How to use academic writing style

Using subject specific conventions

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You should now have a good idea of the style of writing you should be aiming for. One more important aspect of academic writing is ensuring that you adhere to any 'subject specific conventions'. This means simply that you have to follow the 'rules' of writing about your subject. For example:

In biology, when using the Latin name for an animal or plant there are a couple of subject specific conventions. If the author was writing about humans in an academic piece, they may use the Latin name for humans 'homo sapiens'. However, according to subject specific conventions, Latin names of animals or plants should be in italic, and the first word (the genus) should have a capital letter, and the second word (the species) should not have a capital letter. Written correctly, homo sapiens should look like this:

Homo sapiens

Further examples of this subject specific convention include the Latin name for the heather plant: Calluna vulgaris and the Latin name for the bacteria which causes MRSA - Staphylococcus aureus. If you were to write a piece of academic writing without using the conventions specific to your subject, you would lose marks.

Activity: Subject specific conventions - 10 minutes

1. Use the internet, books, lecturer's expertise and subject specific journals to find out what conventions apply to writing in your particular subject.

2. Make a list of these conventions and keep this for future reference.

3. Practice using these conventions in your writing, and take particular note of any feedback about your work that mentions subject specific conventions.

Recommended Further Reading

Top tip:

It is also very important to spell subject specific words correctly in your writing. Obviously, you should spell every word correctly, but it is especially important for subject specific words, for example drug names in medicine. If you spell these incorrectly, not only will the reader think you are a poor speller, they will also think that you don't know your subject particularly well.

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