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Characteristics of Academic Writing at Doctoral Level


Academic writing requires adherence to rules, norms, and in-depth analysis to uncover the meaning of studied issues. Post-graduate and graduate students must have the skills and follow the rules to create a well-written academic work and be confident in its quality. Consequently, a student must use critical thinking, as well as a conscious and careful approach to such elements as a citation style, style, grammar, and structure to write a quality doctoral paper.

Ten Steps to Write a Paper at Doctoral Level

The plan of work on academic writing can be slightly different for each student. One person prefers to write the text consistently and formal it simultaneously, and the other like to end the work by creating a reference list. However, there are still ten basic steps one needs to go through to write a quality doctoral paper. The first step is to read the assignment and understand all its components, precisely keywords, research questions, style of citation, format, and the purpose (UNCWritingCenter, 2018). If the work has only a topic, then the keywords and research questions are determined by the student, as well as the purpose and relevance of the work. The next step is to re-read the materials on the course, rules of citation, and tips for writing different types of assignments to catch the tone and format of the paper.

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In the next step, the student needs to create a short or detailed outline of the work. However, this step can be avoided if the teacher provides an outline, or the assignment has a rubric (Deegan, 2016). The student can also take as a basis the questions from the task if they are clearly formulated. The fourth step involves finding, reading, and highlighting the main points of the sources. The next step is the central part of creating an introduction and paper body with arguments by using transition, quotes, and citations. The conclusion is better to write after re-reading the main text to select and include the most important points of the study, which is the sixth step. Next, the student needs to check or add in-text and compile a reference list of sources used.

Checking spelling and plagiarism through computer programs is also an essential part of writing since it improves the quality of the paper. However, the ninth step should be proofreading, since programs often miss errors and typos. The last action is to edit and create a visual structure of the work, which includes indentation, paragraphs, fonts for headings, title page, and bodies. Many of these steps can be arranged in a different order depending on the student’s desire and type of assignment; however, all of them are useful for writing academic work.

Assurance of a Paper’s Quality

The easiest way to check the quality of academic work is to compare it with the general requirements for such work, or the grading rubric and specifications provided by the teacher. For example, Trident University published PH.D. Thesis Handbook (2019), in which students can find all the requirements for the content and format of the work. The assessment section provided by the teacher usually has specific points that should be included in a paper that claims to be highly rated. There are also general characteristics that determine a well-written academic work, and the student can self-test his or her paper for compliance with these criteria. In addition, for work up to 6 pages, the UW Madison Writing Center offers an email consultation in which tutors point out major mistakes and can help to do one or two revisions of the work (The Writing Center, 2020). Therefore, the most effective and straightforward way to provide well-written academic work is to meet its criteria.

Sources and Tools for Improving Academic Writing

A student can use multiple writing tips on educational sites, guides, and documents from Trident University and other educational websites. For example, such sources as the Graduate Writing Handbook and Writing up your university assignments and research projects have tips on the elements of academic papers, the process of writing, editing, and preparing them (Deegan, 2016; Murray, 2009). Shon (2017) also tells how to write a scholarly paper and avoid small flaws in the construction of sentences or paragraphs, and big mistakes in choosing and using sources or the structure of the whole paper. In addition, on various university sites, a student can find various recommendations for using grammatical constructions, citation, or outline to write academic work (Davenport, n.d.; University of Saint Mary, 2019; The Writing Center, n.d.). All these sources are useful since they usually provide general information on writing; however, students have to check if the university’s or professor’s requirements include the same information.

Resources for spellchecking, plagiarism, as well as automatic generation of citations are also useful tools as they speed up the checking process. However, these programs cannot serve as the only source of editing, and a student must proofread his or her work to eliminate mistakes that the computer did not notice. A student can also contact university teachers to get feedback on the work and find a way to improve it. However, the primary tool for improving academic writing is constant practicing, rewriting, and editing.

Characteristics of a Well Written Paper at the Doctoral Level

A well-written academic work has a set of qualities that distinguish it from other types of writing. The first characteristic is the rationale for the goals, key issues, and arguments of the paper (“Student guide,” n.d.). For this purpose, an author uses a review of the sources that should be cited in the text, as well as personal observations or researches that confirm his or her statements and hypothesis. A clear structure and formatting of the work are also a feature of academic papers. These parameters usually include the sequence of presentation of the argument, sufficient quotes and citations, the division of the text into paragraphs and subsections, as well as the appropriate use of italics, bold, and quotation marks. The paper also should be written in an academic style, which is expressed in avoiding the use of a second person, phraseological units, and vernacular. In addition, sentences should be meaningful but not overloaded with information, and paragraphs should contain 3-5 sentences (“Student guide,” n.d.). Thus, reasoned and formatted academic work without grammatical and stylistic errors can be named a well-written paper at the doctoral level.


Therefore, writing an academic paper is a laborious and lengthy process that requires attention to detail and knowledge of the rules. However, all the requirements are necessary and feasible for writing high-quality scientific work and creating a database of paper accessible and understandable to all readers. In addition, the study of the rules of academic writing and constant practice helps to master all the necessary skills to focus on the content of the work and not waste time checking the details of citation and formatting.


Davenport, D. (n.d.). Graduate-level writing tips: Definitions, do’s and don’ts. Web.

Deegan, A. (2016). Graduate writing handbook. Trident University International.

Murray, N. (2008). What are the different components of a research project? In Writing up your university assignments and research projects: A practical handbook. London: Open University Press.

PH.D. Thesis Handbook (2019). Trident University International.

Shon, P. (2017). The quick fix guide to academic writing: How to avoid big mistakes and small errors. New York, Sage.

Student guide to writing a high-quality academic paper (n.d). Trident University International.

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (n.d.). Tips and Tools. Web.

The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin (2020). Email instruction. Web.

UNCWritingCenter. (2018). Understanding assignments – UNC Writing Center. Web.

University of Saint Mary (2019). Tools for effective writing. Web.

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