Academic writing in your thesis

Tips & examples

You must maintain a specific writing style for theses or other reports assigned to you at higher vocational education or university. This is called academic writing. The aim is to write concisely, concretely and impersonally. This way, you avoid words like 'I' and 'we' and write factually and objectively. What should you specifically pay attention to in order to properly apply academic writing in your thesis? These tips and example sentences for academic writing in your thesis will help you figure it out.

What does using academic writing for your thesis mean?

Academic writing is a way of writing that you apply in, among other things, theses, papers or scientific publications. You often receive specific guidelines from your study program for academic writing for a thesis within your field. Every discipline and every study program can use different criteria for this.

In general, an academic writing style means that you express the message as briefly as possible in objective and concrete terms. So, no opinions, just facts. You use written language instead of spoken language.

The academic writing style is:

● objective;

● as specific as possible;

● short and to the point;

● formal (but not too formal);

● factual;

● impersonal.

Important in academic writing: correct citations

Furthermore, the correct citation is an important part of academic writing. For each quote and paraphrase, state where you got the information from. If you forget that or do it incorrectly, it's plagiarism.

For most study programs you refer to sources according to the APA source reference. Legal programs use the Guidelines for Legal Authors.


Example sentences for academic writing

In concrete terms,how do you approach academic writing in your thesis? The following tips and example sentences for academic writing will give you a concrete idea of ​​an academic writing style.

Make connections clear with signal words

You come across many connections in academic texts. Think of a contrast, lists, comments or causal connections. Make these connections explicit by using signal words. Examples of signal words are:

Causal relationship: because, because of that

Contrast: but, however, nevertheless, nevertheless

Listing: first, second, in addition, also, further

Note: incidentally, besides, it is remarkable that…

Addition: in addition, also


'The sample completed a survey about their sugar consumption. Sugar affects concentration. The subjects answered questions about their breakfast, lunch and dinner. Other questions were about their concentration during the day.'


'The sample completed a survey about their sugar consumption, because sugar influences concentration. To gain insight into this, the subjects answered questions about their breakfast, lunch and dinner. The survey also contained questions about their concentration during the day.'


Avoid 'I' and 'we'

Often in academic texts, you are not allowed to use the words 'I' and 'we'. This is only allowed in the foreword, a reflection report or interview transcripts. Of course, there is also an exception for personal essays. But apart from those chapters and text types, these personal pronouns in academic writing are seen as informal and too personal. Make sure to write a little more distantly.

These example sentences for academic writing show you how to do that:


'In this study, I'm going to see if…'

'I interviewed 345 people for the practical research.'


'This research is intended to…'

'This thesis focuses on…'

'345 people were questioned for the practical research.'


Do not address your reader directly

In your thesis, it is not appropriate to address the reader, except in the preface if necessary. Therefore, avoid the words 'you', 'you' and 'you' as much as possible.


"You can find the surveys in the attachment."


'The surveys can be found in the appendix.'


Be careful with the passive voice

We sometimes see students resort to passive sentences to avoid 'I' and 'we' as much as possible. Using the passive voice too often will only make your text less readable. Therefore, avoid using it too much.

The passive voice means that you transform a sentence into a sentence with 'become', as in the following example sentences.


'Researchers have been looking for years at the development of climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions.'

'This chapter first discusses how the research was conducted and then defines who the target group is.'


'Researchers have been working for years on the development of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions.'

'This chapter first deals with the implementation of the research. This is followed by a description of the target group.'


Avoid subjective terms

In academic writing, it is important that your descriptions are objective. Describe the results found without (unconsciously) attaching an opinion to them. Note: even subtle words can sometimes hide an opinion. Just look at these examples:


"This is a big and important improvement from the previous situation."

'Of course the respondents indicated that…'


'This is an improvement compared to the previous situation.'

'The respondents indicated that…'

Please note: in some parts of your thesis you are allowed to speculate about possible explanations or to let your opinion shine through. This is sometimes allowed in the discussion and/or reflection. Check with your thesis supervisor about which guidelines your study program follows.


Don't make it too formal

Of course, your thesis should be written somewhat formally because of the academic readership. At the same time, be careful not to use unnecessarily difficult or old-fashioned words to make it extra formal. Keep your language comprehensible to most people in your field.


'The concrete performance of students at this university is abysmal compared to other universities, according to the average figures of the educational institution.'


'The grades of students at this university are lower than those at other universities, according to the average grades at this educational institution.'

Additional tips for academic writing

Now you know the most important guidelines for academic writing. Need even more inspiration? Take advantage of the additional tips for academic writing below.

Adhere to the guidelines for the thesis structure

Theses are usually structured more or less in the same way. This thesis structure is standard for most theses. Keep a close eye on what information you need to put in which chapter.

We notice that there is often confusion about what belongs in the results chapter, the conclusion, and the discussion. Our article on thesis structure will help you put the right information in the right chapter.


Use the correct verb tenses

It is crucial for academic writing in your thesis that you use the correct verb tenses in every chapter. It is important to stay consistent, too.

The following guidelines apply to the use of verb tenses:

Summary, theoretical framework and methodology: present perfect ('This research focuses on…') and ('Jansen's research has shown that…')

Introduction: simple present tense ('This study focuses on the following question…') and simple past tense ('Previously, an employee survey showed that…')

Results, conclusion and discussion: simple past ('Five participants indicated that…' ') and present perfect ('This research has shown that…')


Avoid vague words

The English language has many words with meanings that are unclear. Avoid this kind of vague wording in your thesis as much as possible. So don't use words like 'things' (what kind of things?), 'someday' (when exactly?) or 'good' (in what way?).


Have your texts checked in between

Are you doubting  the extent to which you are applying the rules for academic writing properly? Have your text read in the middle of your writing process by your thesis supervisor. They can provide feedback about your language use so that you can immediately apply the academic writing style correctly in the following chapters.

Avoid language errors

Whatever text you write, spelling and grammar errors will always make your text appear less professional. Especially in your thesis, language errors are a no-go, or at least something that you will be criticised for in your final assessment.

Therefore, try to filter language errors out from your thesis as much as possible. Do you find it difficult to spot them on your own? The editors of AthenaCheck are happy to check your thesis for language errors. They also check whether you use academic writing style well. This way, you can hand in your thesis without worrying about your language use.