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How to Write an Academic Essay

How to Write an Academic Essay

A large portion of university and high school education is based on writing academic essays. They are most effective at demonstrating students’ knowledge of a subject and showcasing one’s ability to gather and present information and data. In this guide, we are going to explain how to write an excellent academic essay, and show you the different types you can choose from.

Table of Contents

What Is an Academic Essay?

It is essentially a structured form of writing that serves the purpose of presenting new information, or applying already existing knowledge to deliver a point. The academic essay encourages students to develop ideas to communicate a message.

It helps to develop your academic writing skills early, as they are skills you will carry forward throughout your studies, and lifetime. People who are good at writing academic essays also tend to be able to articulate themselves more clearly, and tend to have more confidence when speaking.

To fully understand how and when to use an academic essay, we need to look at the main types of papers.

Types of Academic Essays

Academic writing can be categorized into four main types of essays that serve unique purposes; however, some might share similar structures. With that being said, the four academic essay types are narrative, descriptive, expository, and persuasive.

Expository and persuasive types are most commonly seen in university curriculums, as they are more scientific and objective. Narrative and descriptive are more subjective and engage your creativity. Now, let’s break down each type.

Narrative Essay

This is a type of writing that requires the author to create a compelling story of practically anything imaginable. In other words, it is a super condensed version of a novel. As one is required to show their creative abilities, constant use of strong adjectives will enhance the audience's perception of the topic and help paint a graphic picture. Alongside telling a compelling story, a well-written narration should present a point that is “written between the lines.” Ideally, after reading the entire narrative paper, a clear message or theme should be extractable from the text. By doing this, you are motivating the reader to read it entirely, as it c

Here you can find more information on how to write a narrative essay

Descriptive Essay

In short, the author chooses a specific thing, experience, emotion, or idea and describes it to the reader. Just like with narrative writing, this style requires the author to be subjective and creative. And, just like a narrative essay, you are meant to draw a picture in the audience’s eyes. Carefully selected and powerful words are essential to writers’ success, as the paper must evoke a certain feeling in the reader and connect them to the object of discussion. When the audience comprehends the subject matter well and the contents of the paper defines the term in question, one can be sure that they have written a stellar descriptive paper.

Expository Essay

This is a type of academic writing used to create a spotlight on a matter using grounded information and facts. Sufficient evidence should follow all information provided. An expository paper paper is no place for opinions or personal views on things. A quality paper should use analysis that consists of factual information on the subject. The author's primary job is to inform and educate the reader with coherent writing and understandable logic. As an example, our “How to Write an Academic Essay” article could be considered a branch of expository writing.

Persuasive Essay

Last but not least, writing a persuasive (also known as argumentative) paper requires one to embrace the role of a salesman (or saleswoman). You have an opinion, project, or an idea which you have to sell to a reader. The logic behind how you supply the reader with the information should be impenetrable, leaving them with no doubt that what you are expressing is the only truth they need to know. Cater your points carefully to avoid being pushy, and hide your sales tactic behind well thought out sentences. When it comes to defending an argument, you can use logical tactics, emotional tactics or a mix of both; this depends on what you are attempting to argue.

Good Academic Essay Topics

Logically, topics will vary based on the style of writing one is creating. Sometimes, you can find the same topic within separate academic essay categories, but the main content will always vary dependant on which category of paper you will write about. That being said, here are some good academic essay topics for high school and college students:

Narrative Essay Topics

  • Describe a time you overcame adversity. Explain the situation and how you handled it.
  • Talk about a passion that is rooted deeply in your personality and would make you feel incomplete if it disappeared.
  • Create a story that teaches the importance of honesty and integrity.
  • Create a story that illustrates the value of hard work and discipline.

Descriptive Essay Topics

  • In your own words, define love.
  • What constitutes a hero or heroic action?
  • Describe a genius. What are examples of genius acts?
  • Describe a businessperson. What traits do they possess?

Expository Essay Topics

  • What effect has social media had on interpersonal relationships and communication?
  • What are some strategies society can use to reduce the growth and dangers of global warming?
  • What methods can society implement to prevent and punish cyberbullying?
  • What are the main causes of racism in today’s society?

Persuasive/Argumentative Essay Topics

  • Provide an argument as to whether or not the death penalty should be abolished.
  • Should we give animals more rights, instead of treating them as mere property?
  • Should the United States have stricter gun control policy?
  • Was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki mass murder or a justifiable means to end WWII?

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Proper Format for Your Academic Writing

Usually, academic writing will consist of 5 paragraphs: an introduction, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Moreover, each section will have a unique internal structure. The introduction’s main goal is to introduce the topic and reveal the main message (a.k.a. thesis statement). The body paragraphs’ primary task is to defend the thesis with 3 sub arguments — 1 per paragraph. Lastly, the conclusion is there to wrap up the entire argument and leave a lasting impression in the form of an overall concluding statement. Down below is a graphic organizer that illustrates the breakdown

academic essay format

Academic Essay Format

Start Off the Writing Process by Creating an Outline

Before commencing on any academic writing, four essential elements need to be created and answered beforehand. They are the thesis statement, subpoints, connection and the summary.

  • Thesis Statement: This is the focal point of your writing; it is the main message the author is trying to deliver.
  • Body Points (Subpoints): These are the key points or statements that you will use to support your case.
  • Connection: When writing an academic essay, it is important to tie it directly or indirectly to the real world. Provide a reason as to why it is important to you or its relevance to society. This will fill your paper with new meaning and showcase your unique way of thinking.
  • Summary: It is a short and strong statement that briefly explains your given points.

You might also be interested in getting more info about how to write an outline in MLA and APA styles

When you have created a proper outline, listed your main points, and collected evidence to support your idea - it is time to start writing your paper. A lot of people choose to come up with a title before the writing process as it helps set a mood for the work. Others prefer writing first and then creating a title based on the written information.

The second option is more suitable for writing narrative or descriptive essays as the title’s meaning could be abstract. However, when it comes to expository and persuasive papers, it is important to set a specific essay title and follow it along.

The Introduction

The academic essay format we use has been used for years and is known for being the most efficient and effective formats for delivering information to the reader. To begin any writing assignment, you should start with an introduction.

Remember: the audience's attention span is at its highest at the very beginning, so your introduction is going to set the tone for the entire academic paper. Luckily for you, EssayPro has several techniques that will help you build a compelling introduction!

The first sentence of any introduction should get the reader interested from the get-go and motivate them to read on. Here are some reliable strategies for creating a captivating hook:

  • Start With a Quote: A creative and meaningful quote could leave a powerful impact on a reader and also serve as a good opener. However, it is crucial to make sure that the quote directly relates to your topic and doesn’t wander away in generality.

  • Rhetorical Question: Starting with a rhetorical question allows you to connect more with the reader. A good rhetorical question is going to stay in your audience's mind throughout the entirety of your paper. However, a rhetorical question should be answered within your article’s body or at least guide the reader towards a relevant observation.

  • Factual Statement: When writing an expository or persuasive essay, starting with a fact or a statistic will give your writing more credibility. It is also going to demonstrate that you have researched the topic by providing the reader with real information and not simply an opinion.

After creating an exciting hook, it is time to funnel your readers into the main topic of conversation. As the topic of conversation will not be evidently clear at this point, it is time to narrow their focus by providing contextual background information. Doing so will help the audience understand where the writing is taking them. Lastly, it is time to write our golden sentence; a.k.a. thesis statement.

The thesis statement is the main point, argument or theme of your work. In other words, the entire message you are attempting to deliver should be summarized in this sentence.

Tip: Do not overload it with unnecessary information; it should be a concise sentence that lays out the focus and introduces the subpoints from the body.

The Main Body

Your body paragraphs will be the source of information for your audience. It is always the biggest part of the assignment and requires the most attention. When writing your body paragraphs, your main points should be stated according to the order of your outline, and should support your thesis statement. If you deviate from that, it’s going to confuse the audience, especially those who are very attentive to your paper’s flow.

These are the main requirements for writing a strong body:

  • Accuracy: Be cautious with information and do not contradict yourself. Include the relevant subpoint (based on the body paragraph) that you have presented in your thesis.
  • Evidence: Every topic or idea you present should be defended with sufficient evidence to accredit your words. Provide details such as facts, statistics, and references.
  • Word Choice: Mind your vocabulary, especially when it comes to persuasive or descriptive papers. The words should accurately represent your information. Use vivid adjectives and strong adverbs.
  • Keep It Consistent: A body paragraph should be between 5-7 sentences. Logically, they should all follow a similar structure, with the main difference revolving around the presentation of the subpoint.

The goal of the main body is to answer any questions that have appeared in the reader’s mind after the introduction. Every new point should get the audience closer to understanding the complete concept. Ideally, your goal is to bring them to the same level of knowledge on the subject as you have in your capacity. After doing so successfully, it is time to transition to the conclusion.

The Conclusion

In any assignment you write, you have to start strong and finish even stronger. As you move towards the end of the paper, your reader might not even remember what the first paragraph you wrote was about. Therefore, your duty is to give them a reminder. Overall, a good essay conclusion is going to include:

  • Summary: A condensed paraphrasing of the stated information for the thesis and subpoints. (Only if you are writing an expository, descriptive, or persuasive paper)
  • Personal or Social Connection: In other words, why this information is relevant to society. Stating such a connection showcases the general importance of the subject and modern day relevance.
  • Overall Concluding Statement: This will normally be the last sentence that will tie a knot around your work. If you have initially started with a rhetorical question, a nice touch would be to give the audience an answer to it here. If you have written a quote, rephrase it in your own words. It is important to leave the audience with a strong statement that is going to stay in their mind.

Writing Process

The drafting process is what takes you from a compilation of information to a structured delivery of an idea. No quality paper has ever been written in a single draft. The process begins with a rough draft, a stage where you use all the information you have acquired, to fill a relative outline. From there, you narrow down this information to the most relevant parts. Every new draft must also carry away with it things such as content problems, structural flaws, or simple typos. The final draft tends to be drastically smaller than the original.


Word Choice
Word choice is one of the factors that define the quality of the academic paper. It is also often overseeded or neglected. It is no secret that some words are better at communicating ideas than others. It is also no secret that vocabulary plays a big role in the writing process. Focusing on word choice is especially significant in descriptive writing when your goal is to paint a picture in the reader’s mind. If you are writing a paper on a specific area of study, it is quite crucial to use words that are related to that field and to avoid simple neutral words that offer no contribution to the text.

Finalizing the Submission
At this stage of writing, your content should be well polished. After taking your paper through a peer review and/or red pen edits, make sure to:

  • Fix all grammatical mistakes and punctuational errors
  • Finalize your title
  • Add a bibliography if needed (basically a “references” or “works cited” page that also includes sources that you used, but weren’t referenced within the text)
  • Format your paper based on the requirements

finalizing and submission

To Sum Up

We hope we’ve given you a good head start at becoming an expert academic essay writer. Remember, the purpose of an academic essay is to develop your ideas to deliver a message. As a result of getting better at academic essay writing, you will be able to articulate yourselves clearly, and be able to write and speak more confidently. Good luck with your assignment!

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