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Academic writing is one of the most important skills in higher education. It is the basic communication method in any educational setting. Thus, success in education depends on one’s ability to express their opinion or respond to questions in writing. However, academic writing is daunting as most students confuse it with other writing styles. Before we delve deeper into academic writing, let’s first understand writing in general.

Common Essay Writing Styles

Descriptive Essays

A descriptive writer seeks to create a vivid image of the subject in the reader’s mind. It appeals to the audience’s senses, creating a connection between the story and the reader’s imagination. The writer uses literary techniques to mimic reality and direct the audience to comprehend the intended message.

Expository Essays

On the other hand, expository writing seeks to explain a specific concept. It adopts formal writing in some cases, although expository papers on some platforms may not. Expository writers are more inclined to use logos as their main rhetorical technique, as their primary objective is to demonstrate reason. They rely on evidence to prove their point, often using statistics, research findings, and results to justify their perspective. For instance, using images and verifiable sources of information can make a story more believable. This strategy is mainly applied in news articles and textbooks.

Narrative Essay

This type of writing is perhaps the most common. Its primary objective is storytelling, fictional or not. Narratives adopt specific settings and have defined characters with conflict as the primary theme. They are often sequential with a defined beginning and end. Sometimes the art of writing may lead to reorganization and styling to make the stories more interesting. The end and beginning may not be openly stated as the writer tries to engage the readers in a quest for information. Regardless of the styles used, narratives have unique characteristics defined by the presence of antagonists and protagonists in a conflict that creates a storyline.

Persuasive Essays

As the name suggests, persuasive writing seeks to influence the reader to believe or convince them to take a position about a given opinion. The writer validates a point or an argument using various techniques, including ethos, pathos, and logos, for justification. Evidence plays a significant role in persuasive writing as it becomes the basis or reference point when the reader attempts to challenge the argument or compare it with an alternative view. Thus, this type of writing has little or no intention of entertaining the audience. Instead, it shares information to persuade the reader.

What is Academic Writing?

Academic writing is a style of expression that researchers, students, and scholars use to present ideas, analyses, research findings, and arguments within the limits of their discipline. It adopts a formal tone and expresses opinions with precision focusing on the evidence and thematic prescription. It is also characterized by objectivity in arguments with no errors and grammatical mistakes. As a result, academic writing conveys agreeable and challengeable views about complex concepts and presents ideas for scholarly analysis and practice. Students use academic writing to respond to tests and examinations, while expert academic writers and experts use the style to communicate their positions and conceptualize scholarly arguments. They use evidence-based ideologies to argue for or against issues and employ logical reasoning to express their perspectives.

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The Four Major Referencing Styles in Academic Writing

Academic writing is a scientific method with structured laws and regulations. Although different institutions have unique formatting requirements, there are generally accepted writing languages or styles in various disciplines. The most common referencing styles in academic writing are APA and MLA, primarily due to their universal acceptability and simplified guides. However, other academic writing styles have different formats and structural regulations, including Chicago, Turabian, and Harvard. These essay writing styles have similar document structure requirements with one-inch margins and Times New Roman size 12 font. Each type has an official writing guide with simplified tips designed to help students and scholars in formatting. This article covers the writing languages you are most likely to encounter.

American Psychological Association (APA) Format

The APA style is one of the easiest academic writing styles to master as it has no complex formatting requirements. The student version features a title page with the title centered, bold, and in title case. It has no running head, with only Arabic page numbers appearing on the right. The title page also features the author’s name, affiliation, course, instruction, and date in that order, written one line after the title. The documents are double-spaced without skipping any lines between paragraphs. The headings are bold except for heading level 3 and flush left except for heading level 1. The reference page appears on a separate page with defined rules for all sources, including books, journal articles, and legal documents. Additionally, in-text citations represent the works on the reference page featuring only the author’s last name and the year of publication.

Modern Language Association (MLA) Format

On the other hand, MLA has no separate title page. The author’s name, the professor’s name, the course, and the date appear on the left of the first page, followed by the centered title and first paragraph of the text. The document also features Arabic numerals with the author’s surname on the right-hand side. The headings are bolded except for levels two and five and flush left except for levels three and four. The works cited appear on a separate page with specific formatting for different types of sources, including journal articles, books, and web pages. The in-text citations contain the author’s last name and a page number.

Chicago Writing Style

The Chicago language is also one of the commonly used styles of essay writing. It has a title page with a capitalized title, student’s name, class, and date but no page number. The Arabic page numbers start on the first page. The first and second-level headings are centered, while the rest appear flush left. All headings are bolded except for heading levels two and four. The style also features a single-spaced bibliography page and notes as substitutes for in-text citations.

Harvard Writing Style

The Harvard style also has a title page with the title in capital letters centered in the middle of the page, followed by the author’s name four lines below and the course, professor’s name, affiliation, city (state), and date four lines after. The document also has Arabic page numbers with a shortened title appearing on every page’s top right-hand corner. The headings are all bolded, with only level one centered. The rest appear on the left, but level three headings are indented. The paper also features a reference list with cited sources and in-text citations containing the author’s last name, year of publication, and the page number.

Published by HOLR Magazine.