5 Popular Types Of Academic Writing

You may think that academic writing is, in and of itself, a distinctive writing style all its own. Compared to journal writing, creative writing, or journalism, academic writing has a fairly stuffy, heavily professional style that many students have difficulty with at first, with highly regulized formatting guidelines and proscribed word usage. It is a style that is challenging to learn and, for many students, perilous to understand.

However, academic writing is far more diverse than that picture might suggest. There are many unique and interesting subtypes of academic writing, with their own rules, goals, and readership. Each type various in its rules and linguistic tendencies, and a strong academic writer should be able to deftly navigate their many differences and write in all modes. Below are five of the most popular types of academic writing, as well as some notes on what sets each of them apart from the rest.

  1. Journal Article Writing
    Journal articles should be relatively compact, but very dense with information. The average journal article contains between five thousand an ten thousand words, not including back matter such as references and appendices. A journal article is peer reviewed and describes new research results. It should be tailored to a specific, expert audience within the academic’s own field.
  2. Book Chapter Writing
    Academic book chapters are typically lengthy reviews of existing bodies of research, and usually contain many citations. A book chapter should be fairly broad in its scope, but should outline precise and specific results at the same time. The audience will be fairly wide, and includes undergraduates and graduate students, so the language should be accessible.
  3. Dissertation Writing
    A dissertation consists of tens of thousands of words, or upwards of a hundred pages. The document should describe a research project with multiple studies, and should use an immense amount of detail with a plethora of tables, figures, charts, and references to existing research. No amount of detail is excessive in a dissertation.
  4. A Candidacy Exam
    In a candidacy exam, the writer tackles a specific academic question or problem presented by their academic committee. The paper should be fairly brief but very dense with ideas. A strong candidacy exam is very thorough, but very narrowly focused.
  5. A Thesis
    A thesis paper is similar in form to a dissertation. It should review a body of research and out line the results of a single study. It should be written in more accessible prose than a dissertation is.