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Article vs academic paper writing

Article vs academic paper writing: how not to sound boring in your article

Feb 26, 2013
Academic writing sometimes gets a bad rap. Its the 'highly structured, formal and sometimes painfully boring work known to the academic world'. The writings compiled by university students, professors, researchers, scientist or 'academics'. You know the type. And even with it being well-researched and useful in most cases, some people still find it pretty hard to get through; a real job to say the least. But why? Its good information right?
Well in order to better understand academic writing (and why it has the reputation it does) its best to first look at what it attempts to accomplish.

What is the purpose of academic writing?

Some of the different types of writing that you will likely complete in the academic world involve essays, research papers, dissertations, thesis, etc. These writings have a specific purpose in mind; and its not to entertain. Academic writings will usually fit into one of four categories (with regards to general purposes).
  • to inform
  • to explain
  • to analyze and evaluate
  • to persuade
Also note that more specific purposes are also needed based on the paper that is being written. So for instance with an argumentative essay for the right to bear arms, the general purpose would be to to persuade while the specific purpose being to convince readers that people should have the right to bear arms.

*Additional purpose*

Likewise, in addition to this, academic writing is also used as a major tool in evaluating student performance. Assignments are often requested by instructors as a method of evaluating various skills. Some of them include research, interpretive, writing, analytical and critical thinking skills just to name a few.
So considering the important role that academic writings play, its no wonder that they can come across as austere, stiff, or even boring at times. Its serious business-with no room for games.
Now that you understand the purpose of academic writing lets look at the goal and approach to article writing and how the two differ.

Differences between academic writing and article writing

Article writing in many cases can be constructed with similar purposes in mind; such as to inform, persuade and explain. Though a key objective of article writing is also to entertain. Similarly, you may have noticed that articles such as features in magazines or human-interest stories also have a dual purpose of both entertaining and informing. And other more instructional articles or how-to articles also may aim to explain and inform simultaneously.
Aside from the differences in writing objectives, another distinguishing factor, is how the writer presents the information-that is, writing style, voice, diction, tone, etc.

The gist

Academic writing for the most part presents a formal tone with jargon or vocabulary, specific to the discipline that is being covered. This works well considering that people that seek out academic works for a particular discipline are usually those that are already familiar with the subject or category of topics being discussed. Other things also separate academic writing; a few are provided below.

Characteristics of academic writing

  1. formal tone
  2. discipline-specific jargon
  3. higher level of general vocabulary
  4. strong argument and support evidences (properly cited)
  5. third person point of view
  6. usually objective
  7. clear and straightforward
Though some of these characteristics definitely overlap with other forms of writing, the presence of at least three or more usually indicate an academic paper. To compare both, a brief look at the main features of article writing are also provided.

Characteristics of article writing

  1. conversational tone
  2. average vocabulary-suitable for a general audience
  3. entertaining and easy-to-read
  4. connects to human-interests or emotions
  5. can be subjective or objective
  6. most important info. to the least important (with news articles)
  7. often uses anecdotes, lively examples
Now unlike the characteristics of academic writing, article writing has several more variables-all of which may not be found in one single article. The range of articles found in publications such as magazines and journals vary considerably from instructionals and how-to articles, to profiles, features and inside stories. So whereas the format and structure of an academic article is more predictable and methodical, article writing can shift as the topic shifts, and may easily go from having all of the article writing characteristics to three or less.

*A special note on academic articles*

So after all discussion on the differences between academic writing and article writing, a good question would be, 'What about academic articles?' Academic articles are the articles usually found in scholarly and peer-reviewed journals. Even though they are called articles, academic articles usually follow the same format as an academic paper (but are called articles because they appear in periodicals (journals) and therefore need to be categorized as such).

Bridging the gap

The issue of 'bridging the gap' often comes up when people who traditionally are accustomed to writing academic articles decide to 'dab into' the world of article writing. Perhaps if someone is very knowledgeable on a subject, or simply involved in a heavy literature field-they may say to themselves, Why not try at a feature article or an expose? Especially with the abundance of article writing online; having a blog is becoming commonplace for academics and general people alike.

So how do you go from boring academic writing to entertaining article writing!?

Well the shift isn't as easy as some people think. But generally with a little bit of effort, and attention to writing style, the hope is that you would be able to switch gears and provide a compelling article just as you would an academic one in a short amount of time.

Simple steps for keeping the interest in your article

#1 Write with a general audience in mind-don't kill them with vocabulary!

Though you may be writing within a certain niche or subject, remember that a wide range of people may stumble across your article. Avoid advanced vocabulary, and if using jargon, be sure to explain the terms somewhere in the article.

#2 Write like you're having a conversation with your neighbor

Your writing style is one of the most important features of your article. You don't necessarily want to write like you're talking to a friend (too intimate, maybe slang and curse words), or a complete stranger (distant and awkward); but a neighbor for instance that you know somewhat, but are still are a bit reserved with.

#3 Choose what to cover in your article, but don't make it everything

Lastly, in academic writing, complete coverage of an issue is usually a good thing. Professors may even take away points from work that fails to explore all the relevant angles of a topic. Article writing isn't like that. Its a good chance that you'll seriously bore your reader if you try to cover every single angle of a topic. Instead choose the most interesting and useful points and work to do a good job discussing them.
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By Martha Buckly. Martha is a good freelance writer and loves sharing posts on different topics including tips and guidelines for articles and academic writing. Her professional experience helps to create interesting and useful material.
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