Academic writing

Unpacking the social practice of academic writing


Academic writing is a necessary component of all postgraduate studies, whether you are an Economics, English, Psychology, Botany or Physics scholar. The written text (culminating in the dissertation) is the primary means of assessment in university contexts.  Despite its importance, few scholars find the practice of academic writing a comfortable or easy task. Writing skills are, however, essential, as it is through the written text that we are able to build new knowledge and contribute to our fields of study – the aim of postgraduate research.


Academic writing is best conceptualised as a social practice, embedded within a social context. Research on writing has, in recent years, focused on what good writers do. These ‘best practice’ approaches and techniques have informed various writing support initiatives in universities. Writing in academic contexts should be seen as a habitual, ongoing and experimental process, in which, and through which, ideas can be cultivated and developed. Writing should not be seen as something separate to the research process, an activity to be ‘done at the end’, when you’re ready to ‘write up’. Instead, writing should play an integral, daily role in the research process, in developing your research plans, developing your ideas generated from the research, and in the building of new knowledge that you acquire through the research process. It is often only through the act of writing that you are able to find what you want to say. 


The genre of academic writing is unlike any other written genre. It is characterised by critical reading and thinking and it is always structured around arguments, which are made using a series of claims and evidence. Academic writing is never done in isolation, but is, in fact, the means through which you are able to join an already established conversation in your field. This means that you are constantly drawing on others’ work, finding a research gap, and filling that gap when you contribute your new knowledge to the field through writing. Certain linguistic features, such as transitional words, endophoric referencing and academic hedging techniques, all contribute to this genre.


The series of academic writing workshops offered in the Postgraduate Orientation programme introduce scholars to the conventions of academic writing. The process of writing, as well as the features of academic writing are explained and demystified for scholars. The sessions introduce key concepts of academic writing, applicable for all postgraduate scholars across the disciplines. Practical advice is given with regards to the writing process, the structure of academic writing and how to make sure your work is of a high calibre when it comes to presentation. The workshop structure is cumulative, so we encourage you to attend all four workshops to benefit maximally from the programme. The four workshops are as follows:


  • Academic Writing Workshop 1:  Understanding the writing process and starting out with generative writing  - 21 April (16h00 - 18h00)
  • Academic Writing Workshop 2:  Reading and Writing – making sense of literature and developing your voice amidst the academic voices of others - 28 April (16h00 - 18h00)
  • Academic Writing Workshop 3: Developing your arguments and making claims in your study - 5 May (16h00 - 18h00)
  • Academic Writing Workshop 4: Editing and presenting your written work for peer review - 12 May (16h00 - 18h00)

It is important that you sign up for the workshops prior to attending. This can be easily done by following the link: .


We hope to see as many of you there!



Last Modified: Tue, 21 Apr 2015 09:47:01 SAST