Academic essay writing
Academic writing style
Essay writing in English is a particular skill that requires practice. Writing for academic essays and theses will always be different from writing for other purposes.
English language for academic purposes is formal, but subject specific. This means that what types of language will be acceptable for a literary review may not work so well in a scientific analysis.
Non-native English students may find academic essay writing to be more difficult from regular writing, although some may find the more formal style easier to create as it is more structured than creative writing.
When writing essays, it is often best to stick to writing in the third person, so use the phrase: “this essay will address the issue of …”, rather than “I will address the issue of …”.
However, this can often just be a matter of personal preference or a preference in your university style guidelines.
The most important thing with academic essay writing is to be consistent. So, once you have decided on how you will write your essay, stick with the same style throughout.
Essays, dissertations and theses
Analyse the essay question
Firstly, you need to identify the subject of the question and think about what kind of information you are going to need to answer it. It is very important to have a thorough understanding of just what the essay question is asking you to do.
When writing an essay, you must not simply write generally about the topic, but try to direct and develop your argument. Keep the essay title in your mind all the time and this will motivate your writing.
Researching and gathering information
All academic essays require a certain amount of research or information gathering. Even if you are not writing a research assignment, you still need to gather your own information from notes you have made and organise them into sections. These will create your paragraphs.
When essay writing, a useful way to gather your thoughts is to try brainstorming. This is an activity where you write down everything you can think of that relates to the subject of your essay. Even the crazy ideas! When brainstorming you should allow your creative thoughts to flow freely without restriction.
Afterwards, you go through all the ideas from your brainstorming session and develop them, forming links and turning them into a possible essay plan.
Creating an essay outline
Essay structure and referencing
Begin your essay outline by writing your question at the top of the page so you are immediately focused. Next, write your main ideas, spaced out and numbered, down the page.
Your ideas need not be perfectly arranged yet, it is simply important to get everything you want to say down on paper. These are the bones of your essay: the important statements you want to make.
After your research has been summarised like this, you need to expand on these notes. As you develop your argument, a natural section order will emerge and you may find yourself rearranging paragraphs. In doing this, you have formed an outline for your essay.
Academic essay writing is a highly structured process as well as a creative process. Structuring an essay properly is vital in order to make sense of your ideas – your argument needs to flow properly.
All sources also need to be referenced consistently according to your department’s style guide. There are numerous different referencing formats all with their own particular styles.
What do you find most difficult about academic essay writing?