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6.3: Finding Your Academic Voice

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    What is academic writing?

    Have you ever noticed that the way people speak in everyday conversation is very different from what you would read or write in a college class? Academic writing, the writing we do in college classes, does not come naturally to most people, whether they are native English speakers or not.

    To effectively write in the U.S. English academic style,

    • use clear, specific word choice and sentence constructions (including active voice as much as possible)
    • build unity and coherence by staying focused on the main topic at hand
    • use mostly third-person voice to build your argument:
      • incorporate outside sources
      • mostly avoid using personal experience or discussing your process of writing the paper

    In the following sections, we’ll focus on ways to achieve clarity and good academic style in your writing. Remember that writing is a process, and it is usually best to wait until you are done with a full draft to apply these ideas. When your thesis and support are clear, it is much easier to clarify your message on the sentence level. Your job, like the task of the scientist in Figure 6.3.1, is to communicate a complex idea accurately to your audience.

    scientist talking over a tray of yam plants
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Scientist, Hidehiko Kikuno explaining yam vine propagation technique by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is licensed under CC-BY-NC 2.0

    Analyzing academic voice

    Now let's take a look at the student essay in terms of academic voice:

    Try this!

    Based on the information above, which of the following excerpts from student writer Amanda’s introduction best fits our definition of effective academic writing?

    1. Have you ever had trouble finding a supermarket when you wanted to get fresh vegetables and fruits? Have you ever wondered why there are no supermarkets in certain areas? I’ve noticed these things happening as people have begun to pay more attention to eating and buying healthy things. Last year a Whole Foods opened in my neighborhood.
    2. Have you ever had trouble finding a supermarket when you wanted to purchase fresh vegetables and fruits? Have you ever wondered why there are no supermarkets in certain areas? This phenomenon has become especially evident as people pay more attention to a healthy diet and lean towards purchasing healthy food.
    For suggested answers and comments, see 6.15: Clarity and Style Answer Key.

    Now let's apply this to your own writing:

    Apply this!

    Take a piece of writing you are working on and read it over.

    • What features of academic writing does it share with our definition?
    • What features might be missing or could be improved?

    Throughout this chapter, you will follow Amanda’s journey as she revises a research essay about food deserts in Oakland, California. You will give her advice on revising for clarity and style and practice applying these techniques to your own writing.

    Licenses and Attributions

    CC Licensed Content: Original

    Authored by Clara Hodges Zimmerman, Porterville College. License: CC BY NC.

    Sample paragraphs on food deserts are adapted from "Accessibility and Affordability of Healthy Food Dependent Upon Socioeconomic Status" by Amanda Wu. License: CC BY.

    CC Licensed Content: Previously published

    First paragraph on "What is academic writing" is adapted from "Academic Style" in Athena Kashyap and Erika Dyquisto's text Writing, Reading, and College Success: A First-Year Composition Course for All Learners. License: CC BY SA.

    This page titled 6.3: Finding Your Academic Voice is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Gabriel Winer & Elizabeth Wadell (ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative (OERI)) .

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