Professor Pedantic 教授的考究學問

The professor awaits your query on academic writing, though in all honesty, he doesn’t have a lot of time for you. He is a tenured full professor and working on yet another magnificent academic tome. Even so, he has graciously consented to entertain your question. Submit it and prepare to be edified.

QUESTION: I cannot seem to choose words and terms that are correct for academic papers, though they work OK in other writing assignments. I guess I need help in identifying how academic writing differs from other communication. Can you help?

First of all, the quality of ideas is paramount in any academic paper. If your thinking is clear and of sufficient weight—maybe even profound—the quality of your writing does not matter as much. Good writing can enhance your thinking, but it cannot substitute for weakness of thought. Even so, the basic tenor of your writing is important. If it is perceived as shallow or glib, as tossed off rather than carefully composed, its reception by your professor will not be pleasant. The correct tone of an academic paper is established through a certain style of writing. Call it… formal.
首先,撰寫學術文章最重要的就是想法的品質。如果你的概念夠清楚、夠穩固,甚至是頗具深度,那麼文筆的好壞反而沒那麼重要。好的文筆能替想法加分,但卻無法取代想法的弱點。即便如此,文章的基本意涵仍相當重要。假如教授認為你的文章內容淺薄、不經大腦,是隨隨便便交出而不是認真書寫的,那麼收到論文的他可不會太高興。學術文章的正確語調應遵循特定的寫作風格,也就是 —「正式」(formal)。

What is “formal” writing? It is formally structured writing. That is, academic writing has rules. They are not inflexible, but they are rigorously applied and serious scholars are expected to follow them. The rules can be found in any internet search of academic writing, though faculty in an institution might emphasize some rules more than others. Therefore, knowing what your professor expects in a paper is vital knowledge. Essentially, formal writing eschews informal phrasing, contractions, 2nd person pronouns (“you”), and anything else considered casual.

Having a structure actually is an advantage, because it lets a reader concentrate on the ideas being communicated rather than the style of writing employed to communicate them. Working within a “formal” framework also encourages serious, as opposed to flippant, writing. This is not to say that stilted or pompous language is the goal. Serious words and terms can also be lively. Example: “The subject manifested symptoms of throat spasm,” versus “The subject gagged.” Choosing words and terms for academic papers is writing formally, intelligently, clearly, and by the rules.


Posted at 2012-12-14 14:28:45

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