How is scholarly writing different from promotional writing?

One of the most common mistakes writers make is that they assume they can do “any type of writing” because they had written a blog or an essay. Academic writing or scholarly writing is not the same. It is challenging and there are techniques that need to be strictly followed.

Understanding academic or scholarly writing

Academic or scholarly writing involves writing papers such as analytical reports, thesis, dissertations, essays, publications, etc. It is different from developing content for promotions because the readers of these papers are intellectuals or academicians who do not care for unsupported or unverified data. Content development, on the other hand, is mainly done for commercial purposes like websites and blogs. The readers are of a very different background.

Difference between a scholarly work and promotional work

Following are the main differences in academic writing and content writing, with a few examples.

  • Style of writing: First rule of academic or scholarly writing is that it is not free-style writing. Academic or scholarly papers cannot be a freehand article or paper. Words must be formal and sentences must have critical meaning and backed with proof. Without proof, the statements are useless.
  • Referencing and citation: Like said before, backing all statements with proof is very important, otherwise, the statements made holds no meaning in an academic or scholarly work.  Referencing is done in-text and as an end list, called bibliography. Promotional writing does not include references, which makes it much simpler and faster to develop. Academic or scholarly writing requires references and there are different styles of referencing. They have different rules about what type of data can be used and how it can be cited.
  • Writing short sentences: In most cases, short sentences carry no meaning or actual analysis. They are just thoughts without any conclusion. In promotional content writing, such short sentences (typically less than 10 words) are accepted, but in academic writing short sentences usually degrade the quality of the paper. Therefore, academic or scholarly work does not involve short sentences.
  • Use of personal opinions: Where there is free flow writing, there is the use of personal opinions. Therefore in promotional content writing, there is no such rule against the use of language showing personal opinions. But in academic or scholarly writing, personal opinion is discouraged except in some sections. There is more of interpretation and not personalization of facts.
Difference between academic or scholarly writing and promotional content writing

Difference between academic or scholarly writing and promotional content writing

  • Use of dialogues: Another major difference in academic or scholarly writing and promotional content writing is the use of dialogues to illustrate a point. These dialogues are of famous people and personalities, so writers typically assume that they are important or relevant, but it varies. In academic or scholarly writing, dialogues are discouraged.
  • Following a plan/ structure: Promotional content writing does not usually require to stick to a particular structure for all articles. Every subject or article can be moulded as per the idea of design or perception. But in academic or scholarly writing, a specific structure has to be thoroughly followed in order to make it publish-worthy. Every academic or scholarly paper includes:
    • introduction,
    • discussion and
    • conclusion.
  • Supporting tools: In the case of academic or scholarly writing, since there are so many rules involved (analysis, referencing, etc.) there are many tools available to make your work simpler. For instance, for referencing there are certain reference managers like Mendeley. For analysis of large quantitative data, there is SPSS and E-views, among other applications. In some cases, it is even mandatory to use these tools.

Further, read about

Here are a few more articles to help you understand academic or scholarly writing:

Priya Chetty

Partner at Project Guru
Priya is a master in business administration with majors in marketing and finance. She is fluent with data modelling, time series analysis, various regression models, forecasting and interpretation of the data. She has assisted data scientists, corporates, scholars in the field of finance, banking, economics and marketing.


  1. I am a Masters student in South Africa at one of the private colleges. My degree is called Masters in Public Administration, since I work for the Tshwane (Pretoria) Municipality. In 2017 I completed my Bachelor of Business Administration Honours, in which I submitted a research report (ADDRESSING TRAFFIC CONGESTION USING THE SMART CITY MODEL: A CASE STUDY OF THE CITY OF TSHWANE)which I am very proud of, since I did the hard work for it. But in this year, with the Masters work being so heavy including my full time job, I need some assistance. Are you in a position to think up a good research topic for me, which if in agreement with it, I can assign you to research on it and prepare the entire dissertation? The dissertation is due in the 1st semester of 2019, but my intention is to complete it in 2018. Please advise and thanks.

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