, philosophy, history) is the Modern Language Association (MLA) format. The Associated Press (AP) style is widely used by journalists. Other popular standards include the American Psychological Association (APA) format, used in science writing, and the Chicago Manual of Style format.

OWL has a number of helpful pages devoted to helping students follow these formats, starting with the Research and Citation Resources page, which introduces these formats (with links to further information) and includes a widget to help you cite a specific source in the correct MLA or APA format. OWL also has resources devoted to explaining the details of MLA style, the style most likely to be relevant to users of Camilla’s English Page.

Harvard University’s Harvard College Writing Center features a helpful (and fairly advanced) Strategies for Essay Writing section that takes you through the process of writing an essay, with specific advice covering each step of the process.