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Authority and credibility

Click on the highlighted text to see the comments.

You need to develop your own credible academic voice – as a marketer, a sociologist, an art historian. These voices will all sound different, but all the time you are developing your repertoire. This practice will be of great value once you are a graduate and needing to produce different types of texts with different conventions for different audiences in your workplace.

In academic writing, your ideas and claims must be supported by evidence and argument, and the sources of all ideas and data must be acknowledged.

A point worth remembering is that your lecturer will ask the same types of questions when reading your essays as you ask when reading critically. That is, they will be looking to see how well supported your ideas or arguments are, and whether that support is valid, relevant, sufficient and convincing.

They will consider any claims you make in the light of the evidence and support you provide, and in terms of the range and currency of sources you have consulted and referred to.

Which of the following statements reads as most credible and convincing? Why?

Click each statement to see an explanation.

  1. Emotional intelligence is essential in the practice of management.
  2. In my opinion emotional intelligence is essential in the practice of management.
  3. According to Smith (1967) emotional intelligence is essential in the practice of management.
  4. Jones (2004) argues that emotional intelligence is essential in the practice of management. In his view successful management practice hinges on effective communication between people, and emotional intelligence can contribute to that.

Presents someone's opinion as a factual statement.

Presents the same statement as your opinion.

Simply states the view of a writer (who may have done research on the topic or who may be expressing just a personal opinion – we don't really know from 'according to…')

Presents the view as something which needs to be argued for, not something which can be accepted just because an author has said so.

It is fine to say 'according to', but it does not (yet) really prove anything or give an idea of what sense you made of the information.

Supporting your ideas

Rather than explicitly stating your opinion, in academic writing often your opinion can emerge through your choice of sources and how you present and examine the ideas of others.

In academic writing, we tend to avoid making categorical or emphatic statements. This is in order to:

  • acknowledge that there may be exceptions
  • acknowledge that there may be a range of possible causes or explanations
  • avoid making statements that cannot adequately be supported or defended.

It is therefore often wise to:

  • qualify your ideas
  • explain your ideas
  • explore your ideas.

Some ways we avoid making emphatic statements:

  • referral to tendencies
  • using qualifiers and quantifiers
  • acknowledging exceptions and limitations.

When you write or make a statement, ask yourself – Is this true in all cases? Are there exceptions?

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