Writing an academic paper can be stressful. There are a lot of rules in academic writing and it is important to keep in mind the format required for a paper, but some of the rules of academic writing are just myths.
Myth: Academic writing cannot be creative.
Fact: Although it is important to keep academic writing factual, there’s nothing wrong with using creativity throughout the process of academic writing, from choosing a topic to developing research methods, to writing in a way that will enthrall the audience.
Myth: The writing process must be linear.
Fact: Each writer should use whatever process works for them. Some people thrive on setting up an outline and working methodically from beginning to end. Others may feel more comfortable starting with a mind map, fleshing out topics as they strike their interest, and then fitting all the pieces together. Another strategy is writing the conclusion first and then filling in the body of the paper.
Myth: There is no room for changing arguments.
Fact: Even science is built on changing arguments. It is important to research and have an idea of what a paper is communicating before beginning to write, but as you work, it is normal for a paper to evolve during the process.
Myth: Academic papers must have a definite conclusion.
Fact: Teachers want their students to learn something and improve their writing, not have concrete answers to everything. Exploring ideas even when there is no easy answer can make a paper shine.
Myth: Feedback is only for bad writers.
Fact: Even professional writers get feedback and everyone has areas to improve. Feedback is not an offense, but an aid.
Myth: Thesis statements must be short.
Fact: Thesis statements can vary widely in length depending on the topic, but the necessary elements are clarity and concision.
Myth: Long, complex sentences convey intelligence.
Fact: What matters is that the writing is clear and the content is valuable. One should aim for a balance of long and short sentences to give rhythm to one’s writing.
Myth: Never use passive voice.
Fact: Although passive voice is often misused to pad word count, it can be useful to emphasize action or to deemphasize the doer.