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For Multilingual Students: U.S. Academic Writing

Academic Writing Norms in the United States

Academic writing norms vary from language to language and culture to culture. Familiarizing yourself with the norms and expectations in a U.S. academic context will help you succeed as a student at a U.S.-based university. To begin, review these resources from the Writing Center about U.S. academic writing.

Academic norms including what is expected in writing assignments as well as classroom behavior expectations may differ from culture to culture. Watch this short video on following faculty expectations to learn some tips in order to be successful in an American online university.

In the following resources, learn more about some of the expectations related to academic writing: 

Scholarly Voice

One notable characteristic of most U.S. academic writing is the use of scholarly voice. Scholarly voice, sometimes called scholarly tone, includes various conventions of academic writing such as formality and word choice, objectivity, precision, and clarity.

To find out more about how to use and maintain scholarly voice in your writing, see the Writing Center's resources on Scholarly Voice as well as the page on Revising for Scholarly Voice

In addition to the information above about scholarly voice, the following resources may also be helpful:

Organization of Ideas

The presentation of ideas in U.S. academic writing is clear and straightforward. The main purpose or argument of the paper is typically explained at the introduction in a thesis statement or purpose statement. This is also known as the controlling idea. Then, throughout the rest of the draft, the writer provides explanation and evidence to support that thesis or purpose statement. Extra information that is not related to the assignment prompt or topic of the paper should not be included.

Watch this short video for more information on the organizational structure expected in U.S. academic writing and how to follow this organizational pattern.

To discover more about the organization of ideas in U.S. academic writing, explore the Writing Center’s resources on constructing paragraphs. In addition, the following resources may be helpful to better understand the organization of ideas:

Argument

Most writing and assignments in an academic context require that the writer does research on a topic, takes a stance, and supports that stance with information from the literature. To identify relevant information to use as you support your stance, the Academic Skills Center developed some tips on How to Read a Research Article.

This development of ideas is often referred to as an argument. Being able to build strong arguments is an important skill in U.S. academic writing. See the Writing Center's page on Constructing Arguments for more information. 

Watch this video to learn how to develop your arguments with evidence and your own analysis.

Part of constructing strong arguments is also synthesizing the material. Check out the information on the Writing Center website about synthesis. Also see these additional resources for more information about constructing and developing arguments in U.S. academic writing:

Another related aspect of effective argument and supporting your ideas is citing the ideas correctly. At Walden University, this means citing using APA documentation style, the citation style of the social sciences. 

Watch this video on citing all ideas that come from other sources for more information about citation expectations in a U.S. academic institution.

Find more information on Walden Writing Center’s citations webpage  and paraphrase webpage as well as the resources listed below (be sure to watch the videos on citations and videos on paraphrasing on those pages):