How to Write an Academic Essay (Tips for University Students)

An academic essay is a piece of formal writing that presents an argument or a point of view on a particular topic or subject (e.g., humanities, social sciences, natural and exact sciences). Many university students struggle to write academic papers but can improve with guidance. Here are some basic steps to follow (i.e. tips for students) the next time you write an academic essay at university and improve your grades.

How to Write an Academic Essay (Tips for University Students)
Many university students struggle to write an academic essay but can improve with guidance.

Essay Structure

In terms of structure, an academic essay starts with an introduction (i.e., your first paragraph), which provides 1) background information related to the essay topic. 2) A “hook” that engages your audience and pulls them into your essay’s topic. And 3) a “thesis statement” that expresses your main argument or position on the topic. Your thesis statement should go at the end of the introduction.

Next is a series of body paragraphs that provide evidence, analysis and critical thinking to support the thesis statement. A good body paragraph contains 1) a topic sentence that expresses the paragraph’s main point. 2) Relevant supporting sentences that describe with detail or explain the paragraph’s main idea. And 3) a closing (or transition) sentence that summarizes the paragraph’s main idea and links to the next paragraph. Remember, a good linkage between paragraphs helps develop your story.

Lastly, an essay ends with a conclusion, which summarizes the essay’s main points and offers a final thought or a call to action (i.e., text that inspires enthusiasm or changes how people think about the topic).

Write an Academic Essay: Top Tips for Better Grades

Now, you understand the basic structure of an academic essay. Here are some steps to follow (i.e. top tips) the next time you write one at university.

  1. Read and understand the assignment carefully. Ensure you know the expectations of the assessment, including the format, length, and essay topic.
  2. Before you write, research the subject using credible sources, such as academic journals and science books. Take notes and keep track of your sources. Writing your essay from your notes will also avoid plagiarism, which can occur when students write from primary sources.
  3. Develop a clear and concise thesis statement. This sentence expresses your main argument or position on the topic.
  4. Organize your ideas into a logical and coherent outline. This plan will help you structure your essay (i.e., make your writing flow smoothly) and ensure your arguments are well-supported.
  5. Write the introduction that provides background information on the topic and introduces your hook and thesis statement.
  6. Write the body paragraphs. These should focus on a single idea or argument that supports your thesis statement. Use evidence from your research to back up your points.
  7. Write the conclusion, which should summarize your main points and restate your thesis statement. For impact, it should also provide a final thought or “call to action” that asks the reader to do something.
  8. Once you have finished writing, review your essay for clarity, coherence, and grammatical errors. Check your arguments are well-supported and well-organized.
  9. Ensure you properly cite your sources in the text using the appropriate citation style and provide a reference list at the end of the essay that credits the original authors.
  10. Once you have completed your work, submit it according to the instructions provided by your instructor or institution.

Academic Essay Marking Criteria

To help you pay closer attention to your markers’ needs and write a compelling piece of work, remember that an average essay (i.e., those awarded 2. ii) shows:

  • Relevant knowledge of the topic.
  • Limited evidence of critical evaluation.
  • Unclear structure and clumsily written.

A good essay (i.e., those awarded 2. i) shows:

  • Strong knowledge and understanding of the topic.
  • Evidence of analysis using ideas/principles introduced in the module.
  • Clear structure and is mostly legible.

Lastly, an excellent essay (i.e., those awarded 1st) shows:

  • Up-to-date knowledge and understanding of the topic beyond the course materials.
  • Evidence of analysis using ideas/principles beyond those introduced in the module (i.e., creates new knowledge).
  • Clear structure. Logical and easy to read and follow.

Summary

Writing an academic essay for a university assignment requires careful planning, research, and attention to detail.

Take your time, follow the tips above, and don’t hesitate to ask for feedback or guidance from your tutor or peers.

If you are also looking to improve your critical evaluation skills? Check out this related post about “How to Evaluate Research Papers Critically.”

Did you enjoy this student guide? If so, please like and share. Thank you!

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