If you are in high school, college, university, graduate school, or a post grad program, you are already familiar with the dreaded concept of “academic writing.” For too many students, “academic writing” is synonymous with a dry, mechanical form of writing designed to be written by the uninspired to be skimmed by the uninterested and then locked away in the infamous circular file never to be seen again. But it doesn’t have to be that way. While academic writing might never rise to the excitement of a pulp fiction thriller, it doesn’t have to a mechanical exercise in stringing together words to meet an abstract set of guidelines and requirements. There are ways to bring your writing to life while still making it scholarly. Three must-have books about academic writing can help you to get there.
1. A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses and Dissertations. Kate L. Turabian’s Manual is one of the most famous books about academic writing for a reason. This accessible volume on the vagaries of Chicago style and how to deploy Chicago format in the real world remains a valuable tool in the arsenal of any academic writer. Turabian covers the formatting of papers, in-text citations, footnotes, and reference lists with clear examples of how to use these rules in real-world settings. Turabian, however, goes beyond many other manuals by diving into the thorny issues of language usage and the best way to concisely express ideas. If you don’t have a copy of this book and are in college or university, go get one immediately!
2. The Style Manual for Your Discipline Style. Turabian’s manual is great for understanding how to put together a research paper or a dissertation, but it isn’t necessarily going to answer all of your questions about the right way to format a paper in your discipline style. Every academic discipline has its own preferred formatting style. The humanities tend to favor Modern Language Association (MLA) style, while the social sciences often employ the American Psychological Association (APA) style, and historical disciplines typically prefer the University of Chicago style. There are a number of less well-known style that are used by smaller disciplines, including SAA style in anthropology, Bluebook style in legal studies, and Associated Press (AP) style in journalism. Whatever your discipline, find out from your professor what style is typically used and then obtain your style guide to ensure that your paper will meet all of the formatting requirements. Each organization publishes a style guide, such as the MLA Style Manual, the Chicago Manual of Style, and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association. These manuals are typically not offered in a free online format, so having a paper copy at hand can be a great way to get a leg up in your formatting.
3. The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth et al. The previous two entries on our list focus on the formatting of a paper and the formalities of its style, but this entry looks at the best way to develop content for your paper. In The Craft of Research, Booth et al. take students through the writing process and describe the best way to approach research, analyze research, and turn research into engaging prose. The authors examine the hows and whys of writing for an academic audience, but they don’t forget that a paper needs to be interesting on its own merits, not just because it is addressing an assignment. To that end, they cover the importance of strong introductions and conclusions, and they offer compelling examples to help students transform from mechanical writers into writers who see research as a craft rather than a chore.
There are a number of other great books that cover more specific areas of academic writing for particular disciplines, and students in those particular disciplines may find a subject-specific guide helpful. Some examples of these include:
- Scientific Writing = Thinking in Words by David Lindsay, covering writing for the natural sciences.
- Handbook of Writing for the Mathematical Sciences by Nicholas J. Higham, covering mathematics and quantitative fields.
- The Business Writer’s Handbook by Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu, covering business-related fields.
With the help of books like these, you, too, will quickly develop your academic writing skills and begin to see academic writing as, yes, precise and detailed, but also a living and engaging way of communicating complex ideas to intelligent audiences. If you need help from a team of experienced writers, get in touch with a custom academic writing service which will provide you with high-quality original papers in any discipline.
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