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Academic Writing

What is academic writing?


Academic writing is a formal style of writing that is mainly used in colleges, universities and scholarly sources. You will encounter academic writing in journal articles, books and blogs on academic topics, and you will be expected to write many of your college assignments in an academic style of writing. 

Academic writing follows a basic four step writing process and has distinct content, structure and style characteristics. 

Characteristics of academic writing  

  • Formal in style 
  • Structured/organized 
  • Researched using scholarly sources to support points (popular sources may also be used depending on the assignment requirements. Please check with you professor if you are unsure.) 
  • Unbiased language 
  • Precise/focused language
  • Correct and consistent grammar, punctuation, tenses 
  • Discipline-specific terms 

Academic writing is not 

  • Personal 
  • Casual, informal 
  • Unstructured 
  • Written in slang 
  • Long-winded 

There are many programs and courses at Sheridan that incorporate non-academic writing styles or elements, such as creative writing, journalism and digital advertising or marketing. When reading your assignment requirements, pay attention to the type of assignment, it's purpose, length and citation style expectations. Requirements may be found in your syllabus, course outline or assignment document or the assignment rubric, if shared. It is important to understand your assignment and consult with your professor if you are unsure.

College success: Writing tips video (4m,1s)

Sources consulted

Difference (2019. February 1). Difference Between Academic Writing and Non Academic Writing. 

Scribbr. (2020). The dos and don'ts of academic writing.