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SPH Writing Support Services: Academic Writing

Getting started with SPH Writing Support Services

Academic Writing

Academic writing refers to a particular style of expression that researchers use to define the intellectual boundaries of their disciplines and their areas of expertise. It is characterized by a formal tone, use of the third-person rather than first-person perspective (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and precise word choice. Being a specialist language, academic writing is designed to convey agreed meaning about complex ideas or concepts for a group of scholarly experts.

Adapted from Academic WritingWriting Center. Colorado Technical College; Hartley, James. Academic Writing and Publishing: A Practical Handbook. New York: Routledge, 2008.

Want to know if your academic prose is "flabby" or "fit"?  If so, take the WritersDiet Test!  This writing test uses a simple algorithm to identify "some of the sentence-level grammatical features that most frequently weigh down academic prose."

Sword, H. The Writer's Diet. Retrieved from

An Introduction to Academic Writing

The Hixon Writing Center (HWC) at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has produced a set of six videos titled "An Introduction to College Writing" that is useful to anyone who wants to learn more about academic writing.

The four video tutorials include: Making an Argument, Organizing Your Writing, Working with Sources, and Writing with Clarity.

As part of Caltech's series on college writing, HWC created the following excellent introduction to academic writing:

Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF) Writing Style

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front) is a writing strategy used extensively across the U.S. military for efficient communication.

Blog and Podcasts on Academic Writing

1. In her blog, Explorations of Style, Rachael Cayley provides readers with "an ongoing discussion of the challenges of academic writing" by discussing "strategies to improve the process of expressing our research in writing," with the ultimate goal of creating "a working approach to academic writing."

2. In its podcast, The Written Word, Turnitin explores all things writing and their impact on our lives.

3. In its podcast, In A Word, The Texas A&M University Writing Center addresses writing topics ranging from dealing with writer's block to writing effective introductions.

Stinky Academic Writing and Scientific Literacy

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education has reprinted Steven Pinker's manifesto, "Why Academics' Writing Stinks," along with advice from four experts on how to fix it, in a booklet.

A PDF version of this booklet is provided below:

2. In a Nature news feature, "Scientific Literacy: Clear as Mud," Jonathan Knight asks if the increasing trend of inaccessibility in the scientific literature can be stopped.

A PDF version of this article is provided below:

5 Tips to Improve Your Academic Writing

YouTube description: "Want to become a better writer?..."

UTHealth School of Public Health Writing Resources

UTHealth School of Public Health has compiled a list of schools and online resources that provide writing education.

Academic Phrasebank

The University of Manchester has developed the Academic Phrasebank to help academic writers find the right words.

The content is centered on the following areas of writing:

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Writing Resources & Tips

Amherst College Writing Center: Online Resources for Writers

George Mason University Writing Center: Quick Guides

Harvard College Writing Center: Writing Resources

Northern Illinois University Writing Center: Resources for Writers

Penn State Graduate Writing Center: Writing Resources

University of Hawai'i-West O'ahu: UHWO Composition Resources

University of Houston-Clear Lake Writing Center: Writing Resources

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Center for Writing Studies: Writing Tips

University of Massachusetts Lowell: Writing Resources

University of Nevada, Reno: Writing Resources

Logical Fallacies & Cognitive Biases

1. According to the Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies website, "A logical fallacy is a flaw in reasoning. Logical fallacies are like tricks or illusions of thought, and they're often very sneakily used by politicians and the media to fool people." This website presents various logical fallacies.

A PDF version of a logical fallacies poster is provided below:

2. Cognitive biases are flaws in our thinking or judgment that arise from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations. The Royal Society of Account Planning has produced a visual study guide to help you memorize all the cognitive biases. 

A PDF version of the visual study guide is provided below, as well as PDF versions of other lists of cognitive biases:

Succeeding in Graduate School

These resources will help you succeed in graduate school:

Managing your time is critical for success in graduate school; these resources are designed to help you manage your time:

Reading lots, lots, and lots of scholarly literature is required in graduate school; these resources (videos) are designed to show you how to read faster:

Writing a Successful Academic Paper

This productivity tool will help you plan an academic paper by providing a timeline and targeted writing guidance:

These resources will help you write an academic paper:

Grammar, Mechanics & Usage

12 Common Errors in Academic English

YouTube description: "What's 'academic writing'?..."