Simple academic writing rules to improve your writing skills

It is commonly misconceived that academic writing is simply about presenting the topic-related data. It is important to understand that academic writing is different from non academic or commercial writing and has its own set of rules. It involves a few technicalities which are not required in non academic writing. Here are few tips that will help you produce a good paper:

Avoid using first person and second person narratives unless specified

In academic writing or technical writing, you should avoid the use of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘us’, ‘our’ and ‘we’ or ‘’you’, ‘your’. Even if you are addressing to yourself as the researcher of the topic, you should use ‘one’ or ‘the researcher’.

For example: If you need to say that the interpretation will be based upon your personal judgment of the facts. It shall be written as “the interpretation will be based upon researcher’s personal judgment of the facts”.

It is important to acknowledge sources in academic writing

One of the most important aspects of academic writing is referencing and citations. There are several referencing styles like:

  • Harvard.
  • APA.
  • MLA.
  • The Chicago Manual style and others.

One should understand the referencing style in detail that has to be used for the paper. No content should be left unacknowledged in academic writing. On an average, try to use a reference in every 100-150 words.

Avoid use of blogs, Wikipedia and other commercial websites

Avoid use of blogs, Wikipedia and other commercial websites as source for information in your paper because they have biased and non credible information. They use this information to sell news rather than to prove their arguments. You can use information from books, journals, government, company’s official websites, survey reports of major consultancies and newspaper articles.

Avoid bullets and numbering in academic writing

Unless specifically provided by the university, you should not present your data in bullets or numbering. Try to replace bullets or numbering with simple and straightforward technical statements.

Avoid phrases that depict personal thoughts

While writing refrain from personal judgments and present the fact with proper citation of the source. This means you should avoid using ‘I believe’, ‘I suppose’, ‘I feel’, ‘I assume’, ‘In my opinion’ etc.

  • Don’t use abbreviations: In academic writing, we are supposed to write the words in full. Hence, you must not use ‘Don’t’ for do not; ‘Can’t’ for cannot; ‘Wouldn’t’ for would not; ‘e.g.’ for example; ‘i.e.’ for that is; and ‘bcoz’ for because; ‘this’ll’ for this will.
  • Don’t make claims: While writing, we usually assume that the reader knows what we are saying. For example: “retailing in India is a rapidly growing industry”; but no such claims can be made in academic writing without backing them with proper citations.

Present your paper in a proper format

Many assume that academic writing is only about presenting arguments and information on a topic. But it is also about presenting your argument and information in a presentable and readable format. There should be consistency throughout the document with regards to font, spacing, margins, headings and sub-headings and page numbering. There should be a cover page and table of contents in the beginning of the document to help the reader to navigate. And a comprehensive reference list, appendices, list of tables and figures at the end of your document.

Do not plagiarize your paper

Plagiarism in academic writing can lead to the rejection of the paper and can result in further legal consequences for the writer. Plagiarism is when you refer to other authors work in your paper and do not properly cite it. There different types plagiarism:

  • Direct plagiarism.
  • Word switching or paraphrasing.
  • Concealing sources.
  • Self plagiarism.

You should never copy from your sources. In case you want to quote a definition or figures, write it properly into parentheses and support it by citation.

Do not wander off from the topic

While writing it is easy to wander off your topic. Lineup all your objectives and refer it every time you finish writing on a topic. Check if your argument or information support your objectives. It is advisable that you link all your information and arguments with your previous paragraphs and passages. This will help you give a proper flow to your paper.

A good conclusion is the one that answers your research aim. It is important to not discuss miscellaneous details which are remotely related or not related to objectives at all.

Ankita Agarwal

Analyst at Project Guru
Ankita is working with the editorial board of Project Guru as a Research Analyst and Writer. With Masters in Commerce and Business Studies, Ankita learned much of what she knows about management through experience. She has previously worked in various financial institutions like Birla Global, HDFC Ltd. and Citi Financial. She is self-motivated and writes for the Knowledge Tank section of Project Guru. She has authored more than 80 articles so far in Human Resources Management, Strategic Management, Finance and Marketing. She likes to pen her thoughts about the latest issues gripping these areas across the world.

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  1. very impressive. hopefully, it makes an attempt to shed light on the rules regarding academic writings


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