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Kits: Scholarly Voice and Grammatical Correctness

Using Scholarly Voice in American Academic Writing

Developing scholarly voice in American academic English takes a good deal of time and practice. The more the multilingual capstone writer reads in American academic English, the better the writer will be able develop his or her own scholarly writing voice. Be sure to read actively (as opposed to reading passively) for constructs of American academic English. Specifically, multilingual capstone writers should take notes on useful terms they can use in their own writing, including common verbs used in the field of study; specific expressions used to introduce topics, build arguments, show agreement and disagreement, or close a discussion; field-specific vocabulary; and the use of transitions and other linking devices.


Using a corpus (a large electronic collection of texts) can also be helpful to search and learn about academic phrasing and formulaic phrases and expressions. Watch this short video for a demonstration of how to use a corpus, in this case the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) and the Word and Phrase Info, to improve scholarly voice in American academic English:

Tips to Improve Scholarly Voice

It is important to be aware of word choice and the vocabulary shift that occurs in American academic English. Here are some specific suggestions to help create scholarly voice:

  • Consider verb choices (such as the difference between gone down versus decreased). Eliminating phrasal and prepositional verbs and replacing them with one-word verbs is a simple strategy to improve scholarly voice.
  • Consider concision and specificity (such as the difference between a lot of versus considerable or gotten more intense versus intensified or not…much versus little). Also see the Commonly Confused Words for Capstone Writers page.
  • Avoid anthropomorphism. See APA 3.09 for more information. Avoiding anthropomorphism leads to more clear and precise word choice.
  • Consider how to use boosting and hedging appropriately to avoid hyperbole. For example, quantify claims as needed with the appropriate word choice, such as always, often, sometimes, might, possible, perhaps, and may. See APA 3.11 to 3.17 and information about avoiding bias for more tips.
  • Consider the use of midposition adverbs for more formal writing (think of the difference in formality between “It is necessary to follow the law carefully” versus “It is necessary to carefully follow the law”).
  • Keep in mind that per APA 3.09, the first person I is allowed and is preferred over the third person usage of writers referring to themselves as the researcher.
  • Avoid the use of the second person you to address the reader.
  • Avoid contractions (can’twon’t, etc.). See this post from the APA Style Blog for more information.
  • When possible, use the active voice over the passive voice in APA. See APA 3.18 for more information. This does not mean that the passive voice is prohibited; however, for precision and concision, the active voice is often preferred.

Also see these resources for more information on scholarly voice:

Revising for Sentence-Level Grammar in American Academic Writing

Actively reading and analyzing published texts can not only help improve organization and scholarly voice but can also help improve sentence-level grammar. Analyzing texts for grammar can help multilingual capstone writers emulate what they read. For example, writers can analyze published Walden doctoral studies and dissertations or look in the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA) to search for grammatical structures such as sentence construction, verb tenses, subject-verb agreement, count versus noncount nouns, article usage, and preposition usage. For more information, also see the SMRT Guide on Using a Corpus to Revise for Grammar and Scholarly Voice.

Below is a list of some of the most common sentence-level grammatical errors. As writers develop self-awareness of common errors they make, they become better able to correct for those errors, as grammatical errors often follow patterns:

Keeping a grammar revision journal can be helpful to track common grammatical errors multilingual capstone writers make, as well as corrections for these errors and the grammatical rules to follow. See the SMRT Guide for Using a Grammar Revision Journal. Also see this short video for more explanation and a demonstration of how to use a grammar revision journal: 

The use of Grammarly may also be helpful. The Grammarly software can help identify and provide potential revisions to sentence-level grammatical errors. While this is a worthwhile tool, remember that it is just a computer software program and should not take the place of a careful line-by-line reading and revision of the document.

The Doctoral Capstone Form and Style website has more grammar resources as well:

Once writers are aware of the types of grammatical errors they typically make, they can self-edit some of these sentence-level errors fairly easily. Other sentence-level grammatical errors may be more difficult to eradicate, even after years and years of writing practice (such as errors in article and preposition usage). Some writers choose to hire outside copy editors to help revise for these remaining errors that they are not able to catch on their own.

Finally, as multilingual capstone writers finish revising and editing their final project/study/dissertation for sentence-level grammar, they should check the document to ensure that it meets the requirements for the Form and Style Review Process and follows the Form and Style Checklist. This is the checklist that the editors use when completing the Form and Style Review.