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Academic writing

Build your argument

The most important voice to get across in your writing is your own; it is how you can show the reader (usually your tutor) what you are thinking, what your views are and how you have engaged critically with the topic being discussed. You can do this by building an effective and persuasive argument for your reader.

Make an argument

Your argument is how you express your viewpoint and answer the question you have been set, using evidence.

Your argument can help you plan the structure of your work and guide you to find the evidence you need to support it.

Make sure that your argument runs throughout your writing and that everything you include is relevant to it. Try to sum up your argument in a few words before you start writing and keep checking that it remains the focus as you research and write your work.

Structure your argument

Guide your reader through your argument in a logical way. Think about what questions your reader might have. If you can answer these questions through your argument, it will seem more convincing.

Present both sides of the debate, along with your thoughts, linking together the different elements.

You can then work towards a conclusion by weighing the evidence and showing how certain ideas are accepted and others are rejected. Your conclusion should make clear where you stand.

Develop your argument

Develop your argument by considering the evidence and drawing your own conclusion.

If you are considering a range of opinions, try to group them together under different headings.

Look at the strengths and weaknesses of the different sets of evidence and present these clearly and in a critical way. This will help to show you understand what you have read.

Take the evidence into account in developing your own argument and make clear what your viewpoint is. Perhaps your argument has strengths and weaknesses as well – it is fine to acknowledge these.

Include your own voice in your writing

Your voice will emerge through your discussion, interpretation, and evaluation of the sources.

Here are some ways you can establish your voice in your writing:

  1. Make your unattributed (not referenced) assertion at the start of paragraphs followed by evidence, findings, arguments from your sources.

Example:

“To date there is no well-established tool to measure divided attention in children. Current methods used to assess divided attention usually involve a variation of the CPT with an additional task included e.g. counting or listening to auditory stimuli (Salthouse, 2003).”

  1. Explicitly tell your reader what the connections are between sources.

Example:

“Smith (2009), however takes a different approach...”

  1. Explicitly tell your reader what the connections are between those sources and your main assertion.

Example:

“Netzer's argument challenges the term 'renaissance', as it displays repeatedly the use of classical imagery during the medieval period, therefore illustrating that canonising a chronological period can be disadvantageous as characteristics of the term.”

  1. Use language to show your strong agreement/disagreement/cautious agreement with sources.

Example:

“Smith's (2009) findings show a clear...A serious weakness with this argument is...The research suggests...”

  1. Include “so what” summary sentences (evaluative sentences) at the end of paragraphs.

Example:

“This shows that it is detrimental to strictly categorise chronological periods with artistic genres, as many art historians suggest different movements were taking place in separate geographical locations at the same time.”

Using different verbs in your writing will show your understanding of the sources, for example:

  • “Stevenson (2015) explains that...”
  • “Stevenson (2015) argues...”
  • “Stevenson (2015) describes how...”

You can also use verbs to show your agreement or disagreement with other author's arguments. For example:

  • “Stevenson (2015) correctly identifies...”
  • “Stevenson (2015) fails to consider...”
  • “Stevenson (2015) reveals... “

The Manchester Academic Phrasebank provides many more examples that you can use in your written work.