Academic Writing- Cultural Differences - UsingEnglish

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Academic Writing- Cultural DifferencesRead the descriptions of UK and US academic writing below and decide if each point isthe same in other places such as your own country or not. If it is the same somewhereelse that you know about, write the name of that country or those countries next to, e.g.“Japan” if you think that Japanese academic conventions are the same. If that thing isdifferent in other countries that you know about, leave it blank and move onto the nextone.Academic writing style cultural differences and useful phrasesAcademic writing vs other writing styles cultural differencesPapers in peer-reviewed journals are very different to texts in newspapers and magazinessuch as articles, columns and editorials.Journal papers are very different from graded academic writing such as class assignmentsand essays in timed exams like IELTS essays and TOEFL essays.Academic writing styles can vary from journal to journal, so you have to check eachpublication’s guide for writers and follow it carefully and/ or copy other papers in it.Academic writing titles cultural differences and useful phrasesAcademic papers often have a title with two parts.If the title of an academic paper has two parts, the two parts are usually separated by acolon (“Mastering ‘a’ and ‘the’: The effectiveness of a game-based approach”).Starting academic writing cultural differences and useful phrasesThe introduction often includes something about the importance of the paper and/ or itsconclusions (“If these results are repeated elsewhere, this could have huge implicationsfor ”, “This provides a totally new point of view on ”).The introduction often mentions who the piece will be of interest to.Papers are often consciously written with both specialist readers and more generalreaders in mind, and the introduction often mentions both groups (“The conclusions shouldbe of interest to anyone in the fields of ”, “The research also touches on the fields of ”).(Rhetorical) questions to the reader are usually unsuitable for research-based papers inacademic journals, so you should keep the number of such questions to a minimum(probably no more than one question like “But what does this mean?” per paper).Introductions usually end by laying out what will be covered in the body of the piece (“Thispaper will look at and then turn its attention to ”, “The three reasons for this will beexamined in turn below”).Personal pronouns in academic writing cultural differences and useful phrasesYou should avoid addressing the reader as “you”.“You” can be replaced by other expressions (“readers”, “readers of this journal”, “peopleWritten by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com 20181

reading this paper”)In most journals, you should avoid mentioning yourself in the body of your paper (so youshould avoid “I”, “me” and “my”, and even “the author” should be avoided if possible, withexpressions like “This paper ” and “In this study ” usually being better).In some academic fields it is more normal to mention yourself when describing yourresearch (for example when writing about some kinds of anthropological field work).Academic language cultural differences and useful phrasesAcademic words tend to be longer than normal everyday words, meaning that you canmake writing more academic by replacing words with a longer word (“attend” for “take partin”, “acquire” or “obtain” for “get hold of”, “retain” for “keep hold of”, “commence” for “makea start”, “the elderly” for “old people”, “substantial” or “considerable” for “quite a lot”,“initially” for “at first”).Many abbreviations are too informal for academic writing (so you should write “information”instead of “info”, “he is” instead of “he’s”, “we have” instead of “we’ve”, “as soon aspossible” instead of “asap”, “okay” instead of “OK”, “document” instead of “doc”).Abbreviations related to the field that you are writing about are fine in academic writing, butmight need to be defined (“The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, henceforth ‘NATO’”).Some abbreviations are standard in academic writing (in English mainly Latin ones like“e.g.”, “c.f.”, “pp”, “ca.”, “i.e.”, “NB”, “et al.”, “ibid.”, “no.” and “etc”, but also others such as“ed.”, “vol.”, “doi” and “n.d.”).Some linking expressions are only used to are used to link two ideas in one sentencewhile others are only used to link two different sentences (“and” vs “In addition”/“Furthermore”/ “Moreover”, “but” vs “However”/ “In contrast”, “because” vs “The reason forthis is ”/ “This is because ”, “so” vs “As a result, ”, “.e.g.” vs “To give an example, ”,“i.e.” vs “To put that another way, ”) and using them in the other way is usually wrong.Supporting your arguments in academic writing cultural differences and usefulphrasesIn academic writing, you should avoid stating your opinion without supporting what you say(so you have to say “It is clear that because ”, not just “It is clear that ”).The best ways of supporting your arguments include quoting data and trends (“Recentstatistics from show that ”, “There has been a 300% increase in ”), quoting otherpeople’s opinions and experiences (“Chomsky says that ”, “All the speakers at a recentconference agreed that ”), knocking down opposing arguments (“Although many peoplebelieve that ”, “It could also be said that , but this doesn’t mean that ”), and logicalarguments such as cause and effect (“This would inevitably lead to ”, “The result of this islikely to be ”).Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com 20182

Hedging and generalising cultural differences and useful phrasesIn academic writing, we need to be very careful not to overgeneralise (so avoid writing“Japanese people think ”, “It is thought that ”, “Experts believe that ”).To not overgeneralise, in academic writing we often add information on how many or howmuch something matches your statement, for example how many people something is truefor (“almost everyone”, “the vast majority of people”, “most people”, “many people”, “aconsiderable number of people”/ “a substantial number of people”, “some people”, “aconsiderable minority of people”).To avoid overgeneralising, in academic writing we often add information on how oftensomething is true or how often something happens (“almost always”, “usually/ generally”,“often/ regularly”, “sometimes”, “occasionally”).So that we don’t overgeneralise, in academic writing we often add information on howlikely something is to be true or to happen (“almost certainly”, “very probably”, “probably”,“possibly”, “conceivably”, “probably not”, “almost certainly not”).Some hedging/ generalising language has very precise meanings (“possibly” vs“probably”, “most” vs “many”, “usually” vs “often”), so seemingly small changes can makea statement inaccurate.There is also other hedging/ generalising language with less precise meanings (“seemsto ”, “appears to ”).Punctuation, formatting and paragraphing in academic writing cultural differencesand useful phrasesSpecial formatting (in English usually italics or quotation marks) is used to show unusualwords that the reader is unlikely to know and/ or that you will define for them, includingwords which are not in a standard dictionary such as terms you made up yourself, verytechnical terms and foreign words (for example ““kismet’, which according to the OxfordEnglish Dictionary (2011) is ” or “kismet, which Smith defines as ”).Certain punctuation marks are too informal for academic writing (so we don’t use “!”, “–”and “ ” in academic papers, apart from in direct quotes).After a paragraph put a blank line or an indent before you start the next paragraph (notusually both a blank line and an indent).Each paragraph has one clear topic, so you generally shouldn’t start a new paragraphwithout changing topic (at least a little).We also sometimes start a new paragraph if the paragraph gets too long (over about fivesentences).Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com 20183

Good paragraphs can be understood on their own (so it’s better to write “The secondadvantage of changing Chinese trade policy is ” instead of “Secondly, ”, “Anotherreason for moving towards a more data-driven approach is ” instead of “In addition”,“There are also disadvantages to privatisation” instead of “However, ”).You should avoid one-sentence paragraphs.As well paragraphs, academic papers are usually divided into larger sections.Sections usually have headings, while individual paragraphs usually don’t.Nowadays section headings are usually marked with bold script (rather than underlining,etc).It’s almost always better to avoid bullet points and use continuous prose (sentences andparagraphs) instead.Important information is usually emphasised with language such as words and phrases,not with punctuation or formatting (so in English we emphasise with phrases like “Pleasenote that ”, “It should be noted that ” and “NB ”, not with brackets, quotation marks,underlining, bold script or capital letters).We never use all caps (“SMITH”, “NO doubt”, etc) in the body of academic writing.Ending academic writing cultural differences and useful phrasesA conclusion often starts with a summary of the information in the body of the piece (“Ashas been shown above, ”, “To summarise the points above, ”, “The main points abovecan be summarised as ”).Academic writing needs a clear conclusion. If you are worried about overstating how sureyou are about your conclusion, you should still have a clear conclusion but should usehedging/ softening language (“The data appear to show that ”, “In this situation it wasclear that and it seems likely that this would also be true ”).You should probably mention the implications of your conclusions for future researchers,government departments, etc (maybe quite hesitantly, as in “Because of this, in the futureNGOs need to at least consider ”).Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com 20184

Brainstorming stageWithout looking above for now, write at least two suitable phrases in each of the gapsbelow. Many phrases not above are also possible.Academic writing titles cultural differences and useful phrasesIf the title of an academic paper has two parts, the two parts are usually separated by acolon ().Starting academic writing cultural differences and useful phrasesThe introduction often includes something about the importance of the paper and/ or itsconclusions ().The introduction often mentions who the piece will be of interest to. Papers are oftenconsciously written with both specialist readers and more general readers in mind, and theintroduction often mentions both groups ().Introductions usually end by laying out what will be covered in the body of the piece ().Personal pronouns in academic writing cultural differences and useful phrasesYou should avoid addressing the reader as “you”. “You” can be replaced by otherexpressions ().In most journals, you should avoid mentioning yourself in the body of your paper (so youshould avoid “I”, “me” and “my”, and even “the author” should be avoided if possible, withexpressions likeusually being better).Academic language cultural differences and useful phrasesAcademic words tend to be longer than normal everyday words, meaning that you canmake writing more academic by replacing words with a longer word (for “take part in”, for “get hold of”,for “keep hold of”, for “quite a lot”, for “at first”).Many abbreviations are too informal for academic writing (so you should writeinstead of “info”, instead of “he’s”,instead of “OK”, ).Abbreviations related to the field that you are writing about are fine in academic writing, butmight need to be defined ().Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com 20185

Some abbreviations are standard in academic writing (in English mainly Latin ones likebut also others such as).Some linking expressions are only used to are used to link two ideas in one sentencewhile others are only used to link two different sentences (“and” vs, “but” vs , “because” vs, “so” vs ,, ”) and using them in the other way is usually wrong.Supporting your arguments in academic writing cultural differences and usefulphrasesThe best ways of supporting your arguments include quoting data and trends (),quoting other people’s opinions and experiences (),knocking down opposing arguments (),and logical arguments such as cause and effect ().Hedging and generalising cultural differences and useful phrasesIn academic writing, we need to be very careful not to overgeneralise (so avoid writing).To not overgeneralise, in academic writing we often add information on how many or howmuch something matches your statement, for example how many people something is truefor().To avoid overgeneralising, in academic writing we often add information on how oftensomething is true or how often something happens ().So that we don’t overgeneralise, in academic writing we often add information on howlikely something is to be true or to happen ().Some hedging/ generalising language has very precise meanings, so seemingly smallchanges can make a statement inaccurate (“possibly” vs ,“most” vs ,)Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com 20186

There is also other hedging/ generalising language with less precise meanings ().Punctuation, formatting and paragraphing in academic writing cultural differencesand useful phrasesSpecial formatting (in English usually italics or quotation marks) is used to show unusualwords that the reader is unlikely to know and/ or that you will define for them, includingwords which are not in a standard dictionary such as terms you made up yourself, verytechnical terms and foreign words (for example).Certain punctuation marks are too informal for academic writing (so we don’t usein academic papers, apart from in direct quotes).Good paragraphs can be understood on their own (both traditionally and nowadays whenreaders usually skim read almost everything, so it’s better to writeinstead of “Secondly, ”,instead of “However, ”, ).Important information is usually emphasised with language such as words and phrases,not with punctuation or formatting (so in English we emphasise with phrases like ,, not with brackets, quotation marks, underlining, bold script or capital letters).Ending academic writing cultural differences and useful phrasesA conclusion often starts with a summary of the information in the body of the piece ().Academic writing needs a clear conclusion. If you are worried about overstating how sureyou are about your conclusion, you should still have a clear conclusion but should usehedging/ softening language ().You should probably mention the implications of your conclusions for future researchers,government departments, etc (maybe quite hesitantly, as in).Written by Alex Case for UsingEnglish.com 20187

Academic writing styles can vary from journal to journal, so you have to check each publication’s guide for writers and follow it carefully and/ or copy other papers in it. Academic writing titles cultural differences and useful phrases Academic papers often have a title with two parts. If the title of an academic paper has two parts, the two parts are usually separated by a colon .

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