What makes good academic writing?

I’m often asked by students for samples of writing that align with what’s required for assessment tasks. This semester is no different, so I actually spent some time digging through old courses and studios I’ve run, finding a few good examples that I can share with the students.

Very often my feedback on student reflections tends towards hoping they’ll integrate or synthesise research, ideas, and thoughts on their making. I usually find myself saying ‘take a position and argue it’, by which I mean that reflective writing — at least in an academic context — shouldn’t be about a summary of everything achieved, every decision made. Rather, choose a single point — be it a creative choice, or a quote from a journal article, or something watched — and then unpack that single point to make connections to other researchers and scholars, other makers, other reflections/insights the student generated in the class.

This is difficult to achieve, even for seasoned researchers. Add to this that the accepted conventions of academic writing — the vast majority of it in many fields — are so restrictive in terms of expression as to be incomprehensible. This means that students become terrified of approaching any academic writing. It’s seen as boring, or dense, or difficult. This greatly stifles their curiosity, or their interest in finding the connections I try to encourage.

Read more: What makes good academic writing?

If only, I hear them say or imply, academic writing was easier to engage with. Which reminds me that there are some truly wonderful, writerly, scholars out there. You just have to look. This is far from an exhaustive bibliography, but here are a handful of scholars that I read for the joy of experiencing good writing as much as for research.

  • Ingold, Tim. 2011. “The Textility of Making.” In Being Alive, 219–28. Milton Park: Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203818336-28.
  • Jagoda, Patrick. 2016. Network Aesthetics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/rmit/detail.action?docID=4427890.
  • Miles, Adrian, Bruno Lessard, Hannah Brasier, and Franziska Weidle. 2018. “From Critical Distance to Critical Intimacy: Interactive Documentary and Relational Media.” In Critical Distance in Documentary Media, edited by Gerda Cammaer, Blake Fitzpatrick, and Bruno Lessard, 301–19. Cham: Springer International Publishing.
  • Murray, Janet Horowitz. 2017. Hamlet on the Holodeck: The Future of Narrative in Cyberspace. Updated edition. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press.
  • Peters, John Durham. 2015. The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media. University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226253978.001.0001.
  • Pomerance, Murray. 2008. The Horse Who Drank the Sky: Film Experience beyond Narrative and Theory. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Stewart, Kathleen. 2011. “Atmospheric Attunements.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29 (3): 445–53. https://doi.org/10.1068/d9109.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: