Since the beginning of my academic career, I have been struggling with my academic writing. Since 2014, I have read at least 10 books and many articles only on academic writing. During my PhD years, I took a course in academic English writing. Still, for most of my research articles, I use a professional native English speaker proof-reader before submitting them to a journal or conference. I spend a lot of time checking every change made by the proof-reader. I learn every day. Over time, I have been trying to summarize my learning on academic writing and below are some of them.
- Every academic article is about a story from the beginning until the end. Make sure you have a consistent story throughout your article.
- Write short and precise sentences. Use simple words. Bear in mind that your readers might not be a native English speaker. Science is already hard, do not make it harder for people to understand.
- Always write in the present tense, even if you refer to a past study. For example, instead of writing “Munim et al. (2017) found that…”, write “Munim et al. (2017) find that…”.
- Always use active voice. Passive voice is like a crime in academic writing. It confuses the reader. Avoid the passive voice as much as possible.
- Never write “paper”, write “study”. For example, write “This study finds that…” not “This paper finds that…”.
- When referring to any number below 10, use the textual form. For example, write “seven”, not “7”.
- For each paragraph, make sure to start with a topic sentence and end with a transitional sentence to the next paragraph. In between these two, write detail facts about the topic of the paragraph. A topic sentence is a sentence that summarizes the main idea of a paragraph.
- Many argue against using the first person singular pronoun “I” in academic writing. I do not agree with this. If it is a single-author study, feel free to use “I”. You will find many single-author studies published in top journals that boldly use “I”. This will help you to avoid passive voice in sentence structure. For multi-authored studies, use “we”. You can use ‘we’ in single authored studies as well as it indicates both the author of the study and the reader.
- Do not repeat any information/facts throughout the article except for the conclusion. Mentioning a fact only once is sufficient. You are allowed to repeat what you have done and what you found only in the conclusion section.
- Finally, be careful of plagiarism. Academia has 0% tolerance for plagiarism. You may get away with publishing a plagiarised article for the time being, but eventually, it will bring consequences in later years, and you might lose your job as well as your PhD degree. You will find this article useful in avoiding plagiarism.
Complimentary free tips: Always keep your paragraph justified (CTRL+J) and insert page number at the bottom. Put figure title below but table title above. Use a reference managing software, e.g. Endnote. Use a professional proof-reader or at least assess in Grammarly before submission to a journal.
Dr. Ziaul Haque Munim is Associate Professor in Maritime Logistics at the University of South-Eastern Norway. His main research interests include maritime logistics, forecasting, supply chain management and international business. He received the Best Paper Award at the IAME 2016 Conference in Hamburg, and the Best Young Researcher Award at the IAME 2018 Conference in Mombasa. He published several articles in leading journals such as Journal of Business Research, Resources Conservation & Recycling, Asia Pacific Journal of Management, and others. Follow his research on ResearchGate and Google Scholar.