Skip to Main Content
DMU logo

Hours Today:

Access to resources is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Completing Your Dissertation: Academic Writing

Completing Your Dissertation: Academic Writing

Academic writing for one's dissertation is different than other types of writing. This page explains the importance of academic writing and how it is done. 

What is Academic Writing? 

Academic Writing is a style of writing that is appropriate for scholarly communications and research papers. Essays, lab reports, and annotated bibliographies are also considered examples of academic writing. While the exact details of academic writing depend on the discipline (for example, scientific writing is very technical with methods and results, but this is different than writing in the humanities) there are some basic characteristics of academic writing that are generally held in common across disciplines.  

Characteristics of Academic Writing

Academic writing is marked by several characteristics. These include that the writing should be: 

  • Formal and unbiased - Academic writing should not be written casually. Avoid contractions, slang, and conversational phrases. The use of the first person "I" should also be kept to a minimum. Additionally, the work should be unbiased (e.g., outlining the steps and findings honestly and openly) and objective. 
  • Clear and precise - Academic writing should not be too verbose or wordy, and should clearly state what you are trying to report. 
  • Focused and well-structured - Academic writing should be to the point and well organized so that it is clear and easy to follow. 
  • Well-sourced - When writing in the academic style, you should back up your claims with cited sources, especially when utilizing others' works. 
  • Correct and consistent - Verify the facts, and keep your points consistent throughout your paper. Numbers, abbreviations, and spelling should also be consistent throughout your paper. 

The Importance of Developing a Rhetorical Situation

When beginning the process of academic writing, a rhetorical situation is a good tool to have in mind. A rhetorical situation has the following elements: 

  • An author
  • A text
  • An audience
  • Purposes
  • A setting

When writing your dissertation, you should keep in mind your biases and your background as that can influence your writing. Becoming aware of your background and the biases you might have will help you to become more objective and help you to reach your audience better. Additionally, it is important to keep in mind the text or resource format and the purpose of what you are writing. For example, a presentation would be a different document than a dissertation or research paper, and these influence how and what to include in your writing, as well as your audience. Finally, the setting is important because it provides the basis of how you want to communicate. 

Basic Steps to Academic Writing

  1. Interactive Reading and Note-Taking - First, you should engage in a process of interactive reading and note-taking. This will help you to remember what you have read. When you read, highlight or underline important points that provide answers to basic questions about methods, results, how it relates to your dissertation, etc. It is useful to use a bibliographic program, such as APA Academic Writer, to record your notes and build up your readings. You can find more on APA Academic Writer under the "Referencing" tab. 
  2. Creating Citeable Notes - Citeable notes, which come from your interactive reading and note-taking in a bibliographic program or on note cards, function as placeholders for your dissertation and also help you to prevent plagiarism. They can be ordered and also serve to structure your literature review. 
  3. Developing a Focus Statement - Your focus statement 
  4. Writing a One-Page Outline
  5. Creating a Long Outline with References
  6. Maintaining a Regular Writing Routine



Additional Resources