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Academic Paper – Format, Example and Writing Guide
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Academic paper is a written document that presents the findings of a research study or scholarly inquiry in a formal manner. It is typically written by researchers or scholars and is intended to communicate their research findings to their peers or the academic community at large.
Types of Academic Paper
There are several types of academic papers that are commonly assigned in academic settings, including:
- Research papers : These are papers that involve the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data to answer a research question or test a hypothesis.
- Review papers: These are papers that synthesize and analyze existing research on a particular topic to provide a comprehensive overview of the field.
- Case studies: These are papers that examine a particular instance or example in-depth, often used in business or law settings.
- Essays : These are papers that provide a well-organized argument or analysis of a topic, often used in literature or philosophy courses.
- Lab reports : These are papers that document experiments conducted in a laboratory setting and include detailed observations, methods, results, and conclusions.
- Thesis and dissertations : Thesis are long-form research papers that are typically required for advanced degrees, such as a Master’s or PhD.
- White papers : These are papers that provide detailed information about a particular product, service, or issue, often used in marketing or policy settings.
- Position papers : These are papers that present a particular point of view or stance on a controversial issue, often used in political or social settings.
- Literature reviews : These are papers that critically evaluate and summarize the research literature on a particular topic, often used in social and health sciences.
- Conference papers : These are papers presented at academic conferences, which typically focus on recent research and developments in a particular field.
- Book reviews: These are papers that provide a critical analysis and evaluation of a book, often used in literature or history courses.
- Personal statements : These are papers that are used in applications for academic programs or scholarships, in which the author describes their background, interests, and qualifications.
- Reflection papers: These are papers in which the author reflects on their own experiences or observations related to a particular topic, often used in education or social work courses.
- Policy papers : These are papers that provide recommendations or proposals for addressing a particular policy issue, often used in political science or public policy courses.
- Technical reports : These are papers that provide detailed information about a technical project or process, often used in engineering or computer science settings.
Academic Paper Format
Academic papers typically follow a specific format, although it can vary depending on the discipline or journal. Here is a general outline of the components that are commonly included:
- Title page : This should include the title of the paper, the author’s name, and their affiliation (e.g. university or organization).
- Abstract : This is a brief summary of the paper, typically around 150-250 words. It should provide an overview of the research question, methods, results, and conclusions.
- Introduction : This section should introduce the topic of the paper and provide some background information. It should also include a clear research question or hypothesis.
- Literature review : This section should review the existing research on the topic and explain how the current study contributes to the field.
- Methodology : This section should describe the methods used in the study, including the sample, measures, and procedures.
- Results : This section should present the findings of the study, typically using tables and figures to display the data.
- Discussion : This section should interpret the results and discuss their implications. It should also address the research question or hypothesis and explain how the findings contribute to the field.
- Conclusion : This section should summarize the main findings and their implications, and suggest directions for future research.
- References: This section should list all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style (e.g. APA, MLA).
Example of Academic Paper
Example Sample of Academic Paper is as follows:
- Running head: TITLE OF PAPER
- Title of paper
- Author’s name
- Institutional affiliation
- A brief summary of the paper’s main points, including the research question, methods, results, and conclusions
- Should be no more than 250 words
- Introduce the research question and provide background information
- Discuss the significance of the research question and how it relates to previous research in the field
- Provide a clear and concise thesis statement
- Describe the research design, including the participants, procedures, and materials used
- Explain how data was collected and analyzed
- Present the findings of the study in a clear and organized manner
- Use tables and figures to visually represent the data
- Interpret the results and explain their significance
- Discuss how the findings relate to the research question and previous research in the field
- Identify limitations of the study and suggest directions for future research
- List all sources cited in the paper, formatted according to APA style guidelines.
When to Write Academic Paper
There are several occasions when you might want to write an academic paper, including:
- Coursework : In many academic programs, you’ll be required to write papers as part of your coursework. This may include essays, research papers, case studies, or other types of academic writing.
- Conference presentations: If you’re a researcher, you may want to present your work at academic conferences. Writing an academic paper can help you organize your thoughts and prepare for your presentation.
- Journal publications: Publishing a paper in a peer-reviewed academic journal is an important way to share your research with the broader academic community. This can help you build your reputation as a scholar and may be required for promotion or tenure.
- Grant proposals: When applying for research funding, you may need to submit a proposal that includes a research paper outlining your research question, methodology, and expected results.
- Thesis or dissertation: If you’re pursuing a graduate degree, you’ll likely need to write a thesis or dissertation, which will require extensive research and academic writing.
Purpose of Academic Paper
Academic papers serve several purposes, including:
- Contribution to knowledge : One of the primary purposes of academic papers is to contribute to the existing body of knowledge on a particular topic. By conducting research and presenting new findings, scholars and researchers can build upon previous work and expand our understanding of a subject.
- Communication: Academic papers allow researchers to communicate their findings to a wider audience, including other scholars, students, and policymakers. Through publications, academic papers can reach a broader audience and have a greater impact on society.
- Validation and peer review: Academic papers are subjected to rigorous peer review by other experts in the field. This process helps ensure the accuracy and validity of the research and helps maintain the quality of academic work.
- Career advancement : Publishing academic papers is often a requirement for career advancement in academia. Researchers who publish frequently are more likely to receive grants, promotions, and tenure.
- Preservation of knowledge : Academic papers are often archived and made available for future generations to study and learn from. They can provide a record of research and scholarship that can be used to build upon in the future.
- Development of critical thinking skills : The process of writing an academic paper requires careful analysis, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills. By engaging in this process, researchers can develop their abilities to think deeply and systematically about complex topics.
- Influence on policy: Academic papers can have a significant impact on policy decisions. Policymakers often rely on academic research to inform their decisions, and researchers who are able to communicate their findings effectively can have a real-world impact.
- Advancement of science and technology : Many academic papers are focused on advancing science and technology. By publishing research on new technologies or breakthroughs in scientific understanding, researchers can help drive innovation and progress in these fields.
- Education and training: Academic papers are often used as educational resources in universities and other academic settings. They can provide students with valuable insights into research methods, data analysis, and academic writing.
- Building collaborations: Collaborations and partnerships can be built through academic papers. Researchers working on similar topics can connect through publications, leading to further research and collaboration opportunities.
Advantages of Academic Paper
Academic papers have several advantages, including:
- Sharing knowledge : Academic papers are an effective way to share knowledge with other scholars and researchers in a particular field. Through publication, ideas and findings can be disseminated to a wider audience and contribute to the advancement of knowledge in a particular discipline.
- Building credibility : Publishing academic papers can help researchers establish credibility and demonstrate expertise in their field. By contributing to the scholarly conversation, researchers can gain recognition and respect from their peers.
- Facilitating collaboration: Academic papers can foster collaboration between researchers who share similar interests and can lead to new research partnerships and collaborations.
- Providing feedback: Academic papers often go through a peer-review process, which allows for constructive feedback from other experts in the field. This feedback can help researchers refine their ideas, strengthen their arguments, and improve the quality of their work.
- Career advancement: Publishing academic papers can be important for career advancement in academia. It is often a requirement for promotion and tenure, and can also help researchers secure funding for future research projects.
- Preservation of knowledge : Academic papers are often archived and preserved, ensuring that the knowledge and findings they contain are accessible to future generations of researchers and scholars.
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What Is Academic Writing? | Dos and Don’ts for Students
Academic writing is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. You’ll encounter it in journal articles and books on academic topics, and you’ll be expected to write your essays , research papers , and dissertation in academic style.
Academic writing follows the same writing process as other types of texts, but it has specific conventions in terms of content, structure and style.
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Table of contents
Types of academic writing, academic writing is…, academic writing is not…, useful tools for academic writing, academic writing checklist.
Academics mostly write texts intended for publication, such as journal articles, reports, books, and chapters in edited collections. For students, the most common types of academic writing assignments are listed below.
Different fields of study have different priorities in terms of the writing they produce. For example, in scientific writing it’s crucial to clearly and accurately report methods and results; in the humanities, the focus is on constructing convincing arguments through the use of textual evidence. However, most academic writing shares certain key principles intended to help convey information as effectively as possible.
Whether your goal is to pass your degree, apply to graduate school , or build an academic career, effective writing is an essential skill.
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Formal and unbiased
Academic writing aims to convey information in an impartial way. The goal is to base arguments on the evidence under consideration, not the author’s preconceptions. All claims should be supported with relevant evidence, not just asserted.
To avoid bias, it’s important to represent the work of other researchers and the results of your own research fairly and accurately. This means clearly outlining your methodology and being honest about the limitations of your research.
The formal style used in academic writing ensures that research is presented consistently across different texts, so that studies can be objectively assessed and compared with other research.
Because of this, it’s important to strike the right tone with your language choices. Avoid informal language , including slang, contractions , clichés, and conversational phrases:
- Also , a lot of the findings are a little unreliable.
- Moreover , many of the findings are somewhat unreliable.
Clear and precise
It’s important to use clear and precise language to ensure that your reader knows exactly what you mean. This means being as specific as possible and avoiding vague language :
- People have been interested in this thing for a long time .
- Researchers have been interested in this phenomenon for at least 10 years .
Avoid hedging your claims with words like “perhaps,” as this can give the impression that you lack confidence in your arguments. Reflect on your word choice to ensure it accurately and directly conveys your meaning:
- This could perhaps suggest that…
- This suggests that…
Specialist language or jargon is common and often necessary in academic writing, which generally targets an audience of other academics in related fields.
However, jargon should be used to make your writing more concise and accurate, not to make it more complicated. A specialist term should be used when:
- It conveys information more precisely than a comparable non-specialist term.
- Your reader is likely to be familiar with the term.
- The term is commonly used by other researchers in your field.
The best way to familiarize yourself with the kind of jargon used in your field is to read papers by other researchers and pay attention to their language.
Focused and well structured
An academic text is not just a collection of ideas about a topic—it needs to have a clear purpose. Start with a relevant research question or thesis statement , and use it to develop a focused argument. Only include information that is relevant to your overall purpose.
A coherent structure is crucial to organize your ideas. Pay attention to structure at three levels: the structure of the whole text, paragraph structure, and sentence structure.
Academic writing uses sources to support its claims. Sources are other texts (or media objects like photographs or films) that the author analyzes or uses as evidence. Many of your sources will be written by other academics; academic writing is collaborative and builds on previous research.
It’s important to consider which sources are credible and appropriate to use in academic writing. For example, citing Wikipedia is typically discouraged. Don’t rely on websites for information; instead, use academic databases and your university library to find credible sources.
You must always cite your sources in academic writing. This means acknowledging whenever you quote or paraphrase someone else’s work by including a citation in the text and a reference list at the end.
There are many different citation styles with different rules. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago . Make sure to consistently follow whatever style your institution requires. If you don’t cite correctly, you may get in trouble for plagiarism . A good plagiarism checker can help you catch any issues before it’s too late.
You can easily create accurate citations in APA or MLA style using our Citation Generators.
APA Citation Generator MLA Citation Generator
Correct and consistent
As well as following the rules of grammar, punctuation, and citation, it’s important to consistently apply stylistic conventions regarding:
- How to write numbers
- Introducing abbreviations
- Using verb tenses in different sections
- Capitalization of terms and headings
- Spelling and punctuation differences between UK and US English
In some cases there are several acceptable approaches that you can choose between—the most important thing is to apply the same rules consistently and to carefully proofread your text before you submit. If you don’t feel confident in your own proofreading abilities, you can get help from Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or Grammar Checker .
Academic writing generally tries to avoid being too personal. Information about the author may come in at some points—for example in the acknowledgements or in a personal reflection—but for the most part the text should focus on the research itself.
Always avoid addressing the reader directly with the second-person pronoun “you.” Use the impersonal pronoun “one” or an alternate phrasing instead for generalizations:
- As a teacher, you must treat your students fairly.
- As a teacher, one must treat one’s students fairly.
- Teachers must treat their students fairly.
The use of the first-person pronoun “I” used to be similarly discouraged in academic writing, but it is increasingly accepted in many fields. If you’re unsure whether to use the first person, pay attention to conventions in your field or ask your instructor.
When you refer to yourself, it should be for good reason. You can position yourself and describe what you did during the research, but avoid arbitrarily inserting your personal thoughts and feelings:
- In my opinion…
- I think that…
- I like/dislike…
- I conducted interviews with…
- I argue that…
- I hope to achieve…
Many students think their writing isn’t academic unless it’s over-complicated and long-winded. This isn’t a good approach—instead, aim to be as concise and direct as possible.
If a term can be cut or replaced with a more straightforward one without affecting your meaning, it should be. Avoid redundant phrasings in your text, and try replacing phrasal verbs with their one-word equivalents where possible:
- Interest in this phenomenon carried on in the year 2018 .
- Interest in this phenomenon continued in 2018 .
Repetition is a part of academic writing—for example, summarizing earlier information in the conclusion—but it’s important to avoid unnecessary repetition. Make sure that none of your sentences are repeating a point you’ve already made in different words.
Emotive and grandiose
An academic text is not the same thing as a literary, journalistic, or marketing text. Though you’re still trying to be persuasive, a lot of techniques from these styles are not appropriate in an academic context. Specifically, you should avoid appeals to emotion and inflated claims.
Though you may be writing about a topic that’s sensitive or important to you, the point of academic writing is to clearly communicate ideas, information, and arguments, not to inspire an emotional response. Avoid using emotive or subjective language :
- This horrible tragedy was obviously one of the worst catastrophes in construction history.
- The injury and mortality rates of this accident were among the highest in construction history.
Students are sometimes tempted to make the case for their topic with exaggerated , unsupported claims and flowery language. Stick to specific, grounded arguments that you can support with evidence, and don’t overstate your point:
- Charles Dickens is the greatest writer of the Victorian period, and his influence on all subsequent literature is enormous.
- Charles Dickens is one of the best-known writers of the Victorian period and has had a significant influence on the development of the English novel.
There are a a lot of writing tools that will make your writing process faster and easier. We’ll highlight three of them below.
AI writing tools like ChatGPT and a paraphrasing tool can help you rewrite text so that your ideas are clearer, you don’t repeat yourself, and your writing has a consistent tone.
They can also help you write more clearly about sources without having to quote them directly. Be warned, though: it’s still crucial to give credit to all sources in the right way to prevent plagiarism .
Writing tools that scan your text for punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. When it detects a mistake the grammar checke r will give instant feedback and suggest corrections. Helping you write clearly and avoid common mistakes .
You can use a summarizer if you want to condense text into its most important and useful ideas. With a summarizer tool, you can make it easier to understand complicated sources. You can also use the tool to make your research question clearer and summarize your main argument.
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Use the checklist below to assess whether you have followed the rules of effective academic writing.
- Checklist: Academic writing
I avoid informal terms and contractions .
I avoid second-person pronouns (“you”).
I avoid emotive or exaggerated language.
I avoid redundant words and phrases.
I avoid unnecessary jargon and define terms where needed.
I present information as precisely and accurately as possible.
I use appropriate transitions to show the connections between my ideas.
My text is logically organized using paragraphs .
Each paragraph is focused on a single idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .
Every part of the text relates to my central thesis or research question .
I support my claims with evidence.
I use the appropriate verb tenses in each section.
I consistently use either UK or US English .
I format numbers consistently.
I cite my sources using a consistent citation style .
Your text follows the most important rules of academic style. Make sure it's perfect with the help of a Scribbr editor!
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