Why is ‘voice’ important in academic writing?
This is the first of three lessons about Balancing Voices. To complete this course, read each lesson carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce the concept of ‘voice’ in academic writing
– Discuss the importance of balancing author voices
– Provide examples of source voice and writer voice in context
Of the many writing skills that exist, students often struggle most with the concept of voice in academic writing – yet creating a balance of voice is perhaps one of the most important aspects of this style. The following three lessons therefore attempt to deal firstly with the concept of voice and why it’s used in academic writing before exploring how to use and identify the three different types of voice. Finally, how to effectively include and balance voice in your own writing is discussed in some detail.
What is ‘voice’?
Although how voice is identified in academic writing varies slightly from institution to institution, the general concept of voice is mostly agreed upon. Put simply, voice when writing academically describes whether the information in a text has been provided by the writer or by another source author, and such voice may be analysed on a clause-by-clause or sentence-by-sentence basis. Writer voice is therefore used to indicate and introduce the opinions and ideas of the writer, while source voice may be used to introduce evidence, concepts or ideas from a published piece of research – otherwise known as a source. The following two example sentences show how both writer voice (WV) and source voice (SV) may be used together:
Why is ‘voice’ important?
There are three primary reasons that the distinction between writer voice and source voice should be clearly indicated in a piece of academic writing.
1. Including Sources
Sources that provide support for the writer’s arguments and ideas are a critical aspect of academic writing. By using integral citations, the writer can introduce various sources in their writing in the form of source voice. Such sources may be introduced to define a concept, support an argument, provide explanations and examples, or to provide the direct words of an author through quotations.
2. Writing Convincing Arguments
Source voice is most often used by academics to introduce sources that will make that writer’s research more convincing. Particularly at the undergraduate level, a reader (or marking tutor) will likely care little for the ideas and opinions of an inexperienced and unpublished researcher; instead, by supporting those ideas with appropriate sources, the writer is able to make their arguments more convincing. If a reader sees that the writer’s ideas are supported by external evidence and agreement, then those ideas will be stronger and more difficult to refute.
3. Separating Opinions
The final reason that voice is important is that it helps the writer to separate their opinions from the opinions of other authors. Perhaps the writer wishes to introduce a counter argument in an evaluative essay and intends to show that they don’t necessarily agree with the included source’s research or ideas. To do this, the writer might use clear source voice, indicating that the evidence they’ve provided may or may not be separate from the writer’s own opinion. Consider the following example:
It’s clear from the second sentence in this example that the writer (WV) disagrees with Beck’s (2017) argument (SV). The use of clear source voice and writer voice has therefore enabled the writer to separate their opinions from the opinions of another author. However, as will be shown in Lesson 2, there are in fact three types of voice that a writer may use to their advantage. Continue reading to find out more about the third and final type: mixed voice.
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