High quality work clearly communicates the creator's key message. At university, the key message can be referred to as the:
The word 'argument' in everyday language is associated with a clash of opposing views, often between individuals or groups who each believe that there is only one 'right' response to a situation.
Arguments in academic work can be much more nuanced, but it is still important to be able to state your argument as clearly and concisely as possible. This helps you communicate your ideas more effectively to your audience, and makes it easier for you to select content to include in your work based on how well it supports your argument.
In academic writing, the 'thesis statement' contains a concise summary of your key message. The thesis statement is often found towards the end of the introduction or introductory section.
In design work, you should ensure that your audience knows:
In presentations, speakers often start by introducing the 'problem' they were trying to address (or a hypothesis), and conclude with their solution (or what they now know about the problem).
One of the best ways to become familiar with the structure of the genre of work you are expected to produce is to seek out good examples of similar work. Consider:
Typically, academic writing follows a linear style of argument and remains closely focused on the topic throughout the text.
To achieve this, an author's points are usually structured in paragraphs that each present one main idea, supported with details, facts and examples that elaborate on how that point contributes to the overall argument.
To maintain this focus in your own writing you need to carefully select what evidence you will use to support your main ideas, and clearly show how main ideas are related to your argument. The main ideas explored within paragraphs can be linked back to the argument either in:
In addition to showing how main ideas are related to your argument, it is important to explicitly state the connections between ideas throughout your work.
Words and phrases that indicate the connection between ideas may seem unnecessary to you when you think your point is obvious, but it is better to state those relationships explicitly than rely on your audience to guess what you mean.
Other ways to make your work more cohesive and easier to follow include using:
Your position on a topic should be based on research and your logical evaluation of the evidence, rather than your personal biases or preferences.
The range of evidence you use to support your ideas, along with the way you use that evidence, is the key factor in making your work objective.
Personal pronouns (e.g. I, me, my, we, us, our) tend to be associated with expressing personal 'feelings' rather than objective positions, and as a result they are often avoided in academic writing.
To avoid using personal pronouns, you can substitute them for another word or phrase or use the passive voice.
Keep in mind that this is a style choice; it is not the lack of personal pronouns that makes work objective, but what evidence you use and how you use it. Personal pronouns are more widely accepted in some disciplines than others, and some genres of writing (e.g. reflective writing) may require you to use them. If you are not sure what is acceptable in the work you are doing, check with your instructors.
Academic work avoids informal words, slang and colloquial terms because they could be interpreted differently by different readers.
It also uses the full form of words instead of contractions and shortened terms.
Words that are used in many contexts (e.g. have, get, do) or words that are vague (e.g. lots, big) can give the impression that your work lacks sufficient analysis, or that you don't really know what you mean.
Phrasal verbs or multi-word verbs (e.g. 'figure out') are often considered less precise than single-word verbs (e.g.discern).
If you are not sure about a word, look it up in a learner's dictionary. If it has a number of meanings or is frequently used in idioms, this could be an indication that you should choose a more precise word. You can use a thesaurus to find synonyms, and then check the results in a dictionary until you find a more suitable word.