Academic Writing – Academic Prose Style

What is Academic Writing?

Academic writing refers to the texts produced by students, professors, and investigators who are engaged in acts of literacy and scholarship.

What is an Academic Writing Prose Style?

Academic Prose Style is a style of writing that is produced by students, professors, and investigators.

A text that reflects an academic prose style is

  • Research-based
    • Academic writing tends to be grounded in textual and empirical evidence. Appeals to logos are privileged over appeals to ethos and pathos.
  • Thoughtful, well reasoned, detailed
    • Academic writing tends to be substantive rather than superficial, anecdotal, vague or underdeveloped. Writers tend to specialize and go into great depth.
  • Reflective, self-critical
    • Academic writing may be persuasive yet even so writers are careful not to overstate claims and to be self critical about methods. Writers relate their work to the work of past investigators and clarify the contribution to the field.
  • Formal in style and tone
    • Academic writing tends to avoid contractions, colloquial expressions, sexists use of pronouns. Because it is written for specialists, some jargon is used, but not unnecessarily.
  • Thesis-driven & deductively organized.
  • Respectful of copyright and intellectual property
    • Academic writers tend to contextualize secondary sources, clarify the ebb and flow of scholarly conversations, and carefully follow academic styles for attributions.

Synonymous Terms: Academic Disciplines are also known as Academic Fields, Branches of Knowledge.

Different academic communities have unique conventions for academic writing. In part these differing conventions can be traced to the sorts of research questions and research methods used by practitioners in the humanities and sciences.

Academic Fields
Humanities and Social ScienceNatural Sciences
Formal SciencesProfessions and Applied Sciences

Across disciplines, academic practitioners do share a number of genres. The holy grail of academic writing is the peer-reviewed journal article or the book. Other shared genres include annotated bibliographies; book reviews; summaries, paraphrases, quotes, and critiques of texts; lab reports.

That said, practitioners of academic writing produce a range of genres, texts and media. Thus, there is no one single academic prose style. For instance, the use of first-person point of view or quantitative evidence vs. qualitative evidence is used differently in engineering reports than reviews of artwork by critiques.

In order to write well for academic audience, writers need to engage in rhetorical analysis. They need to reflect on th to better understand the genres, media, channels of communication, methods, and methodologies they need to employ to produce knowledge or vet knowledge claims for a particular methodological community.