Highs and Lows of Academic Writing

Well, first of all I would like to say, I hate academic writing. Why I hate academic writing? The style is old and going in to extinction.

Whoops? My first paragraph of this article is only one line and it doesn’t even have the ‘thesis statement’ at the end. Yeah. It doesn’t. That is because, this way of starting an essay/article is becoming increasingly rare. You will only find it being used by academic institutions etc. Everyone else has adopted new ways of writing and writing itself, is a very evolved process. It keeps evolving and changing. The way we write and communicate, isn’t a stagnant fixed process. It keeps changing.

When you are in school or when you are in University, you are told that an essay has a particular format. It has an introduction, a body and a conclusion. The introduction has the thesis statement at the end and it can’t be more than 4-5 lines. The body should be maximum three paragraphs and we are supposed to restrict our thoughts to just three ‘big’ paragraphs. Then there is the conclusion. You should re-phrase your thesis statement and end your essay with a personal reflection.

Meh.

You see what was done up there? One paragraph consisted of just one word. Yes, that is possible; but not in academic writing. If you do that in University, your lecturer or professor will cut your marks. It is simply annoying isn’t it? Following one particular format, which absolutely sucks by the way.

If in Academia, there can be a few different ways to reference – to avoid plagiarism – things (Different Referencing Styles), then why can’t there be a few different ways of essay writing that can be taught to students? In school they should still be taught the basic essay format of 5 paragraphs, but in University, lecturers and professors should be allowed to tell the students, that it is okay if you change the way you write your essays and it is okay to go above 5 paragraphs.

Students are taught in University, to jumble up their ideas and put them all together in one paragraph, or a maximum of three. This format or structure works in some cases, if the essay is not of a long length that the student is to write. What if the essay is supposed to be of 1500 words? How can you seriously fit everything in 5 paragraphs. They are going to be long and boring. It will be a daunting task to the eyes, to read those paragraphs and what has been written.

Yes! People in the past did it. Now it is time to change the way we do it and it is changing!

A professor who used to teach Journalism in American University of Dubai, said something which still sticks to the mind, every time a write-up is required and the mind is put to task. He said “A paragraph does not have to be long. An essay or article does not have to be only 5 paragraphs. One idea equals one paragraph. Now whether it takes you 2-3 lines to convey that idea, or 5-6; that is up to you and how well you put your thoughts down to paper.”

He was the first person to ever say such a thing. Every time people tell you otherwise. Stick to the format. Stick to the rules. 3 main points. Conclusion. That is it. He was also the only person to say that one word can be a paragraph too, if it is necessary.

What University teaches you is the basics. To a certain extent, teaching methods have become a bit archaic, considering all the advances human kind have made in the way we communicate and network. It has especially been accelerated due to the internet revolution and the boom of social media. The way we write an essay in University? It won’t help you when you go out in the real world and perform a task which requires writing. Like stated before, things HAVE changed.

Before, it was just print media. Now, it is the online media too and that has completely changed the ‘ball game’. People actually had time to read before and could stomach large chunks of text. Not only that, professors in University had the stamina to read long essays full of words fit in to 5 paragraphs. This doesn’t work any more. NO ONE is going to read huge blocks of text, because frankly speaking it is boring.

This is what people would think when they are reading long paragraphs. It is especially worse if people don’t use punctuation, there are grammar and typographical mistakes too isn’t it?

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Forget online media, even the way news stories are published in the newspapers have changed. Before, they were long and with barely any images. Now, there are images and news stories have become to the point. One sentence paragraph is usually the lead in to the story in the newspaper; be it the online or the printed version. The way we write has evolved and now a days is more to the point. People don’t have the attention span capacity any more.

Now, not saying that the whole essay or whatever you are writing should be of one line paragraphs. Even that would look bad and seriously unprofessional, but there should be a balance. Neither too short, too many; neither too long, barely any.

A paragraph is a unit of thought that develops an idea. A traditional paragraph contains a topic sentence that states the idea to be developed, plus additional sentences that develop the idea stated by the topic sentence.

One paragraph is one idea package. You state your idea and then develop it; by giving examples for e.g.

Academic writing is useful while in freshman year of University at most. It helps students to articulate their thoughts and write them down. It gives them a basic foundation to writing. Once students know the basics about how to write and reference, they should be given the freedom to write the way they want. Then, they should shift from academic writing to real-world writing. In real life no one writes academic essays any more. There are barely any people that do that. Doubt it if journalists or people in the media even do that now. This academic writing is basically going to be useful if you are going follow the Academia career path and become a scholar or something along those lines. Otherwise, it will not help you when you are at your work place and your boss asks you to do a report of 3000 words.

Life completely changes for a student, the day the student decides to enter the real world. Doesn’t really matter whether the student is still studying or has graduated. If you work, your life will change. In the real world, things are different from the theory you are taught at University, in most cases. Basic rules still apply, but sometimes you have to bend the rules. Also, in real world you have to apply yourself and your learning. It isn’t always the same. You will also have to improvise on many occasions; you won’t have a University handbook at your disposal telling you how things will work.

Academic writing, take it with a pinch of salt. It will be difficult for you as a student, to be obliged to force your ideas in to 5 paragraphs and think of a thesis statement every time; but this thou shall pass! The tip for success to academic writing, while you wait to progress to real-world writing and situations? Always reference and always read your essay, paper or article that you have written once or twice, before handing it in. You will find many mistakes, even in a perfectly written piece. Occasionally, pretty minor ones. Academic writing is important – it teaches a student how to write and express - but a person shouldn’t be bound to the structure.

That will be all. Yes, my conclusion is a one line paragraph.

Comments

  1. This is brilliant, and I totally agree!! "Lakeer ke faqeer" is the idiom you use for such people -__-

    - Peace and harmony.

    ReplyDelete
  2. couldnt agree more. very well written! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Very clearly put. Superb content..Thanks

    ReplyDelete

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