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What is "Academic" Writing?

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Written by L. Lennie Irvin

Introduction: The Academic Writing Task

As a new college student, you may have a lot of anxiety and questions about the writing you’ll do in college. That word “academic,” especially, may turn your stomach or turn your nose. However, with this first year composition class, you begin one of the only classes in your entire college career where you will focus on learning to write. Given the importance of writing as a communication skill, I urge you to consider this class as a gift and make the most of it. But writing is hard, and writing in college may resemble playing a familiar game by completely new rules (that often are unstated). This chapter is designed to introduce you to what academic writing is like, and hopefully ease your transition as you face these daunting writing challenges. 

So here’s the secret. Your success with academic writing depends upon how well you understand what you are doing as you write and then how you approach the writing task. Early research done on college writers discovered that whether students produced a successful piece of writing depended largely upon their representation of the writing task. The writers’ mental model for picturing their task made a huge difference. Most people as they start college have wildly strange ideas about what they are doing when they write an essay, or worse—they have no clear idea at all. I freely admit my own past as a clueless freshman writer, and it’s out of this sympathy as well as twenty years of teaching college writing that I hope to provide you with something useful. So grab a cup of coffee or a diet coke, find a comfortable chair with good light, and let’s explore together this activity of academic writing you’ll be asked to do in college. We will start by clearing up some of those wild misconceptions people often arrive at college possessing. Then we will dig more deeply into the components of the academic writing situation and nature of the writing task. 

Myths about Writing

Though I don’t imagine an episode of MythBusters will be based on the misconceptions about writing we are about to look at, you’d still be surprised at some of the things people will believe about writing. You may find lurking within you viral elements of these myths—all of these lead to problems in writing.

Myth #1: The “Paint by Numbers” myth 

Some writers believe they must perform certain steps in a particular order to write “correctly.” Rather than being a lock-step linear process, writing is “recursive.” That means we cycle through and repeat the various activities of the writing process many times as we write. 

Myth #2: Writers only start writing when they have everything fgured out

Writing is not like sending a fax! Writers figure out much of what they want to write as they write it. Rather than waiting, get some writing on the page—even with gaps or problems. You can come back to patch up rough spots.

Myth #3: Perfect first drafts

We put unrealistic expectations on early drafts, either by focusing too much on the impossible task of making them perfect (which can put a cap on the development of our ideas), or by making too little effort because we don’t care or know about their inevitable problems. Nobody writes perfect first drafts; polished writing takes lots of revision. 

Myth #4: Some got it; I don’t—the genius fallacy

When you see your writing ability as something fixed or out of your control (as if it were in your genetic code), then you won’t believe you can improve as a writer and are likely not to make any efforts in that direction. With effort and study, though, you can improve as a writer. I promise.

Myth #5: Good grammar is good writing

When people say “I can’t write,” what they often mean is they have problems with grammatical correctness. Writing, however, is about more than just grammatical correctness. Good writing is a matter of achieving your desired effect upon an intended audience. Plus, as we saw in myth #3, no one writes perfect first drafts. 

Myth #6: The Five-Paragraph Essay

Some people say to avoid it at all costs, while others believe no other way to write exists. With an introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion, the five paragraph essay is a format you should know, but one which you will outgrow. You’ll have to gauge the particular writing assignment to see whether and how this format is useful for you.

Myth #7: Never use “I”

Adopting this formal stance of objectivity implies a distrust (almost fear) of informality and often leads to artificial, puffed-up prose. Although some writing situations will call on you to avoid using “I” (for example, a lab report), much college writing can be done in a middle, semi-formal style where it is ok to use “I.” 

The Academic Writing Situation

Now that we’ve dispelled some of the common myths that many writers have as they enter a college classroom, let’s take a moment to think about the academic writing situation. The biggest problem I see in freshman writers is a poor sense of the writing situation in general. To illustrate this problem, let’s look at the difference between speaking and writing.

When we speak, we inhabit the communication situation bodily in three dimensions, but in writing we are confined within the twodimensional setting of the flat page (though writing for the web—or multimodal writing—is changing all that). Writing resembles having a blindfold over our eyes and our hands tied behind our backs: we can’t see exactly whom we’re talking to or where we are. Separated from our audience in place and time, we imaginatively have to create this context. Our words on the page are silent, so we must use punctuation and word choice to communicate our tone. We also can’t see our audience to gauge how our communication is being received or if there will be some kind of response. It’s the same space we share right now as you read this essay. Novice writers often write as if they were mumbling to themselves in the corner with no sense that their writing will be read by a reader or any sense of the context within which their communication will be received.

What’s the moral here? Developing your “writer’s sense” about communicating within the writing situation is the most important thing you should learn in freshman composition.  Figure 1, depicting the writing situation, presents the best image I know of describing all the complexities involved in the writing situation. 

Chart that depicts how social, physical, and cultural context influence the writer

Looking More Closely at the “Academic Writing” Situation

Writing in college is a fairly specialized writing situation, and it has developed its own codes and conventions that you need to have a keen awareness of if you are going to write successfully in college. Let’s break down the writing situation in college:

  •    
  • Who’s your audience?  Primarily the professor and possibly your classmates (though you may be asked to include a secondary outside audience). 
  • What’s the occasion or context? An assignment given by the teacher within a learning context and designed to have you learn and demonstrate your learning. 
  • What’s your message? It will be your learning or the interpretation gained from your study of the subject matter. 
  • What’s your purpose?   To show your learning and get a good grade (or to accomplish the goals of the writing assignment). 
  • What documents/genres are used? The essay is the most frequent type of document used. 

So far, this list looks like nothing new. You’ve been writing in school toward teachers for years. What’s different in college? Lee Ann Carroll, a professor at Pepperdine University, performed a study of student writing in college and had this description of the kind of writing you will be doing in college: 

What are usually called ‘writing assignments’ in college might more accurately be called ‘literacy tasks’ because they require much more than the ability to construct correct sentences or compose neatly organized paragraphs with topic sentences. . . . Projects calling for high levels of critical literacy in college typically require knowledge of research skills, ability to read complex texts, understanding of key disciplinary concepts, and strategies for synthesizing, analyzing, and responding critically to new information, usually within a limited time frame. (3–4) 

Academic writing is always a form of evaluation that asks you to demonstrate knowledge and show proficiency with certain disciplinary skills of thinking, interpreting, and presenting. Writing the paper is never “just” the writing part. To be successful in this kind of writing, you must be completely aware of what the professor expects you to do and accomplish with that particular writing task. For a moment, let’s explore more deeply the elements of this college writing “literacy task.”

Knowledge of Research Skills

Perhaps up to now research has meant going straight to Google and Wikipedia, but college will require you to search for and find more in-depth information. You’ll need to know how to find information in the library, especially what is available from online databases which contain scholarly articles. Researching is also a process, so you’ll need to learn how to focus and direct a research project and how to keep track of all your source information. Realize that researching represents a crucial component of most all college writing assignments, and you will need to devote lots of work to this researching. 

The Ability to Read Complex Texts

Whereas your previous writing in school might have come generally from your experience, college writing typically asks you to write on unfamiliar topics. Whether you’re reading your textbook, a short story, or scholarly articles from research, your ability to write well will be based upon the quality of your reading. In addition to the labor of close reading, you’ll need to think critically as you read. That means separating fact from opinion, recognizing biases and assumptions, and making inferences. Inferences are how we as readers connect the dots: an inference is a belief (or statement) about something unknown made on the basis of something known. You smell smoke; you infer fire. They are conclusions or interpretations that we arrive at based upon the known factors we discover from our reading. When we, then, write to argue for these interpretations, our job becomes to get our readers to make the same inferences we have made. 

The Understanding of Key Disciplinary Concepts

Each discipline whether it is English, Psychology, or History has its own key concepts and language for describing these important ways of understanding the world. Don’t fool yourself that your professors’ writing assignments are asking for your opinion on the topic from just your experience. They want to see you apply and use these concepts in your writing. Though different from a multiple-choice exam, writing similarly requires you to demonstrate your learning. So whatever writing assignment you receive, inspect it closely for what concepts it asks you to bring into your writing.

Strategies for Synthesizing, Analyzing, and Responding Critically to New Information

You need to develop the skill of a seasoned traveler who can be dropped in any city around the world and get by. Each writing assignment asks you to navigate through a new terrain of information, so you must develop ways for grasping new subject matter in order, then, to use it in your writing. We have already seen the importance of reading and research for these literacy tasks, but beyond laying the information out before you, you will need to learn ways of sorting and finding meaningful patterns in this information.

In College, Everything’s an Argument: A Guide for Decoding College Writing Assignments

Let’s restate this complex “literacy task” you’ll be asked repeatedly to do in your writing assignments. Typically, you’ll be required to write an “essay” based upon your analysis of some reading(s). In this essay you’ll need to present an argument where you make a claim (i.e. present a “thesis”) and support that claim with good reasons that have adequate and appropriate evidence to back them up. The dynamic of this argumentative task often confuses first year writers, so let’s examine it more closely.

Academic Writing Is an Argument

To start, let’s focus on argument. What does it mean to present an “argument” in college writing? Rather than a shouting match between two disagreeing sides, argument instead means a carefully arranged and supported presentation of a viewpoint. Its purpose is not so much to win the argument as to earn your audience’s consideration (and even approval) of your perspective. It resembles a conversation between two people who may not hold the same opinions, but they both desire a better understanding of the subject matter under discussion. My favorite analogy, however, to describe the nature of this argumentative stance in college writing is the courtroom. In this scenario, you are like a lawyer making a case at trial that the defendant is not guilty, and your readers are like the jury who will decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. This jury (your readers) won’t just take your word that he’s innocent; instead, you must convince them by presenting evidence that proves he is not guilty. Stating your opinion is not enough—you have to back it up too. I like this courtroom analogy for capturing two importance things about academic argument: 1) the value of an organized presentation of your “case,” and 2) the crucial element of strong evidence. 

Academic Writing Is an Analysis

We now turn our attention to the actual writing assignment and that confusing word “analyze.” Your first job when you get a writing assignment is to figure out what the professor expects. This assignment may be explicit in its expectations, but often built into the wording of the most defined writing assignments are implicit expectations that you might not recognize. First, we can say that unless your professor specifically asks you to summarize, you won’t write a summary. Let me say that again: don’t write a summary unless directly asked to. But what, then, does the professor want? We have already picked out a few of these expectations: You can count on the instructor expecting you to read closely, research adequately, and write an argument where you will demonstrate your ability to apply and use important concepts you have been studying. But the writing task also implies that your essay will be the result of an analysis. At times, the writing assignment may even explicitly say to write an analysis, but often this element of the task remains unstated.

So what does it mean to analyze? One way to think of an analysis is that it asks you to seek How and Why questions much more than What questions. An analysis involves doing three things: 

  • Engage in an open inquiry where the answer is not known at first (and where you leave yourself open to multiple suggestions).
  • Identify meaningful parts of the subject.
  • Examine these separate parts and determine how they relate to each other.

An analysis breaks a subject apart to study it closely, and from this inspection, ideas for writing emerge. When writing assignments call on you to analyze, they require you to identify the parts of the subject (parts of an ad, parts of a short story, parts of Hamlet’s character), and then show how these parts fit or don’t fit together to create some larger effect or meaning. Your interpretation of how these parts fit together constitutes your claim or thesis, and the task of your essay is then to present an argument defending your interpretation as a valid or plausible one to make. My biggest bit of advice about analysis is not to do it all in your head. Analysis works best when you put all the cards on the table, so to speak. Identify and isolate the parts of your analysis, and record important features and characteristics of each one. As patterns emerge, you sort and connect these parts in meaningful ways. For me, I have always had to do this recording and thinking on scratch pieces of paper. Just as critical reading forms a crucial element of the literacy task of a college writing assignment, so too does this analysis process. It’s built in.

Three Common Types of College Writing Assignments

We have been decoding the expectations of the academic writing task so far, and I want to turn now to examine the types of assignments you might receive. From my experience, you are likely to get three kinds of writing assignments based upon the instructor’s degree of direction for the assignment. We’ll take a brief look at each kind of academic writing task. 

The Closed Writing Assignment

  • Is Creon a character to admire or condemn?
  • Does your advertisement employ techniques of propaganda, and if so what kind?
  • Was the South justified in seceding from the Union?
  • In your opinion, do you believe Hamlet was truly mad? 

These kinds of writing assignments present you with two counter claims and ask you to determine from your own analysis the more valid claim. They resemble yes-no questions. These topics define the claim for you, so the major task of the writing assignment then is working out the support for the claim. They resemble a math problem in which the teacher has given you the answer and now wants you to “show your work” in arriving at that answer.

Be careful with these writing assignments, however, because often these topics don’t have a simple yes/no, either/or answer (despite the nature of the essay question). A close analysis of the subject matter often reveals nuances and ambiguities within the question that your eventual claim should reflect. Perhaps a claim such as, “In my opinion, Hamlet was mad” might work, but I urge you to avoid such a simplistic thesis. This thesis would be better: “I believe Hamlet’s unhinged mind borders on insanity but doesn’t quite reach it.” 

The Semi-Open Writing Assignment

  • Discuss the role of law in Antigone.
  • Explain the relationship between character and fate in Hamlet.
  • Compare and contrast the use of setting in two short stories.
  • Show how the Fugitive Slave Act influenced the Abolitionist Movement. 

Although these topics chart out a subject matter for you to write upon, they don’t offer up claims you can easily use in your paper. It would be a misstep to offer up claims such as, “Law plays a role in Antigone” or “In Hamlet we can see a relationship between character and fate.” Such statements express the obvious and what the topic takes for granted. The question, for example, is not whether law plays a role in Antigone, but rather what sort of role law plays. What is the nature of this role? What influences does it have on the characters or actions or theme? This kind of writing assignment resembles a kind of archeological dig. The teacher cordons off an area, hands you a shovel, and says dig here and see what you find. 

Be sure to avoid summary and mere explanation in this kind of assignment. Despite using key words in the assignment such as “explain,” “illustrate,” analyze,” “discuss,” or “show how,” these topics still ask you to make an argument. Implicit in the topic is the expectation that you will analyze the reading and arrive at some insights into patterns and relationships about the subject. Your eventual paper, then, needs to present what you found from this analysis—the treasure you found from your digging. Determining your own claim represents the biggest challenge for this type of writing assignment. 

The Open Writing Assignment

  • Analyze the role of a character in Dante’s The Inferno.
  • What does it mean to be an “American” in the 21st Century?
  • Analyze the influence of slavery upon one cause of the Civil War.
  • Compare and contrast two themes within Pride and Prejudice . 

These kinds of writing assignments require you to decide both your writing topic and you claim (or thesis). Which character in the Inferno will I pick to analyze? What two themes in Pride and Prejudice will I choose to write about? Many students struggle with these types of assignments because they have to understand their subject matter well before they can intelligently choose a topic. For instance, you need a good familiarity with the characters in The Inferno before you can pick one. You have to have a solid understanding defining elements of American identity as well as 21st century culture before you can begin to connect them. This kind of writing assignment resembles riding a bike without the training wheels on. It says, “You decide what to write about.” The biggest decision, then, becomes selecting your topic and limiting it to a manageable size. 

Picking and Limiting a Writing Topic 

Let’s talk about both of these challenges: picking a topic and limiting it. Remember how I said these kinds of essay topics expect you to choose what to write about from a solid understanding of your subject? As you read and review your subject matter, look for things that interest you. Look for gaps, puzzling items, things that confuse you, or connections you see. Something in this pile of rocks should stand out as a jewel: as being “do-able” and interesting. (You’ll write best when you write from both your head and your heart.) Whatever topic you choose, state it as a clear and interesting question. You may or may not state this essay question explicitly in the introduction of your paper (I actually recommend that you do), but it will provide direction for your paper and a focus for your claim since that claim will be your answer to this essay question. For example, if with the Dante topic you decided to write on Virgil, your essay question might be: “What is the role of Virgil toward the character of Dante in The Inferno?” The thesis statement, then, might be this: “Virgil’s predominant role as Dante’s guide through hell is as the voice of reason.” Crafting a solid essay question is well worth your time because it charts the territory of your essay and helps you declare a focused thesis statement. 

Many students struggle with defining the right size for their writing project. They chart out an essay question that it would take a book to deal with adequately. You’ll know you have that kind of topic if you have already written over the required page length but only touched one quarter of the topics you planned to discuss. In this case, carve out one of those topics and make your whole paper about it. For instance, with our Dante example, perhaps you planned to discuss four places where Virgil’s role as the voice of reason is evident. Instead of discussing all four, focus your essay on just one place. So your revised thesis statement might be: “Close inspection of Cantos I and II reveal that Virgil serves predominantly as the voice of reason for Dante on his journey through hell.” A writing teacher I had in college said it this way: A well tended garden is better than a large one full of weeds. That means to limit your topic to a size you can handle and support well.

Three Characteristics of Academic Writing

I want to wrap up this section by sharing in broad terms what the expectations are behind an academic writing assignment. Chris Thaiss and Terry Zawacki conducted research at George Mason University where they asked professors from their university what they thought academic writing was and its standards. They came up with three characteristics: 

  • Clear evidence in writing that the writer(s) have been persistent, open-minded, and disciplined in study. (5)
  • The dominance of reason over emotions or sensual perception. (5)
  • An imagined reader who is coolly rational, reading for information, and intending to formulate a reasoned response. (7) 

Your professor wants to see these three things in your writing when they give you a writing assignment. They want to see in your writing the results of your efforts at the various literacy tasks we have been discussing: critical reading, research, and analysis. Beyond merely stating opinions, they also want to see an argument toward an intelligent audience where you provide good reasons to support your interpretations. 

The Format of the Academic Essay 

Your instructors will also expect you to deliver a paper that contains particular textual features. The following list contains the characteristics of what I have for years called the “critical essay.” Although I can’t claim they will be useful for all essays in college, I hope that these features will help you shape and accomplish successful college essays. Be aware that these characteristics are flexible and not a formula, and any particular assignment might ask for something different. 

Characteristics of the Critical Essay 

“Critical” here is not used in the sense of “to criticize” as in find fault with. Instead, “critical” is used in the same way “critical thinking” is used. A synonym might be “interpretive” or “analytical.”

  • It is an argument, persuasion essay that in its broadest sense MAKES A POINT and SUPPORTS IT. (We have already discussed this argumentative nature of academic writing at length.)
  • The point (“claim” or “thesis”) of a critical essay is interpretive in nature. That means the point is debatable and open to interpretation, not a statement of the obvious. The thesis statement is a clear, declarative sentence that often works best when it comes at the end of the introduction.
  • Organization: Like any essay, the critical essay should have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. As you support your point in the body of the essay, you should “divide up the proof,” which means structuring the body around clear primary supports (developed in single paragraphs for short papers or multiple paragraphs for longer papers).
  • Support: (a) The primary source for support in the critical essay is from the text (or sources). The text is the authority, so using quotations is required. ( b) The continuous movement of logic in a critical essay is “assert then support; assert then support.” No assertion (general statement that needs proving) should be left without specific support (often from the text(s)). (c) You need enough support to be convincing. In general, that means for each assertion you need at least three supports. This threshold can vary, but invariably one support is not enough.
  • A critical essay will always “document” its sources, distinguishing the use of outside information used inside your text and clarifying where that information came from (following the rules of MLA documentation style or whatever documentation style is required).
  • Whenever the author moves from one main point (primary support) to the next, the author needs to clearly signal to the reader that this movement is happening. This transition sentence works best when it links back to the thesis as it states the topic of that paragraph or section.
  • A critical essay is put into an academic essay format such as the MLA or APA document format.
  • Grammatical correctness: Your essay should have few if any grammatical problems. You’ll want to edit your final draft carefully before turning it in. 

As we leave this discussion, I want to return to what I said was the secret for your success in writing college essays: Your success with academic writing depends upon how well you understand what you are doing as you write and then how you approach the writing task. Hopefully, you now have a better idea about the nature of the academic writing task and the expectations behind it. Knowing what you need to do won’t guarantee you an “A” on your paper—that will take a lot of thinking, hard work, and practice—but having the right orientation toward your college writing assignments is a first and important step in your eventual success. 

  • How did what you wrote in high school compare to what you have/will do in your academic writing in college?
  • Think of two different writing situations you have found yourself in. What did you need to do the same in those two situations to place your writing appropriately? What did you need to do differently?
  • Think of a writing assignment that you will need to complete this semester. Who’s your audience? What’s the occasion or context? What’s your message? What’s your purpose? What documents/genres are used? How does all that compare to the writing you are doing in this class? 

Works Cited 

This essay was written by L. Lennie Irvin and published in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing , Volume 1, a peer-reviewed open textbook series for the writing classroom; it appears here with minor changes. This material is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 International License . Please keep this information on this material if you use, adapt, and/or share it. 

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What Is Academic Writing? | Dos and Don’ts for Students

Academic writing is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. You’ll encounter it in journal articles and books on academic topics, and you’ll be expected to write your essays , research papers , and dissertation in academic style.

Academic writing follows the same writing process as other types of texts, but it has specific conventions in terms of content, structure and style.

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Types of academic writing, academic writing is…, academic writing is not…, useful tools for academic writing, academic writing checklist.

Academics mostly write texts intended for publication, such as journal articles, reports, books, and chapters in edited collections. For students, the most common types of academic writing assignments are listed below.

Different fields of study have different priorities in terms of the writing they produce. For example, in scientific writing it’s crucial to clearly and accurately report methods and results; in the humanities, the focus is on constructing convincing arguments through the use of textual evidence. However, most academic writing shares certain key principles intended to help convey information as effectively as possible.

Whether your goal is to pass your degree, apply to graduate school , or build an academic career, effective writing is an essential skill.

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Formal and unbiased

Academic writing aims to convey information in an impartial way. The goal is to base arguments on the evidence under consideration, not the author’s preconceptions. All claims should be supported with relevant evidence, not just asserted.

To avoid bias, it’s important to represent the work of other researchers and the results of your own research fairly and accurately. This means clearly outlining your methodology  and being honest about the limitations of your research.

The formal style used in academic writing ensures that research is presented consistently across different texts, so that studies can be objectively assessed and compared with other research.

Because of this, it’s important to strike the right tone with your language choices. Avoid informal language , including slang, contractions , clichés, and conversational phrases:

  • Also , a lot of the findings are a little unreliable.
  • Moreover , many of the findings are somewhat unreliable.

Clear and precise

It’s important to use clear and precise language to ensure that your reader knows exactly what you mean. This means being as specific as possible and avoiding vague language :

  • People have been interested in this thing for a long time .
  • Researchers have been interested in this phenomenon for at least 10 years .

Avoid hedging your claims with words like “perhaps,” as this can give the impression that you lack confidence in your arguments. Reflect on your word choice to ensure it accurately and directly conveys your meaning:

  • This could perhaps suggest that…
  • This suggests that…

Specialist language or jargon is common and often necessary in academic writing, which generally targets an audience of other academics in related fields.

However, jargon should be used to make your writing more concise and accurate, not to make it more complicated. A specialist term should be used when:

  • It conveys information more precisely than a comparable non-specialist term.
  • Your reader is likely to be familiar with the term.
  • The term is commonly used by other researchers in your field.

The best way to familiarize yourself with the kind of jargon used in your field is to read papers by other researchers and pay attention to their language.

Focused and well structured

An academic text is not just a collection of ideas about a topic—it needs to have a clear purpose. Start with a relevant research question or thesis statement , and use it to develop a focused argument. Only include information that is relevant to your overall purpose.

A coherent structure is crucial to organize your ideas. Pay attention to structure at three levels: the structure of the whole text, paragraph structure, and sentence structure.

Well sourced

Academic writing uses sources to support its claims. Sources are other texts (or media objects like photographs or films) that the author analyzes or uses as evidence. Many of your sources will be written by other academics; academic writing is collaborative and builds on previous research.

It’s important to consider which sources are credible and appropriate to use in academic writing. For example, citing Wikipedia is typically discouraged. Don’t rely on websites for information; instead, use academic databases and your university library to find credible sources.

You must always cite your sources in academic writing. This means acknowledging whenever you quote or paraphrase someone else’s work by including a citation in the text and a reference list at the end.

There are many different citation styles with different rules. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago . Make sure to consistently follow whatever style your institution requires. If you don’t cite correctly, you may get in trouble for plagiarism . A good plagiarism checker can help you catch any issues before it’s too late.

You can easily create accurate citations in APA or MLA style using our Citation Generators.

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Correct and consistent

As well as following the rules of grammar, punctuation, and citation, it’s important to consistently apply stylistic conventions regarding:

  • How to write numbers
  • Introducing abbreviations
  • Using verb tenses in different sections
  • Capitalization of terms and headings
  • Spelling and punctuation differences between UK and US English

In some cases there are several acceptable approaches that you can choose between—the most important thing is to apply the same rules consistently and to carefully proofread your text before you submit. If you don’t feel confident in your own proofreading abilities, you can get help from Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or Grammar Checker .

Academic writing generally tries to avoid being too personal. Information about the author may come in at some points—for example in the acknowledgements or in a personal reflection—but for the most part the text should focus on the research itself.

Always avoid addressing the reader directly with the second-person pronoun “you.” Use the impersonal pronoun “one” or an alternate phrasing instead for generalizations:

  • As a teacher, you must treat your students fairly.
  • As a teacher, one must treat one’s students fairly.
  • Teachers must treat their students fairly.

The use of the first-person pronoun “I” used to be similarly discouraged in academic writing, but it is increasingly accepted in many fields. If you’re unsure whether to use the first person, pay attention to conventions in your field or ask your instructor.

When you refer to yourself, it should be for good reason. You can position yourself and describe what you did during the research, but avoid arbitrarily inserting your personal thoughts and feelings:

  • In my opinion…
  • I think that…
  • I like/dislike…
  • I conducted interviews with…
  • I argue that…
  • I hope to achieve…

Long-winded

Many students think their writing isn’t academic unless it’s over-complicated and long-winded. This isn’t a good approach—instead, aim to be as concise and direct as possible.

If a term can be cut or replaced with a more straightforward one without affecting your meaning, it should be. Avoid redundant phrasings in your text, and try replacing phrasal verbs with their one-word equivalents where possible:

  • Interest in this phenomenon carried on in the year 2018 .
  • Interest in this phenomenon continued in 2018 .

Repetition is a part of academic writing—for example, summarizing earlier information in the conclusion—but it’s important to avoid unnecessary repetition. Make sure that none of your sentences are repeating a point you’ve already made in different words.

Emotive and grandiose

An academic text is not the same thing as a literary, journalistic, or marketing text. Though you’re still trying to be persuasive, a lot of techniques from these styles are not appropriate in an academic context. Specifically, you should avoid appeals to emotion and inflated claims.

Though you may be writing about a topic that’s sensitive or important to you, the point of academic writing is to clearly communicate ideas, information, and arguments, not to inspire an emotional response. Avoid using emotive or subjective language :

  • This horrible tragedy was obviously one of the worst catastrophes in construction history.
  • The injury and mortality rates of this accident were among the highest in construction history.

Students are sometimes tempted to make the case for their topic with exaggerated , unsupported claims and flowery language. Stick to specific, grounded arguments that you can support with evidence, and don’t overstate your point:

  • Charles Dickens is the greatest writer of the Victorian period, and his influence on all subsequent literature is enormous.
  • Charles Dickens is one of the best-known writers of the Victorian period and has had a significant influence on the development of the English novel.

There are a a lot of writing tools that will make your writing process faster and easier. We’ll highlight three of them below.

Paraphrasing tool

AI writing tools like ChatGPT and a paraphrasing tool can help you rewrite text so that your ideas are clearer, you don’t repeat yourself, and your writing has a consistent tone.

They can also help you write more clearly about sources without having to quote them directly. Be warned, though: it’s still crucial to give credit to all sources in the right way to prevent plagiarism .

Grammar checker

Writing tools that scan your text for punctuation, spelling, and grammar mistakes. When it detects a mistake the grammar checke r will give instant feedback and suggest corrections. Helping you write clearly and avoid common mistakes .

You can use a summarizer if you want to condense text into its most important and useful ideas. With a summarizer tool, you can make it easier to understand complicated sources. You can also use the tool to make your research question clearer and summarize your main argument.

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

  • Academic style
  • Vague sentences
  • Style consistency

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Use the checklist below to assess whether you have followed the rules of effective academic writing.

  • Checklist: Academic writing

I avoid informal terms and contractions .

I avoid second-person pronouns (“you”).

I avoid emotive or exaggerated language.

I avoid redundant words and phrases.

I avoid unnecessary jargon and define terms where needed.

I present information as precisely and accurately as possible.

I use appropriate transitions to show the connections between my ideas.

My text is logically organized using paragraphs .

Each paragraph is focused on a single idea, expressed in a clear topic sentence .

Every part of the text relates to my central thesis or research question .

I support my claims with evidence.

I use the appropriate verb tenses in each section.

I consistently use either UK or US English .

I format numbers consistently.

I cite my sources using a consistent citation style .

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Academic Essay

Academic Essay

When creating an academic essay , it is very important for you to relay a sensible and clear argument to your target readers. Since academic essays are widely used in the field of education and research, you need to ensure that you do both logical, interesting and informative writing . The items that are commonly seen in an academic essay contain insights, actual occurrences, ideas, and facts.

What is Academic Essay?

An academic essay is a structured form of writing that serves the purpose of presenting and supporting a thesis or argument on a specific topic. It is commonly used in educational settings to assess students’ understanding, analytical skills, and ability to research and convey their findings. An academic essay typically follows a clear format, including an introduction with a thesis statement, body paragraphs that provide evidence and analysis to support the thesis, and a conclusion that summarizes the main points and reinforces the essay’s central argument. This type of essay requires critical thinking and a formal tone, with evidence cited from reputable sources to back up claims made within the text.

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A lot of students tend to think that an academic essay, just like any other  college essay , is something that is too technical or defined. However, you can always write one depending on how you perceive a specific topic of discussion or how you interpret an instance or any other subjects. The samples that we have for you can be a great help if you would like to start writing your academic essay already.

Academic Essay Writing Format/ Outline

1. title page (if required).

Includes the essay’s title, the author’s name, and institutional affiliation.

2. Introduction

Hook : Opens with a statement to grab the reader’s interest. Background Information : Provides context for the topic being discussed. Thesis Statement : Presents the main argument or claim of the essay.

3. Body Paragraphs

Each paragraph should focus on a single idea that supports the thesis, structured as follows:

Topic Sentence : Introduces the main idea of the paragraph. Evidence and Analysis : Includes data, quotes, or examples to support the topic sentence, followed by an explanation of how this evidence supports the thesis. Transition : Connects to the next paragraph or idea.

4. Conclusion

Summary of Main Points : Restates the key arguments or findings presented in the body paragraphs. Restatement of Thesis : Reinforces the essay’s main argument in light of the evidence presented. Closing Thought : Offers a final insight, a call to action, or a suggestion for further research.

Example of Academic Essay Writing

The Impact of Social Media on Communication   In the digital age, social media has revolutionized the way we communicate, transcending physical boundaries and transforming social interactions. This essay explores the profound impact of social media on communication, examining both its positive advancements and negative implications. While social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have enhanced our ability to connect with others, they have also led to a decline in face-to-face interactions and a dilution of personal communication skills.   Social media has made it easier than ever to stay connected with friends and family, regardless of geographical distance. A study by Smith and Duggan (2016) found that 75% of internet users utilize social media to maintain relationships with distant family and friends. This widespread use of social media for keeping in touch demonstrates its role as a vital communication tool, bridging the gap between people worldwide. However, the reliance on social media for communication has led to a decrease in the quality of interpersonal interactions. Research by Johnson (2018) indicates a 40% decline in face-to-face conversations among young adults, correlating with increased social media usage. The preference for digital communication over personal interaction suggests a shift in social dynamics, potentially harming relational depth and emotional connections.   Moreover, social media has affected our communication skills, particularly among younger generations. A survey by Lee (2019) revealed that 60% of teachers believe social media use has adversely affected students’ writing and verbal communication skills. The informal language and abbreviations common in social media posts and messages are infiltrating academic and professional communications, underscoring the need for a balanced approach to digital interactions.   Social media has undeniably transformed communication, offering unparalleled connectivity but also presenting significant challenges. While it fosters global connections, its overuse can undermine personal interactions and communication skills. Balancing social media use with face-to-face communication is crucial for maintaining meaningful relationships and effective communication in the 21st century.

What is an example of academic writing?

Title: The Impact of Climate Change on Biodiversity

Introduction: Climate change, driven primarily by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation, has emerged as a critical global concern. This essay aims to explore the multifaceted impacts of climate change on biodiversity. The effects of rising temperatures, altered weather patterns, and habitat destruction are increasingly evident, with far-reaching consequences for ecosystems and species worldwide.

Body Paragraph: One of the most noticeable consequences of climate change is the shifting geographical ranges of numerous species. Warmer temperatures prompt species to migrate to higher altitudes or latitudes, as they seek habitats that align with their thermal preferences. This phenomenon is evident in various ecosystems, including mountain regions, where alpine plants and animals have progressively moved uphill. These migrations, while adaptive, can disrupt established predator-prey relationships and competition for resources. Such shifts can also lead to reduced biodiversity in lower-altitude regions as some species fail to adapt or relocate successfully.

  • Smith, J., & Johnson, A. (2019). Impacts of Climate Change on Alpine Plant Communities. Environmental Studies Journal , 42(3), 256-270.
  • Wilson, P., & Davis, R. (2020). Climate-Induced Shifts in Animal Distributions: Evidence from a Decadal Study. Ecology and Evolution , 10(12), 5963-5972.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, climate change exerts profound effects on biodiversity, manifesting through shifts in species distributions, altered ecological relationships, and habitat loss. As global temperatures continue to rise, addressing these impacts becomes increasingly urgent. Conservation efforts, sustainable practices, and international cooperation are essential in mitigating the repercussions of climate change on the world’s diverse ecosystems and species.

Academic Essay Topics with Samples to Edit & Download

  • Pollution due to urbanization
  • The environmental causes of smoking
  • The outcomes of global warming
  • Abortion as a controversy
  • Causes of obesity in teenagers
  • Childhood memories
  • Fathers should get equal paternity leave
  • Harmful dogs should be euthanized
  • How does divorce affects children?
  • How does technology affect productivity?
  • Importance of preserving threatened species
  • Parenting styles and motives
  • Political issues in the U.S.
  • Romantic relationships
  • Should schools abolish homework?
  • Violent video games should be banned
  • Ways of protecting the environment

Academic Essay Writing Examples & Templates

1. academic essay example.

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2. Academic Essay for College Students

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3. Short Academic Essay

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4. Academic Essay Template

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5. Academic Writing Essay Template

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6. Academic Text Example Essay Template

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8. Academic Essay for College Students Examples

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9. Narrative Academic Essay Examples

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10. Sample Academic Essay Format Example

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11. Academic Paper Essay Example

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13. Academic Essay Sample Structure Example

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14. Short Academic Essay Example in PDF

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15. Free Printable Academic Essay Sample

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17. Academic Essay Writing Sample Example

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18. Free Academic Essay Sample Guide

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19. Sample Academic Essay Outline

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Are You Ready and Prepared to Create an Academic Essay?

Different types of academic writing require an individual to have a clear thought process within the entirety of idea development. You have to be focused on what you would like to achieve your final written output so you can incorporate successful guides and processes within the activity. Some of the things that you can talk about in an academic essay include the following:

  • Human behavior, characteristics, and emotions
  • Community relations
  • Natural occurrences
  • Language and its effective usages
  • Culture and the arts
  • Academic researchers
  • Relevant cultural phenomenon
  • Photography and other artistic undertakings
  • Human interactions
  • Other subjects that are related to education and academics

Knowing the subject of your article is only one of the initial things that can help you prepare during the writing process. Here are some ways on how you can be ready to write your academic essay:

  • You need to have an order of writing that can easily showcase the flow of your thoughts. You must ensure that you can easily connect with your readers or audience so they can respond to the content of your article. Your academic essay should evoke an emotion that is necessary to spark other ideas, opinions and other kinds of responses.
  • You need to be aware that academic essays differ depending on the educational or academic discipline where they will be used.   There are certain ways that are necessary to be followed in various fields for an academic essay to be deemed effective. With this, always be mindful of the directions or instructions were given to you by the entity who requires you to write an academic essay.
  • You do not need to pattern your writing to the works of others. You can be ready even by just knowing your subject and researching about it. The style of writing that you have can give the most difference to how you write and how you present your work. Always keep in mind that your academic essay should be playful – it must not bore your audience.
  • You must think of your academic essay as an enterprise by using scholastic writing approaches. The conversation that you can create with your readers must be relevant to what is happening nowadays or for the study that specific student groups need. Being able to give focus on the relativity of your written work can make it easier for readers to understand why your academic essay is important within the academic field.
  • You should ensure that your thesis statement is precise, concise, and strong. When you are in the process of developing your academic essay’s thesis, you need to make sure that you are not just basing your write-up on unreliable information. Always refer to evidence, facts, and real data as it can help you strengthen your claims. More so, do not forget to  reference your essays  when necessary.

Things to Remember When Identifying the Purpose of Your Academic Essay

An academic essay always has to be relevant. It needs to be beneficial to a specific group or to the majority of the academic community. The motive of your essay is very important to be considered as it can identify whether you can be of help to the people who need a particular educational reference. Here are a few things that you need to remember when identifying the purpose of your own academic essay:

  • Do not create an academic essay just for the sake of passing it. Your academic essay is more than an assignment or a project. There are some last minute essay writing activities that are done in various fields especially if students think that an academic essay is just a part of their requirements. However, what these students do not know is that an academic essay is a representation of themselves. It showcases the thoughts of the students, what they have learned may it be in class or through self-discovery, and how they are impacted by certain issues and subjects of discussion. This is where the value of a Free Essay and an Informative Essay becomes evident, as both types of essays encourage students to express their understanding and insights on a given topic freely and informatively.
  • Be precise with the purpose of your writing. An academic letter is not just a document that can showcase your mastery when it comes to a particular academic subject. It can talk about a specific subject or it can also be a general paper that can provide a lot of information about your experiences and/or insights. This is where the importance of a Self-Introduction Essay comes into play, allowing you to present a personal narrative that reflects your academic journey and achievements. Similarly, an Expository Essay helps in laying out facts and an unbiased analysis of a topic, further enriching the academic discourse. If you will have a precise purpose when writing an academic essay, there is no doubt that your essay will not be pointless.
  • Always think of the best case that can help you represent your thoughts. Your style of writing, as well as the entire document’s format and content, can help you realize your ideas. This includes the succinctness and clarity often found in a Short Essay , where the challenge is to convey your thoughts within a limited word count effectively. Similarly, a Scholarship Essay requires you to articulate your achievements and aspirations in a way that resonates with scholarship committees, demonstrating your potential and need for financial support. With this, your point of writing can easily be identified by readers. Being able to present your purpose the best way possible can add up to the success of your academic paper.

Developing an Academic Essay

For you to be able to persuade your readers with the content of your academic essay, there is a need for you to present a structure that can easily identify your claims, arguments, observations, and/or factual presentations. Integrating a Student Essay can demonstrate the personal perspective or learning journey of an individual, making your arguments more relatable. Similarly, incorporating a Travel Essay could enrich your essay by providing unique insights and observations from different cultures or environments. Being clear about how you present your idea is essential for people to see the context of your academic essay.

If you have an organized manner of putting together the concepts of your academic essay, then validating your thesis statement can be more evident. To avoid  common essay mistakes  and other negative factors that can affect your desired output, here is a basic guide on how you can develop your own academic essay:

  • Start by creating a strong thesis statement. Identify your stand and make sure to strictly present evidence that can help you claim its authenticity and validity. Reveal evidence after your thesis statement presentation. Your thesis statement serves as your introduction speech . It lets your readers know the topic of your academic essay and what they can expect from the entire article.
  • Establish the context of your essay after your thesis statement. The way that you approach your topic can let readers know whether it is the specific approach that they also need for their undertakings. There are different contexts that can be used within the same subject, so you have to make sure that you will be clear when it comes to identifying the part of the topic that you are going to talk about. This clarity can be achieved through a Descriptive Essay , where vivid descriptions and details about the topic can enlighten and engage the reader. Additionally, understanding the Parts of an Essay is crucial in structuring your thoughts and arguments effectively. Limiting your topic discussion can help you give more focus to what is important for your discussion, ensuring that each part contributes meaningfully to the whole.
  • Create the next paragraphs based on the data that can support your thesis statement. The body of your academic essay can be based on your observations, reviews, statements and research outputs. You can present these items separately through the usage of various paragraphs. However, there are instances where it will be better if you can combine or compare to evidence to make your statements more effective.
  • Conclude. Your conclusion is as important as your introduction. If you believe that you have created a strong introduction, you have to maintain that until the end of your academic essay. Sum up all the information that you have presented so that people can identify whether your conclusion has lived up to the content of what you have written. Your conclusion can also be used to assess whether your thesis statement has been carried within the entirety of your discussion.

Importance of a Well-Defined Thesis Statement in an Academic Essay

A thesis statement is a paragraph or a set of paragraphs that identifies your stand about your subject. There is a need for this statement to be created as it can affect the entirety of your academic paper. Here are some of the reasons why it is important to develop an effective thesis statement before and while writing your academic paper:

  • Your thesis statement is a reflection of your actual idea. This helps you present the point that you would like to make and the message that you actually want to disseminate to your readers. Through a thesis statement, you can organize the evidence that are relevant to your claims based on their relevance to the topic and how you view it as a writer.
  • Your thesis statement can guide you within the entirety of your writing processes. Just because you have already done an initial thesis statement does not mean that you are going to fully stick with it until the end of your writing. There are instances where thesis statements are developed or even changes during the creation of an academic essay depending on how the research about the topic has evolved.
  • Your thesis statement can allow you to establish originality. Since your academic essay can be based on your research findings and observations, your thesis statement can be your platform to specify what you have come up with. Through a well-defined thesis statement, you can set your output apart from other  essay examples that have been written by professionals and other entities in the field of academics.
  • Your thesis statement is one of the items that the audience will look at when referencing for credibility and validity. Academic essays need to have a strong initial impact on readers. This statement can help them be focused on a particular standpoint which can enlighten them about your views and opinions, and how these are essential to be considered.
  • Your thesis statement can help your readers immerse in your academic essay. The material that you will be coming up with can be reviewed by different people. Depending on the field of education where you are currently in, you need to make sure that your readers can see patterns of evidence presented so they can clearly see how you were able to generate and come up with insights. You have to ensure that the thesis statement that you have created contains the most promising thought so you can get the trust or even the acceptance of your readers about your academic essay’s subject.

Guidelines in Writing an Academic Essay

The course materials that you need to talk about within an academic essay can reflect your level of understanding about the subject. Simply put, an academic essay can be an evidence of the depth of your research procedures and all the other activities that you have executed so that you can support the content of your written output. Listed below are some of the guidelines that can be useful to your academic essay writing processes.

  • Always analyze your essay prompt or the question that you need to answer or explain. You have to know whether you are tasked to argue, analyze, or discuss the topic. There will be times where you also need to compare the items present in your subject or explain the underlying factors that can affect your topic.
  • Make sure that you will research about what you will write about . Your academic essay can only be fully-maximized if you can present facts. Primary research may be a helpful bit a more precise review of your research topic can help you gather more information that can be helpful in the development of your content. Always assess your sources of information so you can ensure that they are credible.
  • Create a draft so that you will have a guide when writing your academic essay. If you will be organized when writing your academic essay, you can create an output that is well-curated and comprehensive. With this, your academic essay can provide more impact to your readers. This can also help you gather your thoughts first and identify how you can put them all together in the most cohesive and efficient way possible.

If you still do not feel confident in writing your own academic essay from scratch, then you can refer to templates and samples which you can download online. Doing this will allow you to be more familiar with the common content and basic formats that are usually seen in an academic essay. When using a template as a guide, always make sure that it is applicable to the study that you are practicing or the academic field or discipline where you will use your academic essay.

As a student, there will always be an instance where we will be required to write an academic essay. If you want to create an academic essay that is both outstanding and relevant, always put the items that we have discussed above in mind.

Setting the Stage for Essay Writing Success

  • Understand the Assignment: Carefully read and comprehend the essay prompt or assignment to grasp its requirements and objectives.
  • Topic Selection: Choose a relevant and interesting topic that aligns with the assignment.
  • Research: Gather credible sources and information related to your topic. Take thorough notes and document your sources.
  • Thesis Statement: Develop a strong, clear, and concise thesis statement that presents the main argument of your essay.
  • Outline: Create an outline that organizes your essay into sections, including the introduction, body paragraphs, and conclusion. Each section should have a clear purpose.
  • Writing Draft: Begin writing your essay, keeping the introduction engaging, and ensuring each body paragraph addresses a single point or idea supported by evidence.
  • Citations: Properly cite sources as you write, following a recognized citation style (e.g., APA, MLA).
  • Edit and Revise: Review and revise your draft, focusing on grammar, clarity, coherence, and organization.
  • Proofread: Carefully proofread your essay for errors in spelling, punctuation, and sentence structure.
  • Final Review: Double-check that your essay fulfills the assignment requirements, including formatting, citations, and references.

How do you write an academic essay?

  • Understand the Assignment: Read the essay prompt or assignment thoroughly to grasp its requirements and objectives.
  • Research: Gather relevant sources and information from books, articles, and credible online sources.
  • Plan and Outline: Create an outline with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each section should have a clear purpose.
  • Thesis Statement: Develop a strong thesis statement that presents the main argument of your essay.
  • Introduction: Start with a compelling hook, provide background information, and present your thesis statement.
  • Body Paragraphs: Each paragraph should focus on a single point or idea, supported by evidence or examples. Use topic sentences to introduce the main idea of each paragraph.
  • Citations: Cite sources properly using a recognized citation style (e.g., APA, MLA, Chicago).
  • Analysis and Critical Thinking: Analyze and evaluate the evidence or arguments presented, and make connections between them.
  • Transition Sentences: Use transition words and phrases to connect ideas between paragraphs.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points, restate the thesis, and provide a thoughtful conclusion that leaves a lasting impression.

Academic Essay Characteristics

Academic essays are distinguished by several key characteristics that set them apart from other types of writing. These features ensure that essays meet the rigorous standards of academic discourse and contribute effectively to scholarly conversations. Here are the primary characteristics of academic essays:

  • Clear Purpose : An academic essay is written with a clear purpose, often to argue a point, present an analysis, or discuss a research finding. The purpose guides the structure and content of the essay.
  • Structured Format : It follows a structured format with an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. This organization helps present arguments and evidence in a coherent and logical manner.
  • Thesis Statement : A distinctive feature is the thesis statement, a concise summary of the main argument or claim, usually found at the end of the introduction. It sets the direction for the entire essay.
  • Critical Analysis : Academic essays involve critical analysis of ideas, texts, or situations. Writers assess evidence, debate viewpoints, and use logic to develop their arguments.
  • Evidence-Based Arguments : Claims made in academic essays are supported by evidence from credible sources. This includes data, statistics, research findings, and quotations from experts.
  • Formal Tone and Style : The writing adopts a formal tone and style, avoiding colloquial language, personal anecdotes (unless relevant), and slang. It maintains an objective and professional voice.

Types of Academic Writing

Academic writing encompasses a variety of types, each serving a specific purpose and adhering to a particular format. Here are some of the main types of academic writing:

  • Descriptive Writing : This type focuses on describing a character, event, or situation in detail. It’s often used in reports or descriptive essays, where the goal is to provide a clear picture of the subject to the reader.
  • Analytical Writing : Analytical writing breaks down complex information into smaller components for better understanding. It involves comparing and contrasting, classifying, and analyzing causes and effects. This type is common in research papers and literature reviews.
  • Persuasive Writing : Persuasive writing aims to convince the reader of the writer’s viewpoint or argument. It is characterized by a strong thesis statement, clear evidence, and logical reasoning to persuade the reader. Opinion pieces, argumentative essays, and proposals often employ persuasive writing.
  • Expository Writing : Expository writing is used to explain or inform the reader about a specific topic in a clear, concise, and logical manner. It focuses on presenting facts, statistics, and examples without the writer’s personal opinions. This type includes most essays, many types of reports, and certain types of research papers.
  • Reflective Writing : This type involves the writer reflecting on their personal experiences, thoughts, or feelings regarding a particular subject or experience. Reflective writing is subjective and is often used in journals, blogs, and reflection essays in educational settings.
  • Critical Writing : Critical writing evaluates and critiques the work of others, such as books, articles, or artworks. It involves assessing the strengths and weaknesses of arguments, evidence, and methodologies. Literature reviews, critique essays, and certain types of research papers often require critical writing.
  • Narrative Writing : Although less common in strict academic settings, narrative writing is used in certain disciplines to tell stories or describe events chronologically. Personal statements and some types of qualitative research may employ narrative writing to convey experiences and observations.
  • Report Writing : Reports convey information from a writer to a reader, focusing on facts and evidence. They are structured and include sections like an introduction, methodology, findings, and conclusions. Lab reports, business reports, and technical reports are examples of this type.

Academic Writing Principles

Academic writing is governed by a set of core principles designed to ensure clarity, precision, and rigor in scholarly communication. Understanding and adhering to these principles is essential for effective academic writing. Here are the key principles:

  • Clarity : Writing should be clear and understandable, avoiding unnecessary jargon and complexity to ensure that the reader can easily follow the argument or narrative.
  • Coherence : The text should be logically organized, with a clear structure that guides the reader through the argument or discussion. Each part of the writing should connect to the others in a meaningful way.
  • Conciseness : Academic writing should be concise, conveying ideas in as few words as necessary. This does not mean oversimplifying, but rather avoiding redundancy and verbosity.
  • Objectivity : Writers should strive for objectivity, presenting information and arguments based on evidence rather than personal opinions or biases. This includes acknowledging counterarguments and limitations.
  • Precision : Precision involves using the exact words to convey your meaning and being specific about your claims, evidence, and references. This also means accurately citing sources and providing specific data when necessary.
  • Evidence-Based Argumentation : Arguments should be supported with appropriate evidence, such as data, examples, and citations from authoritative sources. This principle underscores the importance of research and verification in academic writing.
  • Formality : The tone of academic writing is formal, which means avoiding colloquial language, contractions, slang, and humor. Formality also involves using the passive voice where appropriate and avoiding personal pronouns when making general arguments.
  • Citation and Referencing : Proper citation and referencing of sources are fundamental to academic writing. This practice not only gives credit to original authors but also allows readers to verify sources and understand the basis of the evidence presented.
  • Originality and Plagiarism Avoidance : Academic writing must be original and free from plagiarism. This means that writers should produce their own work based on their research and ideas and appropriately cite any sources they use.
  • Critical Thinking : Effective academic writing reflects critical thinking, challenging assumptions, evaluating evidence, and synthesizing ideas from various sources to offer new insights or perspectives on a topic.

How do you start an academic essay sample?

Begin an academic essay sample with a captivating hook, provide context on the topic, and conclude the introduction with a clear and concise thesis statement that outlines your main argument.

What is the opening line of an academic essay?

The opening line of an academic essay should engage the reader’s interest, introduce the topic, and provide a sense of the essay’s focus and importance.

What not to write in an academic essay?

In an academic essay, avoid personal opinions, emotional language, unsubstantiated claims, informal language, and plagiarism. Focus on evidence-based arguments and adhere to academic standards and conventions.

How do you write an academic essay quickly?

To write an academic essay quickly, start with a clear thesis, outline main points, research efficiently, focus on key evidence, and minimize editing while maintaining proper citations and structure.

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What Is "Academic" Writing?

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L. Lennie Irvin

Introduction: The Academic Writing Task

As a new college student, you may have a lot of anxiety and questions about the writing you’ll do in college. * That word “academic,” especially, may turn your stomach or turn your nose. However, with this first year composition class, you begin one of the only classes in your entire college career where you will focus on learning to write. Given the importance of writing as a communication skill, I urge you to consider this class as a gift and make the most of it. But writing is hard, and writing in college may resemble playing a familiar game by completely new rules (that often are unstated). This chapter is designed to introduce you to what academic writing is like, and hopefully ease your transition as you face these daunting writing challenges.

So here’s the secret. Your success with academic writing depends upon how well you understand what you are doing as you write and then how you approach the writing task. Early research done on college writers discovered that whether students produced a successful piece of writing depended largely upon their representation of the writing task. The writers’ mental model for picturing their task made a huge difference. Most people as they start college have wildly strange ideas about what they are doing when they write an essay, or worse—they have no clear idea at all. I freely admit my own past as a clueless freshman writer, and it’s out of this sympathy as well as twenty years of teaching college writing that I hope to provide you with something useful. So grab a cup of coffee or a diet coke, find a comfortable chair with good light, and let’s explore together this activity of academic writing you’ll be asked to do in college. We will start by clearing up some of those wild misconceptions people often arrive at college possessing. Then we will dig more deeply into the components of the academic writing situation and nature of the writing task.

Myths About Writing

Though I don’t imagine an episode of MythBusters will be based on the misconceptions about writing we are about to look at, you’d still be surprised at some of the things people will believe about writing. You may find lurking within you viral elements of these myths—all of these lead to problems in writing.

Myth #1: The “Paint by Numbers” myth

Some writers believe they must perform certain steps in a particular order to write “correctly.” Rather than being a lock-step linear process, writing is “recursive.” That means we cycle through and repeat the various activities of the writing process many times as we write.

Myth #2: Writers only start writing when they have everything figured out

Writing is not like sending a fax! Writers figure out much of what they want to write as they write it. Rather than waiting, get some writing on the page—even with gaps or problems. You can come back to patch up rough spots.

Myth #3: Perfect first drafts

We put unrealistic expectations on early drafts, either by focusing too much on the impossible task of making them perfect (which can put a cap on the development of our ideas), or by making too little effort because we don’t care or know about their inevitable problems. Nobody writes perfect first drafts; polished writing takes lots of revision.

Myth #4: Some got it; I don’t—the genius fallacy

When you see your writing ability as something fixed or out of your control (as if it were in your genetic code), then you won’t believe you can improve as a writer and are likely not to make any efforts in that direction. With effort and study, though, you can improve as a writer. I promise.

Myth #5: Good grammar is good writing

When people say “I can’t write,” what they often mean is they have problems with grammatical correctness. Writing, however, is about more than just grammatical correctness. Good writing is a matter of achieving your desired effect upon an intended audience. Plus, as we saw in myth #3, no one writes perfect first drafts.

Myth #6: The Five Paragraph Essay

Some people say to avoid it at all costs, while others believe no other way to write exists. With an introduction, three supporting paragraphs, and a conclusion, the five paragraph essay is a format you should know, but one which you will outgrow. You’ll have to gauge the particular writing assignment to see whether and how this format is useful for you.

Myth #7: Never use “I”

Adopting this formal stance of objectivity implies a distrust (almost fear) of informality and often leads to artificial, puffed-up prose. Although some writing situations will call on you to avoid using “I” (for example, a lab report), much college writing can be done in a middle, semi-formal style where it is ok to use “I.”

The Academic Writing Situation

Now that we’ve dispelled some of the common myths that many writers have as they enter a college classroom, let’s take a moment to think about the academic writing situation. The biggest problem I see in freshman writers is a poor sense of the writing situation in general. To illustrate this problem, let’s look at the difference between speaking and writing.

When we speak, we inhabit the communication situation bodily in three dimensions, but in writing we are confined within the twodimensional setting of the flat page (though writing for the web—or multimodal writing—is changing all that). Writing resembles having a blindfold over our eyes and our hands tied behind our backs: we can’t see exactly whom we’re talking to or where we are. Separated from our audience in place and time, we imaginatively have to create this context. Our words on the page are silent, so we must use punctuation and word choice to communicate our tone. We also can’t see our audience to gauge how our communication is being received or if there will be some kind of response. It’s the same space we share right now as you read this essay. Novice writers often write as if they were mumbling to themselves in the corner with no sense that their writing will be read by a reader or any sense of the context within which their communication will be received.

What’s the moral here? Developing your “writer’s sense” about communicating within the writing situation is the most important thing you should learn in freshman composition.

Figure 1, depicting the writing situation, presents the best image I know of describing all the complexities involved in the writing situation.

Looking More Closely at the “Academic Writing” Situation

Writing in college is a fairly specialized writing situation, and it has developed its own codes and conventions that you need to have a keen awareness of if you are going to write successfully in college. Let’s break down the writing situation in college:

So far, this list looks like nothing new. You’ve been writing in school toward teachers for years. What’s different in college? Lee Ann Carroll, a professor at Pepperdine University, performed a study of student writing in college and had this description of the kind of writing you will be doing in college:

What are usually called ‘writing assignments’ in college might more accurately be called ‘literacy tasks’ because they require much more than the ability to construct correct sentences or compose neatly organized paragraphs with topic sentences. . . . Projects calling for high levels of critical literacy in college typically require knowledge of research skills, ability to read complex texts, understanding of key disciplinary concepts, and strategies for synthesizing, analyzing, and responding critically to new information, usually within a limited time frame. (3–4)

Academic writing is always a form of evaluation that asks you to demonstrate knowledge and show proficiency with certain disciplinary skills of thinking, interpreting, and presenting. Writing the paper is never “just” the writing part. To be successful in this kind of writing, you must be completely aware of what the professor expects you to do and accomplish with that particular writing task. For a moment, let’s explore more deeply the elements of this college writing “literacy task.”

Knowledge of Research Skills

Perhaps up to now research has meant going straight to Google and Wikipedia, but college will require you to search for and find more in-depth information. You’ll need to know how to find information in the library, especially what is available from online databases which contain scholarly articles. Researching is also a process, so you’ll need to learn how to focus and direct a research project and how to keep track of all your source information. Realize that researching represents a crucial component of most all college writing assignments, and you will need to devote lots of work to this researching.

The Ability to Read Complex Texts

Whereas your previous writing in school might have come generally from your experience, college writing typically asks you to write on unfamiliar topics. Whether you’re reading your textbook, a short story, or scholarly articles from research, your ability to write well will be based upon the quality of your reading. In addition to the labor of close reading, you’ll need to think critically as you read. That means separating fact from opinion, recognizing biases and assumptions, and making inferences. Inferences are how we as readers connect the dots: an inference is a belief (or statement) about something unknown made on the basis of something known. You smell smoke; you infer fire. They are conclusions or interpretations that we arrive at based upon the known factors we discover from our reading. When we, then, write to argue for these interpretations, our job becomes to get our readers to make the same inferences we have made.

The Understanding of Key Disciplinary Concepts

Each discipline whether it is English, Psychology, or History has its own key concepts and language for describing these important ways of understanding the world. Don’t fool yourself that your professors’ writing assignments are asking for your opinion on the topic from just your experience. They want to see you apply and use these concepts in your writing. Though different from a multiple-choice exam, writing similarly requires you to demonstrate your learning. So whatever writing assignment you receive, inspect it closely for what concepts it asks you to bring into your writing.

Strategies for Synthesizing, Analyzing, and Responding Critically to New Information

You need to develop the skill of a seasoned traveler who can be dropped in any city around the world and get by. Each writing assignment asks you to navigate through a new terrain of information, so you must develop ways for grasping new subject matter in order, then, to use it in your writing. We have already seen the importance of reading and research for these literacy tasks, but beyond laying the information out before you, you will need to learn ways of sorting and finding meaningful patterns in this information.

In College, Everything’s an Argument: A Guide for Decoding College Writing Assignments

Let’s restate this complex “literacy task” you’ll be asked repeatedly to do in your writing assignments. Typically, you’ll be required to write an “essay” based upon your analysis of some reading(s). In this essay you’ll need to present an argument where you make a claim (i.e. present a “thesis”) and support that claim with good reasons that have adequate and appropriate evidence to back them up. The dynamic of this argumentative task often confuses first year writers, so let’s examine it more closely

Academic Writing Is an Argument

To start, let’s focus on argument. What does it mean to present an “argument” in college writing? Rather than a shouting match between two disagreeing sides, argument instead means a carefully arranged and supported presentation of a viewpoint. Its purpose is not so much to win the argument as to earn your audience’s consideration (and even approval) of your perspective. It resembles a conversation between two people who may not hold the same opinions, but they both desire a better understanding of the subject matter under discussion. My favorite analogy, however, to describe the nature of this argumentative stance in college writing is the courtroom. In this scenario, you are like a lawyer making a case at trial that the defendant is not guilty, and your readers are like the jury who will decide if the defendant is guilty or not guilty. This jury (your readers) won’t just take your word that he’s innocent; instead, you must convince them by presenting evidence that proves he is not guilty. Stating your opinion is not enough—you have to back it up too. I like this courtroom analogy for capturing two importance things about academic argument: 1) the value of an organized presentation of your “case,” and 2) the crucial element of strong evidence.

Academic Writing Is an Analysis

We now turn our attention to the actual writing assignment and that confusing word “analyze.” Your first job when you get a writing assignment is to figure out what the professor expects. This assignment may be explicit in its expectations, but often built into the wording of the most defined writing assignments are implicit expectations that you might not recognize. First, we can say that unless your professor specifically asks you to summarize, you won’t write a summary. Let me say that again: don’t write a summary unless directly asked to. But what, then, does the professor want? We have already picked out a few of these expectations: You can count on the instructor expecting you to read closely, research adequately, and write an argument where you will demonstrate your ability to apply and use important concepts you have been studying. But the writing task also implies that your essay will be the result of an analysis. At times, the writing assignment may even explicitly say to write an analysis, but often this element of the task remains unstated.

So what does it mean to analyze? One way to think of an analysis is that it asks you to seek How and Why questions much more than What questions. An analysis involves doing three things:

  • Engage in an open inquiry where the answer is not known at first (and where you leave yourself open to multiple suggestions)
  • Identify meaningful parts of the subject
  • Examine these separate parts and determine how they relate to each other

An analysis breaks a subject apart to study it closely, and from this inspection, ideas for writing emerge. When writing assignments call on you to analyze, they require you to identify the parts of the subject (parts of an ad, parts of a short story, parts of Hamlet’s character), and then show how these parts fit or don’t fit together to create some larger effect or meaning. Your interpretation of how these parts fit together constitutes your claim or thesis, and the task of your essay is then to present an argument defending your interpretation as a valid or plausible one to make. My biggest bit of advice about analysis is not to do it all in your head. Analysis works best when you put all the cards on the table, so to speak. Identify and isolate the parts of your analysis, and record important features and characteristics of each one. As patterns emerge, you sort and connect these parts in meaningful ways. For me, I have always had to do this recording and thinking on scratch pieces of paper. Just as critical reading forms a crucial element of the literacy task of a college writing assignment, so too does this analysis process. It’s built in.

Three Common Types of College Writing Assignments

We have been decoding the expectations of the academic writing task so far, and I want to turn now to examine the types of assignments you might receive. From my experience, you are likely to get three kinds of writing assignments based upon the instructor’s degree of direction for the assignment. We’ll take a brief look at each kind of academic writing task.

The Closed Writing Assignment

  • Is Creon a character to admire or condemn?
  • Does your advertisement employ techniques of propaganda, and if so what kind?
  • Was the South justified in seceding from the Union?
  • In your opinion, do you believe Hamlet was truly mad?

These kinds of writing assignments present you with two counter claims and ask you to determine from your own analysis the more valid claim. They resemble yes-no questions. These topics define the claim for you, so the major task of the writing assignment then is working out the support for the claim. They resemble a math problem in which the teacher has given you the answer and now wants you to “show your work” in arriving at that answer.

Be careful with these writing assignments, however, because often these topics don’t have a simple yes/no, either/or answer (despite the nature of the essay question). A close analysis of the subject matter often reveals nuances and ambiguities within the question that your eventual claim should reflect. Perhaps a claim such as, “In my opinion, Hamlet was mad” might work, but I urge you to avoid such a simplistic thesis. This thesis would be better: “I believe Hamlet’s unhinged mind borders on insanity but doesn’t quite reach it.”

The Semi-Open Writing Assignment

  • Discuss the role of law in Antigone.
  • Explain the relationship between character and fate in Hamlet.
  • Compare and contrast the use of setting in two short stories.
  • Show how the Fugitive Slave Act influenced the Abolitionist Movement.

Although these topics chart out a subject matter for you to write upon, they don’t offer up claims you can easily use in your paper. It would be a misstep to offer up claims such as, “Law plays a role in Antigone” or “In Hamlet we can see a relationship between character and fate.” Such statements express the obvious and what the topic takes for granted. The question, for example, is not whether law plays a role in Antigone, but rather what sort of role law plays. What is the nature of this role? What influences does it have on the characters or actions or theme? This kind of writing assignment resembles a kind of archeological dig. The teacher cordons off an area, hands you a shovel, and says dig here and see what you find.

Be sure to avoid summary and mere explanation in this kind of assignment. Despite using key words in the assignment such as “explain,” “illustrate,” analyze,” “discuss,” or “show how,” these topics still ask you to make an argument. Implicit in the topic is the expectation that you will analyze the reading and arrive at some insights into patterns and relationships about the subject. Your eventual paper, then, needs to present what you found from this analysis—the treasure you found from your digging. Determining your own claim represents the biggest challenge for this type of writing assignment.

The Open Writing Assignment

  • Analyze the role of a character in Dante’s The Inferno.
  • What does it mean to be an “American” in the 21st Century?
  • Analyze the influence of slavery upon one cause of the Civil War.
  • Compare and contrast two themes within Pride and Prejudice .

These kinds of writing assignments require you to decide both your writing topic and you claim (or thesis). Which character in the Inferno will I pick to analyze? What two themes in Pride and Prejudice will I choose to write about? Many students struggle with these types of assignments because they have to understand their subject matter well before they can intelligently choose a topic. For instance, you need a good familiarity with the characters in The Inferno before you can pick one. You have to have a solid understanding defining elements of American identity as well as 21 st century culture before you can begin to connect them. This kind of writing assignment resembles riding a bike without the training wheels on. It says, “You decide what to write about.” The biggest decision, then, becomes selecting your topic and limiting it to a manageable size.

Picking and Limiting a Writing Topic

Let’s talk about both of these challenges: picking a topic and limiting it. Remember how I said these kinds of essay topics expect you to choose what to write about from a solid understanding of your subject? As you read and review your subject matter, look for things that interest you. Look for gaps, puzzling items, things that confuse you, or connections you see. Something in this pile of rocks should stand out as a jewel: as being “do-able” and interesting. (You’ll write best when you write from both your head and your heart.) Whatever topic you choose, state it as a clear and interesting question. You may or may not state this essay question explicitly in the introduction of your paper (I actually recommend that you do), but it will provide direction for your paper and a focus for your claim since that claim will be your answer to this essay question. For example, if with the Dante topic you decided to write on Virgil, your essay question might be: “What is the role of Virgil toward the character of Dante in The Inferno?” The thesis statement, then, might be this: “Virgil’s predominant role as Dante’s guide through hell is as the voice of reason.” Crafting a solid essay question is well worth your time because it charts the territory of your essay and helps you declare a focused thesis statement.

Many students struggle with defining the right size for their writing project. They chart out an essay question that it would take a book to deal with adequately. You’ll know you have that kind of topic if you have already written over the required page length but only touched one quarter of the topics you planned to discuss. In this case, carve out one of those topics and make your whole paper about it. For instance, with our Dante example, perhaps you planned to discuss four places where Virgil’s role as the voice of reason is evident. Instead of discussing all four, focus your essay on just one place. So your revised thesis statement might be: “Close inspection of Cantos I and II reveal that Virgil serves predominantly as the voice of reason for Dante on his journey through hell.” A writing teacher I had in college said it this way: A well tended garden is better than a large one full of weeds. That means to limit your topic to a size you can handle and support well.

Three Characteristics of Academic Writing

I want to wrap up this section by sharing in broad terms what the expectations are behind an academic writing assignment. Chris Thaiss and Terry Zawacki conducted research at George Mason University where they asked professors from their university what they thought academic writing was and its standards. They came up with three characteristics:

  • Clear evidence in writing that the writer(s) have been persistent, open-minded, and disciplined in study. (5)
  • The dominance of reason over emotions or sensual perception. (5)
  • An imagined reader who is coolly rational, reading for information, and intending to formulate a reasoned response. (7)

Your professor wants to see these three things in your writing when they give you a writing assignment. They want to see in your writing the results of your efforts at the various literacy tasks we have been discussing: critical reading, research, and analysis. Beyond merely stating opinions, they also want to see an argument toward an intelligent audience where you provide good reasons to support your interpretations.

The Format of the Academic Essay

Your instructors will also expect you to deliver a paper that contains particular textual features. The following list contains the characteristics of what I have for years called the “critical essay.” Although I can’t claim they will be useful for all essays in college, I hope that these features will help you shape and accomplish successful college essays. Be aware that these characteristics are flexible and not a formula, and any particular assignment might ask for something different.

Characteristics of the Critical Essay

“Critical” here is not used in the sense of “to criticize” as in find fault with. Instead, “critical” is used in the same way “critical thinking” is used. A synonym might be “interpretive” or “analytical.”

  • It is an argument, persuasion essay that in its broadest sense MAKES A POINT and SUPPORTS IT. (We have already discussed this argumentative nature of academic writing at length.)
  • The point (“claim” or “thesis”) of a critical essay is interpretive in nature. That means the point is debatable and open to interpretation, not a statement of the obvious. The thesis statement is a clear, declarative sentence that often works best when it comes at the end of the introduction.
  • Organization: Like any essay, the critical essay should have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion. As you support your point in the body of the essay, you should “divide up the proof,” which means structuring the body around clear primary supports (developed in single paragraphs for short papers or multiple paragraphs for longer papers).
  • Support: (a) The primary source for support in the critical essay is from the text (or sources). The text is the authority, so using quotations is required. ( b) The continuous movement of logic in a critical essay is “assert then support; assert then support.” No assertion (general statement that needs proving) should be left without specific support (often from the text(s)). (c) You need enough support to be convincing. In general, that means for each assertion you need at least three supports. This threshold can vary, but invariably one support is not enough.
  • A critical essay will always “document” its sources, distinguishing the use of outside information used inside your text and clarifying where that information came from (following the rules of MLA documentation style or whatever documentation style is required).
  • Whenever the author moves from one main point (primary support) to the next, the author needs to clearly signal to the reader that this movement is happening. This transition sentence works best when it links back to the thesis as it states the topic of that paragraph or section.
  • A critical essay is put into an academic essay format such as the MLA or APA document format.
  • Grammatical correctness: Your essay should have few if any grammatical problems. You’ll want to edit your final draft carefully before turning it in.

As we leave this discussion, I want to return to what I said was the secret for your success in writing college essays: Your success with academic writing depends upon how well you understand what you are doing as you write and then how you approach the writing task. Hopefully, you now have a better idea about the nature of the academic writing task and the expectations behind it. Knowing what you need to do won’t guarantee you an “A” on your paper—that will take a lot of thinking, hard work, and practice—but having the right orientation toward your college writing assignments is a first and important step in your eventual success.

Works Cited

Carroll, Lee Ann. Rehearsing New Roles: How College Students Develop as Writers . Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002. Print.

Thaiss, Chris and Terry Zawacki. En gaged Writers & Dynamic Disciplines: Research on the Academic Writing Life. Portsmouth: Boynton/Cook, 2006. Print.

what is academic text essay pdf

Teaching Connections

Advancing discussions about teaching, who’s afraid of academic writing a reflective essay on dispelling anxiety and fear in an academic writing course.

WONG Jock Onn Centre for English Language Communication (CELC)

Jock Onn considers how educators can apply an ethics of care in their teaching, as he takes us through survey findings on students’ perspectives towards academic writing, particularly the emotions they associate with this activity and the challenges they face.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

I had previously spent many semesters in my teaching practice developing methods that I thought would help students excel in academic writing. It did not matter to me at the time that student feedback told me that my coursework was demanding; I took it to mean that I was on the right track (Wong, 2023a). It was only in recent years that I realised the need to show more care in my teaching (Wong, 2023b). Last year, amazingly, for the first time, the word ‘care’ appeared in my student feedback. A student wrote, “Dr Wong displays care for his students…” Realising the importance of care, I decided to find out why students need care and conducted a simple Google survey (entitled “Attitudes Towards Academic Writing”) last semester with my three classes. I asked them to make known the emotions they associate with academic writing, write qualitative comments on their answers, and tell me what challenges they face. I received 41 responses, and the survey yielded some tentative but interesting findings.

The survey asked, “Which of the following emotions do you associate with academic writing?” As shown in Table 1, over 50% of the students associated academic writing with fear and anxiety. Slightly over a quarter associated it with a rather positive feeling (26.8%) and only a very small percentage (4.9%) associated it with something very positive. The fact that over half of the respondents associated academic writing with fear (53.7%) and anxiety (63.4%) was a surprise to me. Fortunately, less than 10% hated academic writing.

WongJO-Fig1

Students also gave qualitative comments on why they experienced fear and anxiety in academic writing. Some indicated that they had insufficient linguistic knowledge, including the vocabulary and skills to write academically. A few even claimed that they did not know what academic writing entails. Other respondents indicated a lack of confidence. For example, a student wrote that knowing that their work is being graded caused anxiety. Several students attributed their anxiety to uncertainty and a lack of confidence in academic writing. In some cases, fear or anxiety was a result of bad experiences in junior college (JC). A student recounted their JC experience, when they had to produce an essay in three hours, causing their brain and hand to hurt.

The survey further asked respondents to tick the problems they face in academic writing from a list. Table 2 shows that the top three problems students face in academic writing have to do with not knowing what constitutes academic writing, not having enough ideas, and sentence cohesion . More than half of the students said that they did not know how to write academically (58.5%) and did not have enough ideas for writing (51.2%). Also, over 30% of respondents had problems with the introduction (‘don’t know how to start’) (36.6%), and grammar (34.1%).

Table 2 Problems that students face (in decreasing order of importance)

WongJO_Fig2

Anxiety is said to be “one of the critical individual affective factors in the process of learning a second language or a foreign language” (He et al., 2021, p. 1). Presumably, the same could be said of the process of learning academic writing. Anxiety, as studies suggest, is linked to “avoidance of the feared situation and loss of motivation to perform”, which could adversely affect retention (England et al., 2017, p. 2/17). Student anxiety and fear can ultimately affect language performance (Soriano & Co, 2022, p. 450). Thus, dispelling anxiety and fear among students is a pedagogic imperative.   

To dispel anxiety and fear, one would benefit from understanding what they mean. I believe most of us do. However, two co-authors offer an interesting perspective. According to Kastrup and Mallow (2016), fear “deals with things of which there is good reason to be afraid”, whereas anxiety means “being scared of something that is not intrinsically fearful” (pp. 3-1). Although Kastrup and Mallow (2016) speak in the context of science, their definitions seem to make general sense. As educators, we recognise that while some student concerns are practical in nature (e.g., they do not know the rules), others seem to be psychological. The solution to practical concerns could be addressed in a more straightforward fashion by using sound teaching methods; however, psychological barriers may require a different approach.

My proposed way of addressing the psychological challenge is to replace the bad experiences with pleasant ones. As Cook (2021) puts it, teachers “must provide instructor presence by providing a positive education experience for students” and give them “a sense of belonging” (p. 136). The teacher can achieve this by creating a positive learning experience through an ethic of care (Noddings, 2012). The teacher can display “empathic concern” (Patel, 2023) by acknowledging student perspectives in class, using inclusive languages, encouraging open communication, and accommodating student needs (p. 64). The teacher can create “a safe learning environment” by establishing “rules of engagement” and encouraging students to “explain their answers” in class without labelling the answers as “wrong” or “incorrect” (Teo, 2023, p. 79). After all, “harsh criticisms” can impede learning (Soriano & Co, 2022, p. 452), whereas positive feedback can alleviate anxiety (He et al., 2021). A student recently gave feedback that I often asked them whether they understood what I had taught, and this suggests that checking for understanding regularly is reassuring. To this end, the teacher could use ungraded quizzes, which do not cause student anxiety (England et al., 2017). There are many other things a teacher could do in this vein to help address such psychological learning barriers (Harvard Medical School, 2017; Abigail, 2019).

To maximise student learning, the teacher plays a big role, a role much bigger than I had previously thought—the teacher has a responsibility to dispel fear and anxiety among students. I agree with Kastrup and Mallow (2016) that it is the teachers “who most affect the anxiety (or lack thereof) of the students” (pp. 3-12). I would now say that what makes an excellent teacher is not just the use of time-tested teaching methods but also a capacity to care (Wong, 2023b). Thus, for me, the obvious way forward is to ‘integrate care in higher education’ by ‘teaching with heart’ (Holles, 2023, p. 18).

Abigail, H. (2019, March 5). Tips to beat back writing anxiety . Retrieved from IUPUI University Writing Center Blog: https://liberalarts.iupui.edu/programs/uwc/tips-to-beat-back-writing-anxiety/

Cook, M. (2021). Students’ perceptions of interactions from instructor presence, cognitive presence, and social presence in online lessons. International Journal of TESOL Studies (Special Issue “ELT in the Time of the Coronavirus 2020”, Part 3), 3 (1), 134-161. https://doi.org/10.46451/ijts.2021.03.03

England, B. J., Brigati, J. R., & Schussler, E. E. (2017, August 3). Student anxiety in introductory biology classrooms: Perceptions about active learning and persistence in the major. PLoS One, 12 (8), e0182506. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182506

Harvard Medical School. (2017, October 13). Write your anxieties away . Retrieved from Harvard Health Blog: https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/write-your-anxieties-away-2017101312551

He, X., Zhou, D., & Zhang, X. (2021, July-September). An empirical study on Chinese University students’ English Language classroom anxiety with the idiodynamic approach. Sage Open, 11 (3), 1-14. https://doi.org/10.1177/21582440211037676

Holles, C. (2023). Faculty-student interaction and well-being: The call for care. International Journal of TESOL Studies, 5 (3), 7-20. https://doi.org/10.58304/ijts.20230302

Kastrup, H., & Mallow, J. V. (2016). Student Attitudes, Student Anxieties, and How to Address Them: A Handbook for Science Teachers. Morgan & Claypool Publishers. https://dx.doi.org/10.1088/978-1-6817-4265-6

Noddings, N. (2012). The caring relation in teaching. Oxford Review of Education, 38 (6), 771-81. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03054985.2012.745047

Patel, S. N. (2023). Empathetic and dialogic interactions: Modelling intellectual Empathy and communicating care. International Journal of TESOL Studies, 3 , 51-70. https://doi.org/10.58304/ijts.20230305

Soriano, R. M., & Co, A. G. (2022, March). Voices from within: Students’ lived experiences on English language anxiety. International Journal of Evaluation and Research in Education, 11 (1), 449-58. http://dx.doi.org/10.11591/ijere.v11i1.21898

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  1. Academic Essay

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  5. (PDF) How to write an academic text

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  1. How to write an expository text essay

  2. How do students use Scholarcy to extract key information from academic literature?

  3. Characteristics of Academic Writing

  4. English for Academic Purposes Week 4 Lesson 2 Text Structure, Writing Outlines, and Word Formation

  5. How to make your English writing academic?

  6. Introduction to Academic Writing

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  1. PDF ACADEMIC WRITING

    Academic Writing 3 The Pillars of Academic Writing Academic writing is built upon three truths that aren't self-evident: - Writing is Thinking: While "writing" is traditionally understood as the expression of thought, we'll redefine "writing" as the thought process itself. Writing is not what you do with thought. Writing is

  2. PDF What Is "Academic" Writing?

    What Is "Academic" Writing? by L. Lennie Irvin This essay is a chapter in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 1, a peer-reviewed open textbook series for the writing classroom, and is published through Parlor Press. The full volume and individual chapter downloads are available for free from the following sites: • Writing Spaces ...

  3. (PDF) Academic writing: the essay

    An essay is an article on a single subject, comprising the author's thoughts and evidence, framed in a rational and organized vocabulary and having the right strategy to produce good writing ...

  4. PDF ACADEMIC ESSAY STRUCTURES & FORMATS

    Standard American argumentative essays begin with an introduction that gives a main point (thesis). The thesis is supported by a series of body paragraphs with sub-points, and the essay ends with a conclusion. Below is a visual representation of this structure, adapted from the Seattle University Writing Center; on the back is an example of the ...

  5. PDF Introduction to academic writing

    WRITING GUIDE 1 Introduction to academic writing Information and tips to help you plan and write better academic essays. Introduction This guide introduces basic concepts and skills to help improve your academic essay writing. It discusses the following topics: • What is an essay? • tPlanning your essay: o Decide on a strategy

  6. PDF ACADEMIC WRITING: KEY FEATURES

    explaining; giving reasons; examining or anticipating consequences. comparing, contrasting and evaluating. considering both sides of an issue. taking a position. supporting your claims with credible evidence. investigating claims made by others and, if appropriate, questioning the evidence. drawing conclusions.

  7. PDF A Brief Guide to the Elements of the Academic Essay

    you comment on student writing will help your students see patterns in their own writing that might otherwise remain elusive to them. 1. Thesis: your main insight or idea about a text or topic, and the main proposition that your essay dem-onstrates. It should be true but arguable (not obviously or patently true, but one alternative among several),

  8. PDF Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students, Third edition

    Academic Writing Most international students need to write essays and reports for exams and coursework. Yet writing good academic English is one of the most ... essays and reports, the handbook offers a clear, practical and accessible introduction to the skills students will need to write effectively at university.

  9. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Harvard College Writing Center 8 Thesis Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is

  10. PDF Introductions

    Harvard College Writing Center 1 Introductions The introduction to an academic essay will generally present an analytical question or problem and then offer an answer to that question (the thesis). Your introduction is also your opportunity to explain to your readers what your essay is about and why they should be interested in reading it.

  11. PDF Chapter 4: Stages of Writing

    Academic writing is an expression of our own ideas, but it need not be a solitary process. Who could we go to for information, support, and collaboration at each of ... writing an essay in a stream of consciousness and then handing it in without re-reading it; co-opting the ideas and evidence of something read online rather than taking time to ...

  12. PDF Chapter 3: The Conventions of Academic Writing

    structure of academic papers, uses of primary and secondary sources, citation styles, and specialized language. What writing in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences has in common is a commitment to clarity and objectivity. The chapter concludes with strategies for reading academic writing. Key Concepts

  13. PDF Steps to Academic Writing

    With regard to length, many of the examples of essays in the essay units are around 250-300 words. Writing of this length is long enough to demonstrate good skills, but if you need to write longer answers, the basic structure can easily be expanded. You can fi nd some examples of longer answers in the Answer key (see below).

  14. What is "Academic" Writing?

    Looking More Closely at the "Academic Writing" Situation. Writing in college is a fairly specialized writing situation, and it has developed its own codes and conventions that you need to have a keen awareness of if you are going to write successfully in college. Let's break down the writing situation in college:

  15. PDF The Structure of an Academic Paper

    the essence of your argument or idea. See our handout on Writing a Thesis Statement for more. The roadmap Not all academic papers include a roadmap, but many do. Usually following the thesis, a roadmap is a narrative table of contents that summarizes the flow of the rest of the paper. Below, see an example

  16. PDF Academic Writing and Grammar for Students

    essay-writing skills, and to make your written work more effective. What is more, writing effective, high-quality assignments should be diffi-cult. Being able to write essays on complex topics to a high standard is a skill worth having. Studying at university gives you the perfect opportunity to develop it.

  17. PDF What Is "Academic" Writing?

    What Is "Academic" Writing? by L. Lennie Irvin This essay is a chapter in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 1, a peer-reviewed open textbook series for the writing classroom, and is published through Parlor Press. The full volume and individual chapter downloads are available for free from the following sites: • Writing Spaces ...

  18. PDF Academic Writing @ Harvard Structure, Style, & Strategy

    Writing is a creative process. Writing strategy depends on what you are writing and who you are writing for. Writing is articulating and supporting your ideas. Kurland (2000) notes that "critical readers recognize not only what a text says, but also how that text portrays the subject matter.". Goals of critical reading:

  19. What Is Academic Writing?

    Academic writing is a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications. You'll encounter it in journal articles and books on academic topics, and you'll be expected to write your essays, research papers, and dissertation in academic style.

  20. PDF Academics' Views on the Characteristics of Academic Writing

    Academic writing is one of the steps of the academic research process through wh ich scientists report situations of thinking, experience, observation, application / testing etc. as to the solution of a scientific problem identified. In addition to following the general rules of a text genre, all principles considered while reporting a n ...

  21. Strategies for Essay Writing: Downloadable PDFs

    Strategies for Essay Writing: PDFs Strategies for Essay Writing--Complete. description. Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt. description. Asking Analytical Questions. description. Thesis. description. Introductions. description. What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common? description. Anatomy Of a Body Paragraph.

  22. Academic Essay Writing

    Academic Essay Writing Format/ Outline. 1. Title Page (if required) Includes the essay's title, the author's name, and institutional affiliation. 2. Introduction. Hook: Opens with a statement to grab the reader's interest. Background Information: Provides context for the topic being discussed.

  23. What Is "Academic" Writing?

    A synonym might be "interpretive" or "analytical.". It is an argument, persuasion essay that in its broadest sense MAKES A POINT and SUPPORTS IT. (We have already discussed this argumentative nature of academic writing at length.) The point ("claim" or "thesis") of a critical essay is interpretive in nature.

  24. Who's Afraid of Academic Writing? A Reflective Essay on Dispelling

    The survey further asked respondents to tick the problems they face in academic writing from a list. Table 2 shows that the top three problems students face in academic writing have to do with not knowing what constitutes academic writing, not having enough ideas, and sentence cohesion. More than half of the students said that they did not know ...