essay writing guides

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 their abilities to gather and present information and data. In this guide, we are going to explain to you how to write an excellent academic essay and show you the different types you can choose from.

What Is an Academic Essay?

In a nutshell, an academic essay is a structured form of writing students face in school, college, and university as a part of their curricula. The most common purposes of such writing are to either present some new pieces of information or to use existing facts and knowledge to deliver specific ideas. This type of assignment allows students to demonstrate their knowledge and creativity and encourages them to develop their ideas to communicate a message.

Compared to other types of academic writing, essays are usually shorter in length and present the authors’ opinions to support their arguments. Here are some key features of an academic essay for you to keep in mind:

  • Conciseness — as a rule, essays are short; the length of such papers range from 200 to 500 words.
  • Topic — due to their short lengths, a perfect topic for an essay should be narrowed-down and not too broad.
  • Well-structured text — although essays can be considered as one of the least formal types of writing, they still need to have a solid structure and follow the proper academic paper format.
  • Clear central idea — every academic essay should deliver a specific point that should be clear and powerful (i.e. thesis statement).
  • Personal motivation — unlike other types of writing, essays often imply that their authors are personally interested in the subjects they are discussing.
  • Supporting facts, evidence, and examples — although essays may present an author’s personal beliefs and ideas, they should also provide arguments that support those ideas.

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 them.

Types of Academic Essays

Academic writing can be categorized into four main types of essays that serve unique purposes—though some share similar structures. With that being said, the four types of academic papers 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 essays are more subjective and engage your creativity. Now, let’s break down each type and look at each academic essay definition.

Narrative Essay

This type of writing requires the author to create a compelling story of practically anything imaginable. In other words, it is a super-condensed version of a novel. This type of essay requires students to demonstrate their creative abilities. Therefore, it implies the constant use of strong adjectives. Their use will help the author of an essay to create a strong, graphic picture for their story and enhance the audience's perception of the topic. Although telling a compelling story is basically the main purpose of this type of essay, there is much more to it than there seems. A well-written narration should also have a point that is “written between the lines”. Simply put, there should be a clear message delivered through the text. By putting a hidden message between the lines, you motivate the reader to read the paper in its entirety as it sparks their curiosity.

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

Descriptive Essay

In short, in this type of essay, the author chooses a specific thing, experience, emotion, or idea and describes it for the reader. Just like with narrative writing, this style requires the author to be subjective and creative. And, just like a narrative essay, the author is meant to draw a picture in the audience’s eyes. Another key to success in writing a descriptive essay is carefully selecting words. Such a paper should evoke certain emotions in the reader and connect them to the object of discussion. Finally, the paper should describe the subject in simple terms. When the reader understands the subject well after reading an essay – that’s when you know you have written a stellar descriptive paper.

Expository Essay

Another type of academic writing — an expository essay is used to help readers understand subject matter by providing grounded information and facts. This type of writing requires its author to support all of the information included in the paper with valid evidence. An expository paper is no place for opinions or personal views on a subject. A quality paper should use analysis that consists of factual information on its subject. The author's key goal is to inform and educate the audience through clear logic and facts. Just to give you an example, this “How to Write an Academic Essay” article can be considered as expository writing.

 

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Persuasive Essay

Writing a persuasive paper requires one to embrace the role of a salesman (or saleswoman). You can state an opinion, project, or idea which you then have to sell to your reader(s). The logic behind how you supply the reader(s) with 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 you are creating. Sometimes you can find the same topic within separate academic essay categories, but the main content will always vary depending on the category of paper you write about. That being said, here are some good academic essay topics for high school and college students:

Narrative Essay Topics

  • Describe how you and your family survived the quarantine. Explain how it affected you.
  • Talk about your experience of being engaged in remote learning. How did it affect your grades and overall performance? Do you think that remote education is better or worse than the traditional alternative?
  • Write a story that explains the importance of technology in the modern person’s life.
  • Write a story that explains the value of every person’s contribution to the process of solving the global problem of climate change.

Descriptive Essay Topics

  • Describe a person who has had the biggest impact on your life.
  • What is the most significant recent event in global history?
  • Describe the experience of falling in love. How does it affect one’s personality?
  • Describe the most impactful piece of art or music you have ever seen. What traits do you think define powerful art?

Expository Essay Topics

  • Why does the rate of teen suicides keep increasing? What forces youth to commit suicide?
  • What can each individual do to contribute to the prevention of climate change and reduce the threats it brings with it?
  • What strategies can our society adopt to recover after the global pandemic as quickly and painlessly as possible?
  • George Floyd’s death and the police’s abuse of authority: What can we do to prevent future cases?

Persuasive/Argumentative Essay Topics

  • Should the government make relevant amendments to the constitution to restrict the actions permitted by police officers during arrests?
  • Should we keep on following self-distancing rules even now since the danger has diminished?
  • Gun control: Provide arguments for stricter gun control in the US.
  • Should technology (apart from those devices used for educational purposes) be banned in colleges?

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