Academic Writing is the main form of writing required in post-secondary education. It involves understanding the key components of how to write an essay, formulate an argument or main idea, conduct academic research, integrate sources, and write effectively.
The general phases of academic writing include planning your essay (generating ideas, creating an argument or main point and conducting research to support your points), structuring and writing your essay (putting the essay structure together and integrating sources), and revising your essay (editing your essay so it is clear and coherent for your reader.) Explore this page and the two other essay/academic writing pages for guidance on this process.
Before you begin to write your essay, it is important to do some planning to set yourself up for success. As the saying goes, “Well begun is half done.” This is because a good plan gives you direction and structure for your writing. Browse the tabs in this box for information on the following steps in the planning process:
Understanding what is being asked in an assignment is the first step in planning your academic essay. If Google Maps says turn left and you turn right, you may not arrive at your destination. Following directions carefully is very important in academic essay writing and the consequences for going in the wrong direction can be serious. To better understand your assignments and how you should approach writing your essay, read the following topics:
There are many key terms in essay questions that can often confuse students. Having a good understanding of the meaning of each term can help determine how you should approach your essay.
Definition - Write an essay or answer about a particular topic.
Tip - Give a brief summary of the character(s) or idea(s) that you will be mentioning in your paper. You can do this by defining key terms or by using quick anecdotes from the piece.
Definition - Describe any similarities, differences, or associations between two or more subjects.
Tip - Do not simply summarize the story or article in your paper. You must go beyond surface ideas and dig deep for further meaning.
Definition - Provide concrete evidence as to why something is true or false.
Tip - This term directs you to show, not tell readers why something is true or false. The important thing here is how well you can support your position on a topic, not what the actual position is.
Definition - Provide an explanation on a specific subject or object.
Tip - Imagine that your readers have no background information on your topic. Consider the point of view of the reader when you write, so that your description can be clear and concise.
Definition - This term asks for your opinion on a particular subject.
Tip - Remember, your opinion is valid only when you are able to justify and support it with solid evidence. Be sure to look at both sides of an argument, and counter the opposing arguments.
Definition - This term asks for your position on a particular subject.
Tip - Do not simply critique something independent of its relationship to other parts. Instead, you should relate this idea or object to other parts of the text and explain how it helps you understand the overall meaning of the text.
When you are reading your assignment and making sure you understand what you are being asked to do, it is also important to start to think about how you are going to organize your writing. Thinking about the different patterns of organization helps you not only to understand the expectations of the assignment but to generate ideas as well.
Using a specific pattern of organization will allow you to clearly outline your ideas. Using a recognizable pattern also makes it easier for readers to understand those ideas.
Here are some patterns of organization that are used to organize writing.
Once you understand what your assignment is asking you to do, you can begin to come up with ideas of how to accomplish it. Brainstorming is a process of creative thinking that is used to generate ideas and/or solutions to a problem.
Watch this video or read the text below to learn how to brainstorm and generate ideas for an essay or assignment.
When you are thinking about an essay or ‘processing it in your head’, ideas can come rapidly and randomly. When you’re planning your writing assignment you need to put your ideas in a logical order so that your intended reader can follow your thinking.
An organizer helps you as well. It serves as a map that keeps you on track and demonstrates to your reader that there is an overall order to your ideas.
Check out the following sections below:
Graphic organizers are great tools for learners who have strong visual preferences or who have strong visual memories. While we are treating them as pre-writing tools, they also make good note-taking templates for the right type of learner, since they help a reader to consolidate print-heavy information from another source— for example, a textbook— into a visual format.
There are two types of essay outlines:
All outlines should include an introduction, a body, and, a conclusion. Below is a brief summary of the different parts:
Topic/title: The Advantages of Receiving Tutoring
Complete this activity to learn about the general structure of an essay. (opens in new window)
Watch this video or read the text below to learn how to write an effective thesis statement.
Click on the boxes below to read about thesis statements.
A thesis statement focuses your ideas into one or two sentences. Its purpose is to tell your audience what point or claim you will prove in your essay. In an essay, a thesis statement is most often found at the end of the introductory paragraph. In this way, the thesis statement creates more of an impact on the audience.
All thesis statements should have the following characteristics in common:
When you are writing an essay you should construct your thesis statement around the question provided by your professor. If your professor has not given you a particular question, you should construct your thesis statement around your own viewpoint.
Make sure the topic is not too broad or general (e.g. choosing ‘the media’ as a topic is too broad; whereas focusing on One3 aspect of the media, such as television, is better). Your thesis statement should focus on a specific aspect of this topic. Make sure that your thesis statement clearly expresses your position or viewpoint on the topic. Think of an idea or viewpoint that you can easily defend with examples and evidence.
Also, be sure to keep in mind the type of essay you are writing (e.g. comparison/contrast, cause/effect, etc.) There are different ways you can formulate your thesis depending on whether you have to write about fiction or non-fiction.
When you are writing a five paragraph essay, it is important to include three main points (One3 from each body paragraph).
Example: “Many people immigrate to Canada to escape oppression, avoid poor living conditions, and learn the English language.”
The main points that you are covering are:
When you are writing an essay on a short story, your thesis tends to be more specific and usually relates directly either to the question that you have been given, the short story, or both.
You can use the thesis statement checklist opens in new window to make sure your thesis statement is an effective thesis statement.
An essential step in planning your essay is finding the right information so you can formulate your argument and plan what to say. Visit the Research Hub to find out how to find relevant, credible resources for your essays.