Blog

Explore interviews, opinion pieces, and other evidence-based resources to help you understand—and surmount—what you're up against in the process of academic peer review.

Levelling the Linguistic Playing Field within Academic Philosophy | Lex Academic Blog

Stylistic norms for writing affect philosophers’ professional prospects in unfair ways, and what one thinks should be done about this may be tied to one’s conception of what philosophy is supposed to do. (This piece first appeared in Daily Nous.)

Cite Right: MHRA Style | Lex Academic Blog

Lex Academic's succinct how-to guide for citing in MHRA style.

“Publish or perish”: fact or fiction? | Lex Academic Blog

The perception that scholarly success depends on publishing frequently is pervasive across the disciplines. That this remains the case, despite the fact that there is an increasing body of evidence to suggest that ‘publishing’ can still lead to ‘perishing’, is worthy of investigation.

Is Indexing an Art or a Science? | Lex Academic Blog

As any author who has tried to compile their own index will tell you, it’s easy to underestimate the sheer amount of skill, knowledge and effort that goes into creating a first-class index. Like so many of the finer things in life, indexing is both an art and a science.

How a lack of authorial voice can lead to journal rejection | Lex Academic Blog

Developing a compelling authorial voice can present particular challenges within academic writing, in which objectivity of tone is privileged, and reliance on the first person is often scorned.

Should you format your paper for peer review? | Lex Academic Blog

Formatting a paper for peer review can be tedious and time-consuming, especially when there is no certainty that it will be accepted. So, should you bother?

5 Things Publishers Look For in Book Proposals | Lex Academic Blog

Understanding how to present your research in such a light that it appears outstanding from the perspective of a publishing professional is the key to getting noticed (and a contract).

Linguistic Bias in Academic Publishing | Lex Academic Blog

It’s no secret that the peer review process can be biased. Over the past several decades, there has been growing awareness of peer review bias and its effects on the careers of scholars. Efforts have been made to address bias, but it may be even more pervasive than realised.

How a lack of authorial voice can lead to journal rejection | Lex Academic Blog

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5 October 2021

For something that is deemed so essential to getting published, definitions of authorial voice can be frustratingly vague. At its most basic level, however, an ‘academic’ or ‘authorial voice’ is the means by which a writer distinguishes their thoughts from those of other authors. It demonstrates, in other words, that you have your own unique take on a subject, which you can then use to create a successful and persuasive argument. It represents, moreover, one of the key facets of building a strong scholarly identity. Developing a compelling authorial voice can nevertheless present particular challenges within academic writing, in which objectivity of tone is privileged, and reliance on the first person is often scorned.

This all matters because appearing to lack a convincing authorial voice suggests, however unfairly, that you also lack originality and ownership over the ideas that you are expressing. This, in turn, can be a fast-track to rejection when it comes to trying to get published. On the other hand, excessive reliance on personal opinions and reflection can indicate an absence of scholarly rigour and an inappropriate level of self-absorption. The key issue, then, is to strike a balance between cautious, hedging language, and a more assertive, confident tone. This includes learning how to acknowledge pre-existing authors without letting their voices and arguments drown out your own; a trap into which many novice writers fall. The problem is compounded for non-native English speakers, who can struggle to achieve the right register in their academic writing, and who may be uncertain as to whether they are meeting the expectations of English-language journals and publishers.

How, then, should one go about crafting the ideal authorial voice? An excellent place to start is by reading material that you admire by writers within your field, and analysing how they structure their work and moderate their tone to create a persuasive piece of copy. There is also, of course, no substitute for practice, or for collegial or professional feedback, so the more you write, the more adept you should become. This should help you to identify the types of rhetorical situations in which (temporarily) assuming a first-person perspective can strengthen your case, and to interweave the opinions of other authors into your text, so that all relevant views are represented and evaluated without burying your own voice and contribution. It can be helpful, in addition, to focus on clarity rather than complexity. There can be a temptation in academic writing to demonstrate one’s mastery of a particular topic by relying on ‘wordy’ language when discussing concepts that are already abstruse in and of themselves. Focusing on presenting your arguments and evidence as clearly as possible can, however, be a far more fruitful approach in developing your voice as an author.

If you are in any doubt as to whether your academic writing is working as hard for you as it should, and would appreciate a professional assessment of your style and tone, we are always here to help.