Quick Write

What is Academic Writing?

The article “What is Academic Writing?” is a brief introduction to the writing you will be expected to do in college. The article begins by addressing common myths about what academic writing is. Which ones have you heard before? Think of one or two more myths, or ideas of writing, that you have heard before.

  • Myth #1: The “Paint by Numbers” myth
  • Myth #2: Writers only start writing when they have everything figured out
  • Myth #3: Perfect first drafts
  • Myth #4: Some got it; I don’t—the genius fallacy
  • Myth #5: Good grammar is good writing
  • Myth #6: The Five Paragraph Essay
  • Myth #7: Never use “I”

Irvin quotes a study by Lee Ann Carroll about the writing students do in college:

What are usually called ‘writing assignments’ in college might more accurately be called ‘literacy tasks’ (7).

What do you think she means here? In a short paragraph, write what you think the author is saying.

  • Knowledge of Research Skills
  • The Ability to Read Complex Texts
  • The Understanding of Key Disciplinary Concepts
  • Strategies for Synthesizing, Analyzing, and
    Responding Critically to New Information

Academic Writing Is an Argument

To start, let’s focus on argument. What does it mean to present an “argument” in college writing? Rather than a shouting match between two disagreeing sides, argument instead means a carefully arranged and supported presentation of a viewpoint. Its purpose is not so much to win the argument as to earn your audience’s consideration (and even approval) of your perspective.

Characteristics of Academic Writing

  1. Clear evidence in writing that the writer(s) have been persistent, open-minded, and disciplined in study. (5)
  2. The dominance of reason over emotions or sensual perception. (5)
  3. An imagined reader who is coolly rational, reading for information, and intending to formulate a reasoned response. (7)

Your professor wants to see these three things in your writing

Solution Argument Examples

One example of a solution argument essay that we have previously discussed in this class is “The Danger of a Single Story” by Chimamanda Adichie.

To quote a CNN article on the Danger of a Single Story:

Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie believes in the power of stories, and warns that hearing only one about a people or nation leads to ignorance. She says the truth is revealed by many tales.

She illustrates this with a story about coming to the United States, as a middle-class daughter of a professor and an administrator, and meeting her college roommate. Adichie says that her roommate’s “default position toward me, as an African, was a kind of patronizing, well-meaning, pity. My roommate had a single story of Africa. A single story of catastrophe.”

Adichie also tells how growing up in Nigeria reading only American and English children’s books made her deaf to her authentic voice. As a child, she wrote about such things as blue-eyed white children eating apples, thinking brown skin and mangos had no place in literature. That changed as she discovered African writers, particularly the Nigerian Chinua Achebe.

This is a great quote that highlights some of the moves we need to do in our article. It summarizes her topic, problem she is addressing, and solution; including examples she uses.

Topic: Many people do not realize that they are getting only one story. A single story is incomplete and she says dangerous.

Problem: Having a single story about an issue or group of people leads to stereotypes and incomplete information.

Solution: To look for multiple stories of whatever issue or topic you are hearing. She recommends we get our news and stories from multiple perspectives.

Reasons and evidence: She gives examples from her personal life to highlight that she has a personal connection.

Background: She gives background information, citing quotes and examples that place her issue in a historical context. She also uses current examples to place the issue in a contemporary context.


Who do you think her audience is?

What do they value?

Does she address those values?

Sample Essays

Clicking Originality Away: Social Media’s Effect On Young Female’s Self Esteem

Papers Please! The Illegal Immigration Problem

Creating Structure

Structure is very important to making an argument. It needs to be deliberate and well organized. You cannot come across as being all over the place. An argument needs order in order for the audience to follow along.

Here is one possible outline to use to build your paper:

  1. Position (thesis)
  2. Background
  3. Reason with evidence
  4. Reason with evidence
  5. Reason with evidence
  6. Reason with evidence
  7. Counterargument with refutation
  8. Conclusion with so what question addressing audience