Academic Voice

voice-kidAssuming that your audience is a teacher of some sort, your main purpose is to demonstrate your ability to articulate knowledge and experience. When writing a research paper and other academic writing (what is called academic discourse) you’ll want to use what is called the academic voice, which is meant to sound objective, authoritative, and reasonable. While a research paper will be based on your opinion on a topic, it will be an opinion based on evidence (from your research) and one that has been argued in a rational manner in your paper.

You use the academic voice because your opinion is based on thinking; in your paper you’re revealing your thought process to your reader. Because you’ll be appealing to reason, you want to use the voice of one intellectual talking to another intellectual.

If the subject matter for your academic writing isn’t personal, as in the case of a formal research paper, you would take on a more detached, objective tone. While you may indeed feel strongly about what you’re writing about, you should maintain a professional tone, rather than a friendly or intimate one.

However, it’s important to note that even the most formal academic voice does not need to include convoluted sentence structure or abstract, stilted language, as some believe. As with all writing, you should strive to write with clarity and an active voice that avoids jargon. All readers appreciate a vigorous, lively voice.

Instead of:
The utilization of teams as a way of optimizing our capacity to meet and prioritize our goals will impact the productivity of the company.

Write:
Teams will execute the goals and enhance the company’s output.

Of course, the decision about whether you use a specialized vocabulary depends entirely on who your audience is and the purpose of the paper.


REMEMBER: Some academic writing will require a more personal tone, such as when you are writing a formal narrative essay or perhaps an ethnography (study of a culture) essay. In general, the academic voice is a formal one, but there will be variations based on the situation.

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