Academic Writing as a Whole
I first encountered academic writing in a school setting at the beginning of freshman year in English 9 Honors. That year, we read books such as The House on the Mango Street and Lord of the Flies. We were required to craft literature reviews and character analyses, including elements such as themes, motifs, and the like. Ever since then, I have been honing my skills through a variety of writing tasks.
In the past, I found school assignments much easier than research papers I have conducted on my own. When completing literature reviews, the teacher usually offers guidelines and specific prompts to follow along. Therefore, essentially, they are the ones who have provided the students “research questions”, instead of having to search and create one’s own. By using the standard components of the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion, I have produced dozens of papers on short stories, novels, dramatic scripts, and other forms of texts.
In English class, particularly, I open the essay with the background information of the book and its author, then proceed to my thesis and brief breakdowns of the topic sentences of my body paragraphs. For example, employing the PEEL method may be helpful.
In Social Science classes, I adapt similar approaches, but instead of quoting notable moments in a book that signifies the plot, I have to subtract the most relevant and useful information from a textbook or lecture and supplement them with my own understanding. For example, when examining prompts such as “the causes and effects”, “to what extent” and “compare and contrast” questions in a history class, I select a series of historical events that are significant to the prompt and demonstrate the strength and weakness of either primary or secondary sources.
Research papers, on the other hand, are extremely time-consuming, energy-demanding, and require the ability to conduct sophisticated methodology. They are usually much longer than common analytical essays in length, ranging from 8-30 pages, and the scholars rely on many sources of materials to create original, reflective research topics.
Taking from my personal experience, this June, I wrote a research paper on the differences between national origin discrimination and racism. Two months prior to the deadline, starting from April, I searched for books, news, and articles related to the topic and began organizing them into several categories. Along the way of writing the approximately 500 words introduction, I kept adjusting the thesis, mainly because of the more in-depth understanding I developed of the research area, the more aspects I wanted my paper to incorporate. However, due to the word count limitations, I ended up selecting the three most critical factors that contributed to the phenomenon of neglecting national origin discrimination. I had to pay close attention to the cohesiveness and connection between each point, so I used transitional paragraphs to connect one socio-economic factor to another.
Right now, I am working on a 20-page research paper on the topic of grotesque literature. Each week, the project demands hours to conduct research, read hundreds of pages of materials, and list outlines. The process is extremely challenging and mimics the style of undergraduate-level research, proposed to high school students. I found it helpful to use a sources management organizer to list out details of each source, then consider how they can be used in my paper and serve the thesis.
For example, this is a simplified version of how I usually create a source management organizer.
Academic Writing vs. Creative Writing
In my opinion, the biggest difference between academic writing and creative writing is the manipulation of language. In creative writing, being another field I am familiar with, I find inspirations from my daily life and merge them into a world I construct on my own, with a lot of freelance for making “assumptions” and actively shifting my narration voices to create different emotional and dramatic effects.
Academic writing, in contrast, does not leave me a lot of room with my personal imagination and though still original, every sentence crafted has to be logical, legitimate, and supported by evidence. This is specifically shown whenever I attempt to incorporate a viewpoint, I have to check its background and whether it is reliable, trustworthy, and authoritative.
In conclusion, both school’s writing assignments and research papers are helpful in developing one’s writing skills and improving the overall academic proficiency. The old saying “practices make perfect” does come into play in this process. The more a student writes and thinks critically, the more they get to put exposure on critical thinking and analytical skills. At the end of the day, though not everyone’s goal is to become a scholar publishing in research journals, it is still important to possess the ground level of academic writing skills.