The Significance of Underpinning in Academic Writing: Types and Examples

Academic writing serves as a cornerstone of higher education, enabling students and scholars to contribute to the pool of knowledge in their respective fields. To ensure the credibility and authenticity of academic work, it is essential to incorporate underpinning elements. In this article, we will explore the concept of underpinning in academic writing, understand its importance, and delve into the types of underpinning with illustrative examples.

What is Underpinning in Academic Writing?

Underpinning, in the context of academic writing, refers to the theoretical or background work that provides a solid foundation for your research and thesis. It is the scaffold upon which your academic work stands, ensuring that your ideas are grounded in established knowledge, theories, and research findings.

Types of Underpinning in Writing with Examples

1. Citations as Underpinning

Proper citations are one of the most fundamental forms of underpinning in academic writing. When you cite credible sources, you are not only acknowledging the original author's work but also providing evidence to support your claims.

For example, if you are writing a research paper on climate change, you might cite the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports. These citations underpin your arguments by showing that your claims are based on reputable scientific findings.

2. Theoretical Research Underpinning

Theoretical research underpinning involves incorporating established theories and frameworks into your academic work. This helps in structuring your arguments and ensuring that they align with existing knowledge.

For instance, if you are writing a sociology dissertation on the impact of social media on self-esteem, you could underpin your research with social identity theory. This theory provides a conceptual framework for understanding how individuals perceive themselves in the context of social groups, which is crucial to your research.

3. Background Information and Literature Review

A comprehensive literature review is another vital aspect of underpinning. It involves reviewing and summarizing existing research in your field, highlighting gaps in the literature that your research aims to fill.

Let's say you are writing a paper on the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare. A literature review that examines previous studies on this topic not only provides background information but also demonstrates the need for your research.

The Importance of Underpinning in Academic Writing

Proper citations and underpinnings play a pivotal role in lending credibility and support to your academic work. Here's why underpinning is crucial:
  1. Enhanced Credibility: Underpinning your work with established theories, citations, and literature reviews demonstrates that your research is rooted in scholarly knowledge. This boosts the credibility of your paper.
  2. Supporting Your Arguments: Underpinning ensures that your arguments are not mere conjecture but are built on a foundation of evidence and existing research. This strengthens your claims and conclusions.
  3. Avoiding Plagiarism: Citing sources correctly is a critical part of underpinning. It shows that you respect intellectual property rights and avoid plagiarism.
  4. Contributing to the Field: By acknowledging and building upon previous research, you contribute to the cumulative knowledge in your field, fostering intellectual progress.


In the realm of academic writing, underpinning serves as the bedrock upon which knowledge is built. It involves proper citations, theoretical frameworks, and comprehensive literature reviews. Embracing underpinning not only adds credibility to your work but also elevates the quality of your research. Therefore, remember to incorporate underpinning elements in your academic papers, especially after experimental trials and their findings, to ensure that your work stands firm in the scholarly arena.

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