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Blog Post Series on Academic Writing: What's the Recipe? Part I

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    Every year, millions of students struggle to complete research papers because they such a daunting task. Luckily, in addition to the following essay, Ultius can offer academic writing help for all of your questions and concerns. 

    What's the recipe for academic writing

    What is academic writing? Academic writing is a form of rhetorical argumentation. A writing is rhetorical in the sense that the objective is to use the most effective language to communicate ideas. A writing is argumentative in the sense that the goal is to be persuasive in proving an important point – the thesis. The thesis is proved through the writer’s use of reasoning, supported by researched evidence and bolstered by supplementary examples. When all of these parts are assembled concisely and with skill, the result is academic writing. Academic writing requires a plan, research, sources, selection of writing style, selection of citation method, proper use of grammatical rules, and review.

    The Rubric - But where does it all start? The magic of academic writing rests in the assignment rubric. The rubric is the procedure that the professor wants you to use. It is a map that will lead to a grade of A+ or a grade of Z. Consider the rubric a path inside the professor’s brain. The instructor is saying, “this is exactly what I want you to do, if you do it this way, you will receive a grade of A, if you submit a writing that is less than – and the choice is always yours – you will receive a reduced grade.” Many fail to realize the importance of the rubric. If the professor provides a rubric, consider it a gift to getting the grade you want. 

    The Academic Writing Plan

    The Outline - In addition to creating an academic piece that communicates effectively and offers persuasive argumentation, your writing needs to be well structured. Often, you can find that structure hidden in the professor’s rubric! A rubric usually contains topics that must be addressed in order to comply with course requirements. One of the best ways to demonstrate that you have addressed each requested issue, and to acknowledge to the professor you recognize the importance of their “gift,” is to use the required points or topics in the rubric as headings, or line items in your outline.

    For those who do not like to use outlines, you do not realize how easy it makes the writing effort. Forget about writer’s block. If you create an outline, you will see the structure of your writing begin to take shape, and you will be well on your way. In addition, if you create an outline, you can start writing about the sub-topic you like best. You can start in the middle, the end, or the beginning. It does not matter because you can easily come back to other issues of importance because your outline will remind you. The outline is not written in stone, it is malleable and subject to restructuring.

    The easiest way to create an outline is to conduct a Google search on your topic. Start with an article that simply describes the subject. Make note of the key sub-topics and the beginnings of your outline will emerge. Now search for the history of your topic. Again, gather some key historical points to include in your outline. Next, conduct a Google search for authorities on the subject. Does your rubric require scholarly sources?

    If so, the best scholarly articles are those provided by experts, often who have doctorates, but not exclusively; and professors who teach or conduct research at universities. Check Harvard Business Review, Harvard Health Publications and other scholastic journals and reviews related to your subject area. If there is no scholastic requirement, identify the most celebrated publishers in your subject area, including government resources and news organizations, for example, National Institutes of Health (NIH), Time, Forbes, and U. S. News and World Report.

    The Structure of academic writing

    The general structure of academic writing is:

    • the introduction
    • the thesis – not always required, generally needed in argument papers, but not required in personal statements or exploratory papers
    • the body – containing the facts, the argument, the evidence and your analysis or reasoning 
    • the conclusion

    However, once again, if there is a requirement in the rubric that specifies another format, the rubric is always controlling.

    The Thesis Statement – The rubric states that you should write a paper that compares the reasons the North and the South engaged in the Civil War. There really is no good or bad thesis statement, there is primarily a strong version or a weak version. The following thesis statements represent a weak version and a strong version:

    • Weak: The North and South fought the Civil War for many reasons, some of which were the same and some different. ("Thesis Statement")
    • Strong:While both Northerners and Southerners believed they fought against tyranny and oppression, Northerners focused on the oppression of slaves while Southerners defended their own right to self-government. ("Thesis Statement")

    In this case the rubric states that you should analyze one aspect of Huckleberry Finn. The following thesis statements represent a weak version and a strong version: 

    • Weak:Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel. ("Thesis Statement")
    • Strong:Through its contrasting river and shore scenes, Twain’s Huckleberry Finn suggests that to find the true expression of American democratic ideals, one must leave “civilized” society and go back to nature. ("Thesis Statement")

    The thesis statement is a strong, well-thought out indication of the argument you will make in the academic writing you are about to share with others. It tells your reader exactly what they should expect in the writing. The thesis is your interpretation, your perspective on the topic at hand. In the example above, you may feel that the Northerners were fighting against the oppression of the slaves. Another person might believe that Northerners only saw industrial opportunities in the South. Whatever your perspective, the thesis is the place where you identify your position on the topic you will discuss and provide evidence to support.

    Research

    Academic writing research requires critical examination of the sources of information. What’s that? Critical examination is not simply information gathering. You are not going to simply deposit information you found during your research into your writing piece. You want to gather facts, analysis and opinions posited by various authors who are experts on the subject. Once you have gathered the information you need, you will add the facts and other information to your paper, but (and this makes the difference between a grade of “A” and a grade of “C”) you will now become the expert.

    You will now apply your own thoughts, analysis and reasoning, in support of or in opposition to your thesis. Many writers simply provide the facts. The objective of an academic writing is for the professor to assess the accuracy of the information you provided (based on the citations identified), and to explore the accuracy or viability of your analysis and reasoning. If you do not provide quality analysis and reasoning in your paper, your grade will suffer. 

    Back to the rubric 

    Let’s go back to the rubric. Again, the rubric is the professors’ gift to you. It is a journey inside their brain. It represents their expectation, and lets you know exactly what they want. Similarly, academic writing is, or should be, a journey inside the writer’s brain. The professor is now examining the thesis, the facts, the evidentiary support, the accuracy of citation formatting, and the writer’s analysis and reasoning. If there is a symbiotic relationship between both journeys: the journey of the writer exploring the thoughts of the professor, and the journey of the professor exploring the thoughts of the academic writer – success! 

    Academic writing styles

    There are a number of writing styles including argument papers, research papers, exploratory papers, book reports, expository writing, essays, persuasive writing, narrative writing and book reviews. Professors usually identify the type of writing required, but some will leave the choice up to you. Make sure you conduct another Google search to ascertain the format associated with the style you intend to use.

    Each style has its own quirks, understanding what is expected will make the overall process easier. The argument style of academic writing is often requested because it requires the writer to do substantial research, gather information about other authors’ points of view, and ultimately analyze the details, while providing your reasoning.

    Citations and formatting

    There are numerous academic writing formatting styles. The most well know methods are APA, MLA, and Chicago. There is not a person in the world who loves the learning curve required prior to becoming proficient in any of the styles. Just roll your eyes, shake your head and dig in. Once you utilize the styles with some degree of regularity, they will become second nature. OK! They will never become second nature, but you will learn to live with it.

    Purdue University offers the most comprehensive and respected documentation and explanation of formatting, style guides, and writing samples. Their website is called Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL). The site is home to citation and reference requirements for the most well known styles. In addition, the site offers suggestion on general writing skills, including the writing process, academic writing, common writing assignments, mechanics, grammar, punctuation, visual rhetoric, even undergraduate and graduate application help (“Research and Citation”). Ultius.com aso maintains a writer help section in which there are many resources regarding citations and style guides.

    If you write a lot, create a writing template that retains the requirements of the style. The template should have your margins hard coded, your header pre-styled, your indentations setup, and your headings preformatted. This way each time you write, you will have the bulk of the technicalities already prepared. At the end of your template, create a little library of the most common in-text citations: single author, one to five authors, six or more authors, unknown author, no date and two or more works in parenthesis.

    Then add a couple of reference samples, one for a book, an article and a website. That should be sufficient to start the process. As you research and discover additional oddities, you can add it to your template, so that you do not have to keep conducting online research. Once you have completed your writing and no longer need your citation and reference library at the end, simply delete it and prepare to begin the editing process.

    Works Cited

    "Research and Citation Resources." Purdue Online Writing Lab. The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University.  Web. 7 April 2016 <https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/section/2/>.

    "Thesis Statement." The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Web. 6 April 2016. <http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/thesis-statements/>.

     
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    Ultius, Inc. "Blog Post Series on Academic Writing: What's the Recipe? Part I." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. Ultius Blog, 22 Apr. 2016. http://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/blog-post-series-on-academic-writing-what-s-the-recipe-part-i.html

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    Ultius, Inc. "Blog Post Series on Academic Writing: What's the Recipe? Part I." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. April 22, 2016. http://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/blog-post-series-on-academic-writing-what-s-the-recipe-part-i.html.

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    Ultius, Inc. "Blog Post Series on Academic Writing: What's the Recipe? Part I." Ultius | Custom Writing and Editing Services. April 22, 2016. http://www.ultius.com/ultius-blog/entry/blog-post-series-on-academic-writing-what-s-the-recipe-part-i.html.

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