Educational research literature presents three theoretical approaches for understanding academic writing. These are: writing as text, writing as process and writing as social practice. This paper explores these theoretical approaches and presents different ways to consider academic writing with the aim of sharing these ideas among the wider academic community, particularly novice academic writers who find the writing process challenging or unfulfilling. Exploring academic writing from these alternative perspectives is an opportunity to question and to reflect upon how and why we write.

Academic writing is first explored with a textual or product focus. It assesses some of the pervading assumptions relating to academic writing in higher education institutions today, and explores how the importance accorded to the production of texts and performing through writing has created a new narrative for self-worth in the academy. This is followed by an exploration of writing as a process and then as social practice. From a process perspective, academic writing is about the process of development and learning and the final outcome or written text is not valued as highly as the act of creating it. From a social perspective, academic writing is explored in relation to the community from which it derives and also in terms of the relationship between writer and reader.

The paper concludes by looking at the idea of writing as contribution and personal reflections are introduced on how academic writing should be conceptualised: there needs to be a move away from the discourse of getting in relation to academic writing - getting published, getting citations or views, getting followers, or getting promoted - and that there should be greater emphasis on writing as an act of giving, where academic writing is conceived of primarily as a vehicle for contributing to knowledge, learning and development.