Blog 7: Academic Writing

Academic writing is often defined as writing for educated audiences that relies on well reasoned and supported claims using evidence appropriate to those claims and the audience it is written for; furthermore, such writing acknowledges differences of opinion by qualifying claims and addressing that difference.  Academic writing uses specific styles of citation and detailed methods to signal to the reader both where evidence came from and how to find it if the reader is interested in looking into the topic more.  Finally, academic writing relies on precise wording specific to the topic it is about.

Of course, there is so much more to academic writing.  And yet, even in what I have written thus far there is great variation depending on the academic audience.

Your assignment.  In a blog post, I want you to make an argument about what academic writing does better, different, or worse than other types of writing, using as evidence the differences between three pieces about an experiment that Dan Ariely conducted.

Dan Ariely is a professor at Duke University who teaches classes on marketing and behavioral economics (he has PhDs in business and cognitive psychology).  He writes both academic papers and popular books (two of those books are New York Times bestsellers); he routinely writes for both academic and public audiences. This week, you will look at three readings from Ariely–and they are all about the same exact study.  Notice how the details he reports (even the titles) change in each instance, even though they are from the same study:

  • Begin with the TED lecture (20 minutes) entitled “What makes us feel good about work?” If you select “interactive transcript” you can see a text version of the speech which will make quoting from it easier.
  • Next, read the Duke University press release (825 words), “What Managers Can Learn from Legos.” Although there is no author listed on the article, and you shouldn’t use an author unless one is listed, press releases are routinely written by a study’s author, even “quoting” him- or herself, as a way to repackage a study for a public audience.  The hope is that a major newspaper or magazine will pick up the release and write more extensively on the topic (which brings prestige to the company, in this case, the university).
  • Finally, read the academic study (3,680 words) “Man’s search for meaning: The case of Legos” that appears in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.  

I am having you read the “public” pieces first to make reading the academic study a bit easier, but the real focus of Blog 7 is academic writing.  Here’s what you need to do. After reading Ariely, Kamenica, and Prelec’s study, make an argument as to what academic writing does better, different, or worse than other types of writing.  You can split the argument up into paragraphs on each better, different, or worse, or you can organize it by 2-4 separate topics (e.g., a paragraph about the topic of “citation,” what makes it different, better or worse in academic writing than other types of writing, a paragraph about statistics, a paragraph about previous research, etc.).

Your claims should be supported by examples from the text, more specifically quotes (review the MLA PowerPoints or email me if you need assistance) to demonstrate what you are talking about. I’m less concerned about larger discourse community issues here, and more about patterns you notice looking at this specific example of academic writing.  Your post will be graded on the clarity of your argument (this is thesis-driven, so you have to make an overall claim), how many patterns you describe, and the specificity of your evidence.


  • The blog post should be over 250 words.  There is no upper limit on the number of words in this post, but I recognize that this should take you 5-6 hours, so I’m not expecting 3,680 words.


  • Blog post, Tuesday by midnight


  • Demonstrate practical knowledge of the concept “rhetorical situation,” through the abilities both to analyze and to write effectively in different kinds of situations.
  • Demonstrate the ability to produce writing that effectively provides evidence and reasoning for assertions, for audiences of educated readers.
  • Demonstrate the ability to incorporate and attribute or document source material in rhetorically effective ways.
  • Demonstrate the ability to edit and proofread their writing.