The APA Publication Manual tells us:
The prime objective of scientific reporting is clear communication. You can achieve this by presenting ideas in an orderly manner and by expressing yourself smoothly and precisely. Establishing a tone that conveys the essential points of your study in an interesting manner will engage readers and communicate your ideas more effectively. … In describing your research, present the ideas and findings directly, but aim for an interesting and compelling style and a tone that reflects your involvement with the problem. (VandenBos, 2010, pp. 65-66)
The APA Manual and other guides can instruct us on the mechanics of academic style, but how do we learn to develop a tone and compelling style that is acceptable to editors and professors yet retains our original stamp?
Adrian Holliday, author of Doing & Writing Qualitative Research, observes that academic writers have a particular dilemma: we must balance extensive reference to others’ work with our inclusion of own perspectives. We need to demonstrate our knowledge of prior published literature about the topic at hand, while at the same time explaining our own ideas, experiences, and critical insights.
Despite these challenges, Holliday argues that “there is a place for powerful, personal authorship” in scholarly writing (Holliday, 2016, p. 127). Similarly, Ken Hyland observes that “academic writing… is an act of identity: it not only conveys disciplinary ‘content’ but also carries a representation of the writer” (Hyland, 2002, p. 1092). How do we represent ourselves, while situating our work within the academic conversation of our respective fields? See the linked resources here and share your strategies for developing a scholarly voice in the #AcWriMo threads and in the Tweetchats.
Holliday, A. (2016). Doing & writing qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publication. See Holliday – Doing & Writing Qualitative Research – Chapter 6)
Hyland, K. (2002). Authority and invisibility: Authorial identity in academic writing. Journal of Pragmatics, 34(8), 1091-1112. doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-2166(02)00035-8
VandenBos, G. R. (Ed.) (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
More Resources on the Scholarly Voice
- Voice in Academic Writing handout from the University of Melbourne
- Scholarly Voice: Overview from the Walden University Writing Program
- Academic Writing resources from the Online Writing Lab (OWL) at Purdue University
- Contribution and Voice in Academic Writing from Rachael Cayley’s Exploration of Style blog
- How to Become an Academic Writer: Part 1 – Building an Academic Vocabulary from SAGE Connection
- Writing Across the Academic Life-Span (click for 30-sec clip) from the Textbook and Academic Authors Association
- Academic voice: On feminism, presence, and objectivity in writing by Kim Mitchell