The Academic Writing Approach

Academic writing is a formal approach to written communication governed and informed by rules and practices; this best differentiates it from the myriad of personal writing styles which, though subject to convention, are not beholden to it in the way that academic texts are.  These rules and practices include: formal essay-based structure (introduction-body-conclusion); citation and referencing of published authors, primarily also academic in nature; academic tone; and strict adherence to rules of punctuation and grammar, all written for a specific (often also academic) audience (“What is Academic Writing”, 2012).  The application of these conventions of academic writing is further determined by the type of academic writing being produced: descriptive, analytical, persuasive, and critical (“Types of Academic Writing”, 2018).  Each of these types of writing has specific purposes.  For example, analytical writing seeks to categorize ideas and information into groups, parts, types, or relationships, while persuasive seeks to go a step further and make a logically sound, referenced-based argument that supports the author’s point of view (“Types of Academic Writing”, 2018).

The purpose of this strict adherence to convention in academic writing is to position the author as a credible and competent member of their chosen discipline (Swales & Feak, 2012).   Just as there are performance conventions and skill expectations in other fields –it would be odd, for example, to show up to play basketball in a hockey goalie uniform, and it is similarly expected that a professional basketball player knows what a foul is and can either avoid them or commit them strategically in close games- so it is in academics.  Simply put, to be taken seriously, and thus be able to effectively contribute to the conversation, academic writers must follow the rules and practices of the academic style.


Swales, J. & Feak, C. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential skills and tasks. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.

Types of Academic Writing. (2018). The University of Sydney. Retrieved from

What is Academic Writing? (2012). Massey University. Retrieved from

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