Examples of passive voice in academic writing

You may have been taught in school that you should always use the active voice, especially when giving speeches and when writing fiction or persuasive essays, as it emphasizes the subject and makes your sentences leaner and stronger. While this rule generally applies to research writing, there are some definite differences in application—this accounts for why there are so many sentences in scientific journal articles using the passive voice construction. Differences between the Active and the Passive In general, the active voice emphasizes the agent of the action—that is, the person or object performing the action.

Examples of passive voice in academic writing

Five Habits to Avoid in Y Five Habits to Avoid in Your Academic Writing Hints to help you tighten up your academic writing As professors and researchers, you are responsible for writing research proposalsauthoring academic books and scholarly journals, and designing and teaching courses.

After editing thousands of pieces of academic writing, our editors have compiled five of the most common mistakes that academics make and offer suggestions on how to avoid them.

Passive voice An active sentence contains a subject that acts on a direct object: I bought the magazine. A passive sentence occurs when the object becomes the subject of the sentence and is the recipient, rather than the source, of the action: The magazine was bought by me.

The passive voice tends to spring up in academic writing when the "doer" of an action is indefinite or unknown, when a researcher feels uncomfortable using subjective pronouns like I or we, or when the result of the action is more important than who acted.

In these cases, the passive voice can be appropriate in academic writing, especially when rephrasing the sentence would introduce absurdity or unnecessarily complicated phrasing.

However, sometimes the passive voice can frustrate a reader and, in extreme cases, represent an abdication of responsibility, as in the following example: Who made the mistakes?

Sentences like these make readers wonder whether the author is trying to pull a fast one on them. Generally, though, the passive voice is simply cumbersome. We recommend looking over your academic writing and scrutinizing every instance of is, are, was, and were.

Is there a way to make the sentence stronger by identifying the subject and making it the actor in the sentence?

examples of passive voice in academic writing

Needlessly complex sentence structure Much academic writing contains sophisticated and complex thinking, as it should. However, the writing used to express this thinking does not have to be convoluted or unclear. Meandering clauses, dangling modifiers, and the like are so common in academic writing that one scholarly journal began holding a contest to choose the worst sentence of the year.

The goal of writing is to communicate your ideas. Furthermore, academic writing that seems almost deliberately unclear makes our academic editors, as well as scholarly readers, wonder whether the author even understands what he or she means to say.

It is possible to simplify and streamline your writing without "dumbing it down" or sacrificing nuance and complexity. We recommend reading your sentences aloud and then looking for ways to eliminate the wordiness of your sentences by breaking them up.

Put yourself in your reader's shoes and think about whether your meaning comes across clearly.

examples of passive voice in academic writing

Trumped-up vocabulary Academic writing is also famous for using an abundance of esoteric complicated vocabulary that does little to convey the meaning clearly. While much academic writing is targeted to an "insider" audience readers who will know and understand the technical vocabulary of a given fieldsome writers go overboard, choosing the multisyllabic and rarely used synonym instead of a plain but effective word.

Try to keep jargon and obscure language to a minimum. Always remember that your goal is to communicate your ideas, not hide them in obscure terminology. Overuse of footnotes Footnotes are a useful way to include information that has value but falls outside the scope of a paper's main focus.

What are the differences between Active and Passive Voice? | CWI

Sometimes, though, academic writing overuses footnotes, and the reader suffers. We recommend asking yourself: If the information is important enough to warrant its own footnote, it may just be important enough to be included in the body of the paper.

Plagiarism This one's more than a bad habit in academic writing—it could get you expelled or fired. Some plagiarism is intentional, but more often than not, disorganized research and careless writing are to blame.

Avoiding plagiarism is simple: Any time you use someone else's words, give credit to the source.Writing in Active Voice and Uses of Passive Voice. Learning Objectives.

(e.g., “James ate the donut”). is the standard preferred writing style, passive voice A sentence in which the subject is receiving the action (e.g., Read each of the following examples of this kind of passive voice construction. In your head, think of a way.

It’s the way they write; their voice, in writing, is as natural as everyone’s speaking voice. Your voice should be authentic, even if you borrow a sense of style from your favorite author. But remember, voice and style are two entirely different things.

In line with what Strunk and White () say about passive voice verbs, the passive voice is convenient in scholarly writing for at least two reasons. In fact, there are times when the passive voice is more appropriate than the active voice to help preserve the goals of research.

For some inexplicable reason, perhaps to do with Woodstock, kaftans, free love and the rest, the education department in Australia decided to abandon the teaching of grammar in the late sixties and didn’t start again, as far as I can tell, until the mid 80s.

In addition, in academic writing sometimes it is obvious, irrelevant or repetitive to state who the 'doer' of the sentence is: thus the passive voice is a useful way to construct these types of sentences.

The rationale for using the passive voice in scientific writing is that it achieves “an objective tone”—for example, by avoiding the first person. To consider scientific writing, let’s break it up into two main types: lab reports and writing about a scientific topic or literature.

Exercise 9 - Sentence transformation exercise