Tuesday, February 5, 2013

What Makes a Text an Academic Paper?

There is a specific "way of writing" that defines an academic paper. Academic papers are not written in a vacuum. There is a network of institutions that produce and disseminate knowledge in each field, and rules and standards, implicit and explicit, develop within this system. These rules and standards determine whether a text is a paper, whether it is a paper that fits within a certain field, and whether it is a valuable paper. So we have a specific "way of writing," a "genre," following Mikhail Bakhtin. We have a specific audience – those involved in the various scientific fields. And we have a set of standards that determine whether that academic paper is "good." This is not all, though, unfortunately. There is yet another set of rules that transcend the scientific world and affect the writing community in general; every writer must comply with stylistic standards.

Rules and standards create a set of expectations. Reviewers and editors will approach our text with an array of preconceptions of what it should look like and read like; how it should be organized and argued; what each of its sections should address. If we want to write a publishable paper, we need to be aware of these expectations. In the next posts we'll talk about them in detail.

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