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Writing Academically: Writing Academically

Support files and advice from the Pfau Library workshop of the same name.

Workshop

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is a serious ethical offense in academics and in business. It is taking another's language and work without citing it and therefore claiming it as your own.  The solution to plagiarism is to cite your sources. If someone says something perfectly, put the quotation in your work inside quotation marks and cite the source of the quotation (article, book, Web page, etc.). Paraphrasing should be cited as well, though it shouldn't be in quotation marks. This makes you not only ethical but well read.

Grammar Books

Below is a list of paper and e-books that can answer your questions about correct English grammar.

Tips for Writing Academically

Learning to write academically is a process that you will learn as you write papers and read scholarship. To get more help at CSUSB, make an appointment with The Writing Center (undergraduates) or The Graduate Writing Center (graduates).  However, below you will find tips to learning the craft and links for more information.

  • Be concise.  Clearly state your idea then prove it with quotations and/or statistics. Remove any extra words that do not contribute to the meaning and content. Be ruthless in this. If you don't have enough words or pages, it means you haven't developed your ideas enough.
  • Link your ideas.  Though you are writing a non-fiction paper, you still have a narrative or a story of your thoughts and reasoning. Convey that story clearly, with a narrative flow, and you will be writing more academically.
  • Be precise.  Use your language to state exactly what you mean, don't assume the reader is in your head, follows your thoughts, and understands you without your stating your logic clearly. 
  • Don't use slang or idioms. While those techniques can be effective in fiction and oral presentations, avoid them if you are still learning academic writing.
  • Avoid "I" or "in my opinion."  This one's iffy. Some professors still won't like it, while others may. APA 7th edition states you may use "I" in academic writing. Ask your professor. 
  • Learn academic vocabulary and discourse. This is difficult because you may not know it now, so you can't simply add it. Solve the problem by reading in your discipline a great deal. The more you read the more you will absorb how scholars in your field write and the vocabulary they use. 
  • Have a friend take a look. Writers have editors; maybe you have a friend who writes well. Ask this person to have a look at your work. They can tell you when you are unclear or your word choice is poor. Don't expect this colleague to re-write your work, but listen and accept their advice even when it hurts. The Writing Center can help in this as well.
  • Refer to a good writing guide. Elements of Style is a tiny, powerful, inexpensive book that you can borrow from the library. It doesn't explain every rule of grammar (here is a list of books that do), but reading it can clarify how to write with greater style and clarity in all your academic assignments.

Good Web Sites for More Help

Subject Guide

Lisa Bartle's picture
Lisa Bartle
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