Style: the nature of academic English

This article focuses on the main stylistic features of academic English

Academic English is plain, simple, straightforward language.  Sometimes students write sentences with  so many clauses and commas that is hard to understand the meaning.  When there are also grammar mistakes from an international student, it makes it worse.

Here’s a paragraph from a journal article which I’ve used with some students recently:

It is generally agreed that overseas students are at a severe disadvantage in coping with a new education system.  From various aspects, many studies reported the difficulties experienced by overseas students with their academic progress. Elkerton (1985) highlighted the extent of thesis supervision for overseas students. His research showed that, in general, overseas students require more intensive supervision than the native students. Barker et al (1991) reported the difficulties faced by a sample of Chinese students with tutorials. Felix and Lawson (1994) found that overseas students often expoerience stresses and problems not only with tutorials (including lectures, seminars, but also with laboratory work and essay writing up.

Li , R and Kaye, M (1998) Understanding Overseas Students’ Concerns and Problems,Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, Vol 20, No 1, 1998

Read it? Fine. It’s not very difficult to understand because the sentences are quite short and easily structured. In most sentences you can see quite simply:

subject verb object
Overseas students are at a disadvantage in coping with a new education system.
Many studies reported the difficulties experienced by overseas students.
Elkerton highlighted the extent of thesis supervision for overseas students.
His research showed that overseas students require more supervision.

In fact it is remarkable how simple the structures are here! If you are writing a literature review look no further for how to do it! Looking at sentences like this - subject - verb - and the rest - can help you check for agreement between the subject and verb and can also help you understand complex sentences when you are reading. Keep it simple!

As usual I will leave you with a link to read around the subject a bit more. Today’s link is to Napier University in Edinburgh with some useful comments about academic writing style.

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