Return to the Academic Writing Improvement Centre


[leadpages_leadbox leadbox_id=1412b8446639c5] [/leadpages_leadbox]

10 Easy Steps to Convincing your Reader with Compelling Academic Writing

Academic writing is a practice in the art of persuasion! Whether you’re an undergraduate student or qualified academic, you’re always writing to convince. Perhaps you want your readers to take specific action. Or you may aim your writing to affect a distinct change in your audience’s perspective. So how do you do it? There are many techniques you can use to activate your readers’ key motivators. Here we outline 10 simple steps to compellingly champion your cause.

1. Make a valid and supportable claim

All academic writing requires you to state your claim and state it clearly! Your starting point must be a finely honed research statement or ‘thesis statement’. This is your research ‘blueprint’ because your writing will be dedicated to substantiating your academic perspective. So making a sharp and viable assertion is your first step in the art of persuasion. Students and academics alike can get confused between a valid and a proven statement. The very nature of academic writing means you will not always be able to conclusively prove your claim. This is perfectly acceptable providing you have plenty of reliable evidence to back up your position. In short, your academic research statement should have:

  • Clear truth value
  • Several supportive perspectives
  • Backing by reliable empirical evidence

2. Use engaging storytelling

Think spinning a yarn has no place in academics? Think again. Nothing transforms your writing into a convincing piece of prose like sound storytelling. Bring your ideas and facts alive by taking your readers on a journey. When you engage emotions, you are practicing the art of persuasion. Gain sympathy, evoke excitement and garner support. Let’s take a look at storytelling in action. Plain academic writing would state ‘a cure for cancer could be found’. Certainly this outlines exciting potential yet it is possible for writers to gain far more emotional traction. Consider the alternative impact of storytelling: ‘imagine telling a cancer patient undergoing gruelling chemotherapy and their devastated family that a cure is imminent’. See the difference? Immediately you have engaged readers on an emotional level. Instead of presenting bare academic research, you are painting a picture and placing your readers in it. Put storytelling technique to work throughout your writing to pack a persuasive punch. Be careful to retain the integrity of your work though. Compelling academic content is distinct from creative writing. It must remain a formal, fact-based piece of prose.

3. Focus on one side of an argument only

In academic writing, every word counts! Never waste valuable essay or article real estate by trying to describe two sides of an argument at length. The art of persuasion requires you to stand strong on a single premise. Remember, your main goal is to change the readers’ point of view about your subject. Certainly you can reference opposing perspectives. Yet the key is to heartily rebut these points using sound evidence. Persuasive presentation of arguments requires you to:

  • Take a firm position in your academic writing
  • Use topic sentences that outline key points in your support
  • Outline each component of your argument in a separate paragraph
  • Give majority coverage to your interpretation of your chosen subject

4. Conduct in-depth audience analysis

Know your audience! Academic research can target any number of distinct reader groups. Depending on your chosen premise, you must be fully cognisant of what makes your audience tick. What factors will engage them emotionally? What will compel them into action? What will induce them to come on board with your argument? Analyse your audience then tailor your research to respond to their specific needs and perspectives.

5. Work on persuasive strategy

Strategy is a key factor in the art of persuasion. To put this in basic terms, it is time to put your thinking cap on. Persuasive strategy is really the groundwork you put in to build your academic writing on strong foundations. In applying persuasive strategy you should:

  • Refine your research scope to avoid ‘broad brush’ focus
  • Steer clear of controversial topics that may breed disagreement
  • Select relevant support evidence that’s significant to your readers
  • Pay due respect to opposing perspectives while substantiating arguments in refute

6. Keep all ideas clearly organised

If your academic research is taking readers on a journey, you must provide clear directions. Smooth flow of ideas is crucial in the art of persuasion. Clumsy or confused execution of arguments will be the undoing of even the most defensible academic research. So use efficient transitions between ideas and paragraphs to logically guide your readers. Standard academic writing structure can help you in organising your ideas too. This includes:

  • Abstract/executive summary
  • Introduction
  • Context
  • Research question
  • Main body
  • Method
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion
  • Contribution summary
  • References & appendices

Using this structure will help you clinch cohesion between numerous ideas. When your readers can easily follow your train of thought, they will more easily follow your assertions.

7. Use strong and active language

When you are sure of yourself, your readers will follow suit. Active language brings confident attitude to your academic writing. Perfect for the art of persuasion! It is all too easy for passive language to creep into your work. Yet this can weaken your writing and result in excessive wordiness, which are two sure-fire ways to ‘switch your readers off’. Active language is really an airtight assertion leaving no room for uncertainty. Let’s take a quick look at the difference between the active and passive voice. Passive voice: The research statement has been supported by the focus group Active voice: The focus group has supported the research statement See how the active voice is stronger? Using active language in your academic writing helps you:

  • Stay direct & concise
  • Get to the point
  • Focus your readers’ attention
  • State claims clearly
  • Achieve greater impact
  • Persuade, persuade, persuade!

8. Select your sources wisely

Like it or not, you are judged by the company you keep. This applies even to academic writing. Although work must be mostly focussed on your original ideas, every claim you make must be substantiated. Readers won’t just take your word for it! So selecting credible sources is crucial to compelling content. Bolster your research by using a variety of academic sources, including:

  • Statistical & measurable
  • Anecdotal
  • Educational & professional
  • Comparative analogy

Demonstrating that reliable research and facts support your claim lends weight to your writing. Now the key word here is ‘reliable’. Not all academic sources are created equal. You will only improve the integrity of your argument if your supporting sources are plausible. Look for sources that were written by academics respected in their field. By leveraging trusted sources through rigorous citation and referencing, you will:

  • Clearly show the ‘gap’ your research fills
  • Draw a line between other academics’ work & your original interpretation
  • Demonstrate context & bearing of your argument
  • Broaden knowledge-sharing within academic fields

9. Smoothly transition between ideas

Academic writing involves the communication of numerous key ideas in one piece of research. So drawing it all together is vital to achieving persuasive argument. There is little point in engaging your readers if they cannot follow ‘the big picture’. They will quickly lose attention and interest. Fortunately, language is an efficient way of transitioning from one idea to another within your academic writing project. Transition sentences act as signposts guiding your reader along your lines of argument. Their role is to make a logical relationship between different paragraphs and sections. Here’s an example of a transition sentence in action: While grammatical error and incoherence can occur in the context of preparing any academic article, it most often arises when students convert a thesis chapter for journal publication. See how two ideas are drawn together being:

  • The instance of grammatical error & incoherence in academic writing
  • The high preponderance of these in theses converted into journal articles

Transition language allows readers to follow your train of logic, therefore boosting the persuasive value of your writing.

10. Use examples to demonstrate your point

Few techniques drive home the power of your perspective like practical examples. These validate arguments within your academic writing by giving readers concrete evidence in support. Draw on practical examples within your research to:

  • Expand your perspective
  • Explain tricky ideas & information
  • Demonstrate current practice
  • Relate an idea to your research statement
  • Add strong interest value
  • Bolster your conclusions

Essentially, examples dispense with empty essays. Instead, they lend specific support from actual occurrences to persuade your audience into action or a change of view. Return to the Academic Writing Improvement Centre