Teacher training information




How to write in an academic style

2021.02.11 0+
  • Academic writing is a formal way to write in terms of style, vocabulary, grammar and structure.

  • It uses evidence (in the form of citations) from scholarly literature to support the points, cases or arguments being made.

What does an academic writing style look like?

Read the sample paragraphs below which compare an informal style with an academic writing style.

Essay Question - Critically evaluate the following statement: Comprehensive clinician accountability and clinical governance reduce the likelihood of errors being committed in the delivery of health care.

Research says that bosses who blame their staff for everything that goes wrong just cause more mistakes to happen in their organisation. Some studies reckon that being open and dealing with people properly are really important for safer healthcare organisations. Doing these things makes it less likely that mistakes will happen because it makes people feel less stressed. Holden says that making the culture of the organisation better will also stop people from hiding their mistakes, especially if people are watching over them properly.A culture of blame is likely to increase the risk of mistakes within an organisation (Bartlett, 2008). It has therefore been suggested that transparency and stakeholder engagement are essential values for developing safer healthcare organisations (Leape et al., 2009). Such values may reduce the risk of errors through the reduction of workplace stress, which is a known contributor to preventable errors (Catchpole et al., 2007). Indeed, Holden (2010) argues that enhancing organisational culture may reduce the incidence of work-around behaviours, especially if combined with appropriate supervision.

How do I write in an academic style?

Ask yourself the following questions as you write to ensure that you are writing in a suitably academic style. 

Am I using formal language?

Using formal language is an essential feature of academic writing. When you are editing your work, check for the use of informal language and use more formal expressions instead. For example:

Informal:  People think that bad leaders point their fingers at people who make mistakes so dangers aren’t dealt with properly.

Formal: Poor leadership has been associated with cultures of blame as well ineffective risk management (Bartlett et al., 2008).

Here are some more examples:

  • a lot of

  • go up / go down

  • things

  • really big

  • can't / shouldn't 

  • a significant number of

  • increase / decrease

  • factors, aspects, characteristics

  • considerable

  • cannot / should not

Is my writing objective?

Academic writing requires an objective tone in order to emphasise that the claims being made are evidence-based rather than just being the writer’s personal opinion. One way of achieving this is to write in an impersonal voice.

I argue that ...This essay argues that …
We thought the results were ...The results appeared to be ...
You may find it difficult to replicate this experiment.Replications of the experiment may be difficult.  

Another way to write in an academic style is to use cautious or tentative language, sometimes referred to as ‘hedging’. For example:

Such values may reduce the risk of errors through the reduction of workplace stress.

The research suggests that….

This is preferred because:

  • you have probably not read all the possible research relating to the topic;

  • new data is being created all the time through new research; and

  • all data is open to different interpretations.

Am I making my point concisely?

Often, the more words you include, the more difficult it becomes for the reader to understand your meaning. Achieving concise writing usually requires several revisions through editing your draft.

For example,

Compare this:

The ideas, notions and thoughts surrounding all-inclusive and broad clinician accountability and clinical governance may be thought of, and understood to be, as two elements that both assist and support one another as well as rely and depend on each another. (Word count: 41)

With this:

The concepts of comprehensive clinician accountability and clinical governance may be considered complementary and interdependent. (Word count: 15)

Have I evaluated the evidence?

Academic writing usually requires you to present your position on a topic in a logical way based on evidence discovered through research. Your lecturer needs to know not just what you have read but what you think about what you have read.

For example, you can give your perspective regarding the following:

The literature is correct:

The results of this study strongly suggest that the use of concept maps is an effective revision strategy.

The literature is incorrect:

Although the study claims that concept maps are an effective study technique, there are significant flaws in the authors’ interpretation of their findings. For example....

The literature is neither correct nor incorrect (i.e. your attitude is neutral): 

The existing evidence is contradictory and does not conclusively support either the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of concept mapping as a revision strategy.