ENGL 112: Strategies in University Writing
February 27, 2013
Hallmarks for Scholarly Style
Scholarly style is a heavily nominal style. This means it prefers nouns to verbs, which results in
long noun-phrases such as "non-specific goal-strategy in problem-solving." Once nouns are
preferred to verbs, noun phrases carry information that would normally be spread out over the
rest of the sentence.
1. The noun-phrase absorbs a verb and an adjective:
a. This behaviour is criminal.
i. Becomes - criminal behaviour …
2. The noun-phrase absorbs a predicate (verb and objective):
a. Strategies are used to solve problems.
i. Becomes - problem-solving strategies …
This style allows the writer to absorb simple sentence structure into a noun-phrase and to leave
the rest of the sentence free to carry other information. This structure is incredible flexible and
can carry tremendous amounts of information:
A recent comparative study of multi-family housing development and maintenance costs based
on 1986 constructive experience finds that …
Nominalization thus increases the load of textual processing that the academic reader has to
perform. It is found throughout academic writing:
Our study advances and tests a model incorporation both institutional and resource explanation
for why firms adopt certain structural modifications, namely, issues management structures. The
study provides a model to account for variation in the development of issues management
structures across firms.
In this example, nominalization turns a verb/action - x modifies y - into a noun - modification -
where it can take an attribute (that is, a noun/adjective expressing a trait belonging to something)
- "structural" - that distinguishes it from other types of modification" (ex. "genetic
modification"). The action is stabilized and is worked into arrangements with other abstracts
nouns, such as "institutions" and "resources."
Nominalizations are also useful for revealing relations of cause, as in the following example:
These world trends of integration of economies, dependence on finance capital, and erosion of
subsistence security have profound consequences for the societies we study, whether they are
located in core industrial countries or in developing areas. I shall illustrate their implications in
three case studies of integration into the global economy where I have carried out field work. ENGL 112: Strategies in University Writing
Nominal phrases give meaning (through abstraction) and coherence (through summarizing
repetition) to academic writing.
Messages about the Argument (195-205):
Academic writing also gives the reader messages about its argument by referring to itself:
This paper is an attempt to redress…
This study explores the possible cognitive bases….
Over the following pages, this study will..
These examples call attention to the issue the writer is explaining.
Although self-reference is impersonal it points to an author's goals in writing the paper.
Forecasts and emphasis are special types of self-reference.
Academic writing often makes forecasts: statements about how the argument will be organized
and what the reader can expect:
First, I will summarize prior research indicating …. Second, I will briefly show that new
data … Third, I will give four examples …
Academic forecasts explicitly serve to guide the reader. They are often found in introductions
and the conclusions of new sections. They tell the reader when one section of the argument is
finished, when another begins, what information to store for later, etc. Forecasts also
demonstrate the coherence of scholarly writing by demonstrating the relevance of each item
being discussed to high-level, abstract and complex propositions that constitute the thesis.
Like forecasts, emphasis also serves to focus the r