Find, express and maintain your writing voice

What is ‘voice’ in academic writing?

In academic writing, your ‘voice’ is the means by which you exhibit control over the assignment topic you are responding to. At university, your reader wants to know what you think based on what you have read, and what conclusions you draw as a result of your research. In short, they are not ultimately looking for a summary of the published ideas, but rather your insights into the topic after you have completed the research process.

You will be required to present your academic position in response to an assignment topic in most written assessment tasks. This usually involves researching the topic by finding and reading relevant literature, considering the range of views in that literature about the topic, and formulating your own informed argument about it. Your argument will need to be communicated in your academic ‘voice’, which should be distinct from the ‘voices’ of the published experts.

Find your voice by establishing your academic position

In most pieces of writing at university, you will need to present your academic position on a topic or at least indicate your attitude towards what you write about. This might involve agreeing or disagreeing with a statement, offering a recommendation, proposing a possible solution to a problem, or something else. Your academic position should be formed after you have researched the topic. While personal opinions might be based only on one person’s experiences and coloured by emotion, an academic position or justification is logical, rational and supported by evidence. So how does one find one’s voice in academic writing? In short, this happens when you write with the confidence of someone who has researched and thought about their topic thoroughly, and who subsequently knows their topic very well.

Taking it further