Writing academic essay is often a requirement asked of students to submit, and I understand that regardless of being common, there are some students who are lost in a sea of information to even begin their academic essays.
So here I provide an easy-to-follow step by step guide to help you with your academic essay.
Not only that! I will also provide extra tips for your academic essay.
Before we begin, what is an academic essay first? There are 4 types of essay writing: narrative, descriptive, expository, and argumentative.
When we say academic, this means these essays should be written based on reliable and valid information from thorough research. The arguments and narrative presented should also be logical and coincide with the topic assigned with the essay.
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Step 1: Research on your topic.
This is the first basic step that enables you to acquire knowledge and understand the direction of your essay writing.
Most often, students receive topics from their professors on what to write for their academic essays.
If you have not received an assigned topic, then you should brainstorm accordingly. Here are the things you should consider as you brainstorm for your academic essay:
- References available for the topic. Make sure that you can generate an ample amount of references for your topic. Otherwise, you might find yourself changing your topic in the middle of your academic essay due to lack of sources.
- Purpose of the topic, meaning your topic has to make sense.
- Relevance of the topic to your current course, subject or lecture. This is very important, you have to come up with a topic that coincides with the course, subject or lecture you are doing your academic essay for.
There’s more! How can you do your research efficiently?
Here are some tips:
Aside from hardcopy books from your school libraries, since we are living in a digital era, it is best to research sources through Google Scholar. Most articles available there are reputable and reliable ones.
- Use quotation marks to get specific results.
- Use hyphen to eliminate other unwanted results.
- Use “site:” to limit search with your needed website.
- Use “site:.edu” to show results from reputable educational websites.
Step 2: Make an outline.
The outline is a working guide you can use throughout writing your academic essay.
Your outline shall help you sustain the cohesion, unity and transition of your essay writing (these things will be further discussed in Step 4).
But note that your outline is not absolute, as you continue on writing your academic essay, your outline is expected to change in the process.
The changes in the outline you create within the course of writing your academic essay show that your writing process is progressive.
I. Importance of Governance Structure
A. Mechanism in ensuring that the management runs the company for the benefit of the stakeholders.
B. Aligns and organises the company: setting company’s strategies, leadership and management.
II. Recent scandals
A. WhatsApp for misinformation.
B. Uber and Waymo stolen trade secrets regarding self-driving car.
C. Self-driving Uber car hits and kills woman in Arizona.
D. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg called to Washington to testify.
III. Profile of the organisation at the time crisis occurred
C. Industries served
Step 3: Of course, write your essay.
This is the part where you do most of the work for your academic essay. Generally the most common parts of an academic essay are below.
I understand that although these things are common knowledge to most students, still very few students get these parts correctly.
So pay attention.
These are common mistakes of students in the introduction of their academic essay:
- Failure to write introduction at all.
- Successfully wrote introduction but the content is wrong.
- Wrote too much background or historical information.
- The introduction written is beyond standard length.
So what is the correct content of an introduction?
- A correct introduction introduces the topic and general background information.
- A correct introduction introduces the focus of the topic.
- A correct introduction “problematises” the focus and purpose of your essay.
- A correct introduction mentions the objective and outline of the essay
- Note: a correct introduction should ideally only comprise 8-10% of the total length of the academic essay.
Two important part of your academic essay’s body are the Thesis Statement and Topic Sentence.
Is the brief summary of the main point of your essay. It encompasses everything that you shall talk about in your essay.
How can you write your thesis statement correctly? According to Purdue University, in essay writing, your thesis statement should only contain topics and arguments you are going to discuss in your essay, supported by evidence. Remember to keep it concise.
Thesis statement usually appears in the beginning or end of your essay.
Note: the thesis statement that you have decided in the beginning of your essay might change as you progress in writing your academic essay.
States the main idea of your paragraph. This allows readers to easily grasp the focus of a particular paragraph or section of your essay.
Topic sentences also contain signposting words or phrases that allow the current paragraph to transition clearly into the next paragraph.
Example of signposting words or phrases: on the other hand, however, consequently
Your topic sentence should be followed by supporting information to elaborate the topic of your paragraph. These information should contain details, facts, arguments, and evidence that shall support your topic sentence.
These are the information that you have obtained from your research in Step 1.
Although conclusion like introduction is a common knowledge for students, there are still students who write their conclusion wrong.
So how do we write conclusion correctly?
- Don’t introduce any new ideas or information.
- Preferably, conclusions should not have citations.
- Write the summary of major points only.
- Note: conclusion should only be 10-12% of your total essay’s length.
Step 4: Proofread your essay.
In proofreading your academic essay, there are 5 major things you should check:
This one is no-brainer, grammatical mistakes can show how careless the essay is written by the student.
Unity is necessary as it reflects the clarity of your academic essay.
At first look, you would know if your essay is unified if it can be easily understood or it is not confusing to read.
How to do this?
The general content of your essay should support your essay’s thesis statement, and your paragraphs should have topic sentences that support your thesis statement.
Note: It is important that your essay develops and transitions smoothly as the content of your essay progresses.
What does it mean for your essay to be coherent? It means that all your sentences are written and arranged logically and are connected clearly to one another.
Coherence is also a major factor that makes your essay unified. Coherence, involves smooth transitions within your essay’s content.
There are 4 ways through which you can order your academic essay, and there are transition words that correspond to each of them. Below I provided few examples for each:
- Chronological Order: after, at last, later, at present, formerly, meanwhile
- Order of Importance: also, least, another, first, finally, moreover
- Spatial Order: above, ahead, closer, in front, inside
- Comparison and Contrast: and, although, like, on the contrary, similarly
- Developmental Order: along with, for example, in fact, moreover, other, therefore
Most professors provide their desired format, make sure that you follow that.
If not, the general ideal format would be:
- Calibri or Times New Roman or Arial
- Font 12
- 1.5 Spacing
Although this is listed as part of Step 4, it is advisable that you cite your sources along the way as you write your paper.
This is to avoid citing content to the wrong sources, especially if your essay is too long and you might get confused in the process.
This is also where it gets tricky, if you don’t want your academic essay to be charged with plagiarism, make sure that you cite ALL your references properly and accordingly with the citation format that is asked of you.
You may head to The Purdue Writing Lab for reliable citation guide.
In conclusion, let’s have a run down of all the steps you need to do in writing your academic paper!
Step 1: Research your topic.
Don’t forget to consider the following (if you have to come up with a topic on your own): references available, purpose and relevance of your topic. Don’t forget the research tips I have outlined earlier.
Step 2: Make an outline.
It is best to make a numbered outline as I have sampled earlier. Do note that an outline is progressive and may change in the course of writing your paper.
Step 3: Of course, write your essay.
Generally an academic essay has 3 parts: Introduction, Body and Conclusion.
Step 4: Proofread your essay.
Don’t forget to check the following: Grammar, Unity, Coherence, Format and Citations.
Below is a comprehensive yet easy to understand infographic on how to know if you have committed plagiarism.
Check it and see whether you’re maybe unconsciously committing plagiarism!
Photo is from The Visual Communication Guy.