What are the four main elements of academic writing?

The four main types of academic writing are descriptive, analytical, persuasive and critical. As a writing tutor, your first task in tackling structure problems will be to try to assess whether the writing student has an idea of what a good structure looks like. Some students understand good structure, even if only on an intuitive level, while others don't. If there seems to be a lack of understanding, it may be useful to stop and explain what a good structure looks like.

Some students will better understand the structure with the help of a metaphor. A particularly pleasant metaphor (courtesy of Dara) is to see the structure of an academic work as a set of stairs. The document starts with a small step; the first paragraph gives the simplest assumption or support for the argument. Then the paper builds up, slowly and gradually towards the top of the ladder.

When the document reaches its conclusion, it has brought the reader to the top of the ladder to a point of new vision. From the balcony, the reader can contemplate the original statement or question from a higher ground. The pre-writing stage is essential because arguments must “have a sufficiently limited scope to be argued in a short composition, according to the Elements of Harvey's Academic Essay. Reduce the range of ideas so that the student can write a more concise article with efficient language.

When writing an argument (and later, a thesis), avoid definitive statements, arguments are debatable, and a great article relies on a successive chain of evidence-based ideas to support an argument. It is of utmost importance to remind your student that the argument will govern the entire article and will not “disappear in some places” (Harvey). When writing an actual article, it's helpful to place a summary of your argument on your computer screen to serve as a constant reminder of why you're writing.

academic writing is

clear, concise, focused, structured and supported by evidence.

Its purpose is to help the reader understand. In academic writing, the author is expected to investigate the research problem from an authoritative point of view. Note that a problem statement without the research questions does not qualify as academic writing because simply identifying the research problem does not establish for the reader how it will contribute to solving the problem, what aspects he thinks are most critical, nor does it suggest a method of collecting data to understand the better the problem. Often, in academic writing, scholars don't want to focus on who is taking an action, but on who is receiving or experiencing the consequences of that action.

However, there are some general characteristics of academic writing that are relevant in all disciplines. In general, in most academic writing, you have to go at least one step further than analytical writing, towards persuasive writing. It's appropriate that you use specialized language within your field of study, but you should avoid using that language when writing for a non-academic or general audience. Academic writing is very explicit and provides the reader with all the information they need to understand its meaning.

Viewpoints in academic writing may include disagreement, recommendation, interpretation of findings, or evaluation of this work by others. Yes, it's appropriate that you use specialized language and a formal style of expression in academic writing, but that doesn't mean using big words just for the sake of doing so. Your style should be exact and clear (it should highlight the main idea and action of each sentence, not bury it) and simple without being flat (it should be elegant and a little interesting, not congested). Academic writing in English has a distinctive style: it is formal and uses particular language rules that you need to learn.

Characteristics of academic writing include a formal tone, the use of the third-person perspective rather than the first person (usually), a clear focus on the research problem under investigation, and the precise choice of words. In addition to understanding the use of specialized language, there are other aspects of academic writing in the social sciences that you should know.