Form & Function

Academic writing, like other forms of writing, has its own structure and agenda. According to the MLA Handbook, academic writing "is designed . . . [for] a community of writers who greatly value scrupulous scholarship and the careful documentation, or recording, of research" (Gibaldi xiii). That is, academic writing is a specific type of writing that involves the presentation of research in conjunction with the informed writer's ideas. The audience for this kind of writing is generally the academic discourse community--a group of people who are interested in your ideas, thoughts, and research. You can assume an interested and intelligent reader.

The "research paper" or "argumentative essay" is one traditional form of academic writing. In this written analysis the writer "draws on all the critical thinking skills . . . , particularly analysis, evaluation, and interpretation. An argument puts forth a proposition, a statement the writer offers as true but which readers may disbelieve. The writer's task, then, is to supply sufficient, reliable evidence to prove the truth of the proposition. A strong argument also anticipates opposing viewpoints and presents counterarguments in defense of the writer's viewpoint" (Kramer, Leggett, and Mead 13).

Writing is a process. Often, inexperienced writers will wait until the last minute to write a paper and then feel frustrated by "writer's block" or "not knowing where to go" with the paper. Part of this frustration results from attempting to force all of the parts of the writing process into a short amount of time. Truly taking the time to work through the four processes of prewriting, drafting, revising and proofreading will help alleviate both anxiety and bad writing.

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