The Nature of Academic Writing

Artikel Pak Ali

During your studies in the Department of International Relations, University of Darussalam Gontor, you will have to write various types of academic papers. In part, these will require the skills, for instance, to provide a summary and evaluation of other articles. Many assignments will also involve you in developing an argument of your own in relation to the work of others. The most common of these, and perhaps the most important, is the research paper. In its essence, the research paper imitates the research article, an article published in a journal in the discipline. At this stage in your academic career, it may sound like a big challenge to write a publishable article, but past students have written papers for their courses that, with revision, have been accepted for publication, so it is certainly not impossible. More
importantly, writing research papers is practice for writing the publishable articles that I hope you will produce later. Students are “junior researchers”. You should, therefore, see yourself as a researcher when you are trying to write your research paper: you are learning to write like a fully-fledged researcher.

Many of you I have observed, however, found the thought of contributing something new rather daunting. My students, novelty does not necessarily mean developing a major new theory, however, it does mean that you are expected to add something to the existing body of research, not just collect and repeat other people’s work. There are many ways to express this ‘novel’ aspect for instance, your contribution may be a new insight in existing debates, the application of an established theory to a new area, an expression of disagreement with a certain position argued by another writer, or an extension of a previously developed line of enquiry.

There are of course kinds of academic writing which do not create new knowledge, a sub-genre known as ‘review articles’. The best known are what are often called ‘state-of-the-art’ articles, written by a leading authority on the field to conveniently provide an up-to-date overview for the less well informed about how new research and theory this specialised part of the field looks at the moment. I am certainly not asking you to write one of these. A different kind of review that you may have to write, however, particularly when working on your academic writing such as the literature review. A literature review is a piece of writing in which you ‘review’ previous research in your chosen field to show the reader how your own research-in-process relates to what has been written to date and to justify your research by showing how you add on or fill in the gaps to the existing literature. A literature review serves to pave the way for a subsequent theoretical framework and methodology. If you are unsure of the purpose of an assignment you have been set, please come to see your ustadz or ustadzah to clarify any misunderstanding which will certainly help you get a better understanding. Insya Allah, Allahumma Amin.

Contributor: Al-Ustadz Ali Musa Harahap M.H.S

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