Emily Bongiovanni

This chapter will help you:

  • Recognize patterns and best practices in academic writing
  • Understand the types of scholarly articles

Introduction to Academic Writing

There are various outlets for research dissemination, including conference posters, presentations, and scholarly articles. However scholarly articles are generally considered the most highly regarded type across disciplines. Scholarly, or journal, articles are published through academic journals. Scholarly articles are written by experts or scholars in a field and provide original research or analysis. They are written for an audience of other scholars or experts in the same discipline. Most scholarly articles are peer reviewed, meaning they are reviewed by experts in the field before they are published.

Types of Scholarly Articles

The main types of academic articles are original research articles and review articles. However, you might find content in scholarly journals that fall outside of these types, such as an editorial piece or book review. In addition to scholarly articles found in academic journals, conference proceedings are another type of scholarly work that uses an academic writing style.

Types of Scholarly Articles



Research article

Research, or empirical, articles are based on an experiment or study. The authors will report the purpose of the study, the research methodology, and results. This type of article typically follows the IMRD format: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion.

In describing the purpose of their study, authors will present a mini literature review to discuss how previous research has led up to their original research project.

Review article

Review articles summarize or synthesize content from earlier published research and are useful for surveying the literature on a specific research area. Review articles sometimes serve as an initial step leading to a research article.

There are several types of review articles:

  • Narrative: A literature review that describes and discusses the state of the science of a specific topic or theme.
  • Systematic: A comprehensive review of all relevant studies on a particular topic/question. The systematic review is created by following an explicit methodology for identifying/selecting the studies to include and evaluating their results.
  • Meta-analysis: The statistical procedure for combining data from multiple studies. This is usually, but not always, presented with a systematic review.

Table content reused from UC Merced LibGuide Writing 101 under CC-BY-NC license.

Academic Writing Style

Academic writing (or scholarly writing) is the style of writing that is used for scholarly publications, including articles, posters, and reports. This type of writing is formal, concise, and takes an unbiased approach. Academic writing provides relevant evidence to support any claims. This type of writing avoids informal language, like slang or conversational phrases, and long-winded or emotional text. Academic writing is well-structured and uses section headings and paragraph breaks to help readers follow along. This style is generally consistent regardless of the type of scholarly article.

6 features of academic writing
Features of Academic Writing

The scholarly voice

Academic writing usually is in the third-person, rather than first-person. Authors should avoid referring to themselves and their personal thoughts. Any arguments presented should be evidence-based and presented from an objective stance, backed with cited evidence.

Sentences should be simple and direct. Authors should avoid using overly complicated or “fancy” words just for the sake of trying to make the work sound more sophisticated. On the other hand, authors should also avoid slang and causal expressions.


In academic writing, authors cite others to support any claims. Properly attributing other’s work, or citing, is a fundamental component of academic writing and academic integrity. Proper citations or references are needed to avoid plagiarism, as well as to give credit where credit is due.

There are hundreds of citation styles and editions. Many professional societies, such as the American Psychological Association (APA) or Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) provide the standard citation style for the field. These different styles reflect the best practices of scholarly communication in that discipline. For example, some styles use an in-text citation style that mentions the authors name and date of publication in the in-text citation. Other styles might instead refer to a source with a number, e.g. [2], which corresponds to a citation in the reference list.

Anatomy of a Scholarly Paper

sections of a scholarly article
Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

The structure and components of an article are dictated by the type or article and any formatting requirements from the publisher or journal or by the discipline’s style guidelines. The most common sections of a scholarly paper are outlined in the table below:

Common Sections of a Scholarly Article




The abstract provides a brief summary of the paper. It should provide a brief outline of the topic, the study or experiment, and the findings. An abstract is informative and allows the reader to decide if reading the article would benefit them. Abstract are generally freely available online, even when the article is not open access. The abstract can help inform readers if they want to pay for or request a copy.


The introduction provides details on the goals and purpose of the research. This section should provide relevant context on the topic and how it led to this paper. In some cases, the introduction will cite related research if there is not a literature review section later in the paper.

Literature review

The literature review summarizes key literature related to the paper. It both summarizes and synthesizes the scholarly conversation around the topic. The literature review prepares readers to understand the significance and reason for the research.


The methods section provides a clear description of how the study was conducted. It includes the procedures, design, and protocol for the experiment or study, as well as rational for those procedures. The methods section allows readers to judge the validity of the study and be able to replicate it.


The results, or findings, section provides the core or significant findings from the study that was conducted. The results section objectively reports on these findings, without providing comments or interpretation on these findings. Tables or figures are commonly used in the results section to help visualize results.


The discussion section provides interpretation of the results. This may include the relationship between the results and the hypothesis, how the results compare to previous studies, or some explanation to unexpected results.


The conclusion section summarizes the findings and significance of the work. This section may also highlight areas for future research or exploration.


The reference, or literature cited, section lists publications and resources that are cited throughout the paper. This is a very important section since it demonstrates the previous research that the article is based upon.

Some of these sections may not be included in a paper or may be combined depending on the type of paper and requirements from the publisher. Additional sections may be included as well, such as an appendix or acknowledgements section. Journals and conferences will typically provide clear expectations and guidelines for the sections that should be included.

Literature Reviews

Literature reviews are a common section of an article and a necessary step for successful research. They are both a product and a process. A literature review summarizes and synthesizes key works in the field. It uses a narrative structure that allows readers to understand how previously published work relates to one another and provides a concise road map on further research. The goal of a literature review is to outline relevant literature that leads to your research, but it does not include your new research.

In addition to serving the readers, a literature review is also for you, the author, to gain breadth and depth of understanding in your field of research. It helps you understand how your research fits into the scholarly conversation and how it is reflected in the literature.

A literature review is not a list, editorial option, or description of your own research.

Literature review process

Conducting a literature review is an ongoing process. It is usually described as a linear process, as it is below, but it is really a complex feedback process.

  1. Define scope – The boundaries of a literature review usually follow the boundaries of the research. However, be prepared to change those boundaries as you make new discoveries or as conditions change.
  2. Identify literature – Explore the literature and discover, learn, and pursue new concepts. See Chapter 2 for information on finding and evaluating literature.
  3. Analyze findings – Evaluate results and discard or relocate less relevant items. Conduct a “quick read” to get to a subset of papers you will read in depth.
  4. Summarize and synthesize – Begin to make connections and integrate information. Use a narrative structure so readers are easily able to follow ideas as they read.
Steps described above in a linear graphic
Steps of a Literature Review

Understanding the Importance of Citations

Citations are more than just a nuisance to include in a paper. In addition to getting credit, there are other reasons why authors want to be cited for their work. Citations play a role in the scholarly conversation and how scholars interact with each other. Citations are tracked through various tools to assess the impact of a work or author, which can support the author’s scholarly identity and progress toward promotion.

Citations also demonstrate that you, as the author, have researched this topic and have authority to join the scholarly conversation. They also provide identifying information (title, author, etc.) that allow readers to track down and explore the references cited.

Without a good workflow with literature, it can be easy to accidentally plagiarize. See Chapter 4 on citation management software, which supports organizing literature and citing.

Tips for Academic Writing

  • Write to a broad audience. Academic writing is formal, but should be understandable by non-academics.
    • Don’t use fancy words for the sake of sounding sophisticated
    • Use clear and concise language
    • Organize your writing logically
  • Always support claims with evidence. Academic writing is not about sharing opinions, but presenting new information founded in evidence.
  • Always cite your sources of information. Utilizing the scholarly record and noting where it has been used creates a solid foundation upon which your research builds.


Practice identifying best practices in academic writing. Find a scholarly article from an academic journal and observe the best practices for academic writing in action:

  • Is the abstract informative?
  • How is the paper organized? What sections do you see?
  • Is the paper well-cited with a reference list?
  • Is it written in third person with little to no use of “I or “we”?
  • Is there a literature review? It is easy for you as the reader to understand how this research fits into the larger scholarly conversation?


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Navigating the Research Lifecycle for the Modern Researcher Copyright © 2024 (2nd Edition) by Emily Bongiovanni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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