Feb 2, 2023

How to Write an Academic Essay in 7 Simple Steps

writing an academic essay on a laptop
Writing an academic essay is easier once you know how to structure and outline your work.

What is an academic essay?

Academic essays are a common form of writing in higher education and play a crucial role in shaping a student’s future academic success. An academic essay is a piece of writing that presents an argument based on evidence and provides the reader with a clear and well-structured understanding of a particular subject. Writing an academic essay is not just about putting together a few words and sentences. It requires careful planning, research, and critical thinking skills to produce a well-written piece that meets the expectations of the reader.

In this article, we will explore the steps involved in writing an academic essay and provide you with tips and examples to help you create a top-quality piece of writing.

Step 1: Choose an Essay Topic

The first step in writing an academic essay is to choose a topic. A topic is the main idea or subject you will write about in your essay. Choose a topic that you are interested in and have a good understanding of. It should also be relevant to the course you are studying and the assignment you are working on.

While choosing the topic for your essay, be sure to follow the formatting requirements and other guidelines of your essay prompt. Read your assignment or prompt thorough and assess what is needed. For instance, if the guidelines call for your essay to follow a certain academic formatting style (such as MLA style, APA style, Chicago style, Vancouver style, etc.), this should be applied and reviewed during the editing process. As with any academic document, be sure to apply academic writing principles to your essay.

Some additional questions to ask before you begin drafting your essay:

  • What is the specific question or questions that your essay needs to answer?
  • Does your academic essay need to present a critical or rhetorical analysis of a source?
  • Do you need to use primary and secondary sources?
  • Is the goal of the essay to present an original argument based on original research, or is it a review of the literature?
  • Do you need to compare two or more works for your analysis?

Step 2: Conduct Research

Once you have chosen a topic, it is time to conduct research. Research is essential for an academic essay as it provides you with the information you need to support your arguments. Use a variety of sources, including books, academic journals, online databases, and other reliable sources, to gather information about your topic.

There are several different types of research that you can use to gather information for your essay, including primary research, secondary research, and tertiary research.

Primary research involves collecting original data through surveys, interviews, or experiments. This type of research is often used to gather firsthand information about a specific topic and is particularly useful when secondary sources do not exist or are limited.

Secondary research involves using existing data and information that has been collected by someone else. This includes sources such as academic journals, books, and online databases. Secondary research is often the starting point for most essay research and provides a good foundation for your own original research.

Tertiary research involves using summary or overview sources, such as textbooks, encyclopedias, and reference books, to gather information about a topic. This type of research is often used to gain a general understanding of a subject or to find specific information quickly.

When conducting research, it is important to use a variety of sources to gather information and to critically evaluate the information you find. Make sure that your sources are credible and relevant to your topic and avoid using unreliable sources, such as personal blogs or opinion pieces. Take notes as you research and keep track of your sources, including the author, publication date, and page numbers, so that you can easily reference them later in your essay.

Step 3: Create an Essay Outline

An outline is a roadmap that guides you through the writing process and helps you stay organized. A good outline should include an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Each body paragraph should include a topic sentence, supporting evidence, and a transition sentence that connects to the next paragraph. Just as an outline for a research paper presents the structure and a summary of each section of your study.

Essay outline template

This outline provides a basic structure for an essay and can be adjusted to fit the specific needs of your topic and assignment. The introduction sets the stage by providing a brief overview of the topic and a thesis statement that outlines the main argument of the essay.

The body of the essay includes three main points, each of which is supported by evidence and explained through analysis. The conclusion restates the thesis, summarizes the main points, and offers final thoughts and implications. This outline can be used as a starting point for organizing your ideas and ensuring that your essay is well-structured and well-supported.

I. Introduction
   A. Brief overview of the topic
   B. Thesis statement
II. Body
   A. First main point
     1. Supporting evidence
     2. Explanation and analysis
   B. Second main point
     1. Supporting evidence
     2. Explanation and analysis
   C. Third main point
     1. Supporting evidence
     2. Explanation and analysis
III. Conclusion
     A. Restate thesis statement
     B. Summarize main points
     C. Final thoughts and implications

Step 4: Write the Introduction

The introduction is the first part of your essay that the reader will read, so it is important to make a good impression. An essay introduction should provide background information on the topic, hook the reader’s attention, and present a thesis statement

Here is an example of an introductory paragraph:

“The American Dream, once a symbol of hope and opportunity, has become increasingly elusive in recent years. Despite its origins as a means for individuals to pursue their own happiness and success, the American Dream has come to represent a set of unattainable goals that are beyond the reach of the average person. This essay will explore the ways in which the American Dream has become an unattainable goal for many Americans, including the reasons for its decline and the impact this has on society as a whole.”

This introduction provides context, raises a question, and presents a thesis statement all in under 200 words.

Step 5: Write the Body Paragraphs

The body paragraphs are where you develop your arguments and support them with evidence. Each paragraph should focus on one main idea and should include a topic sentence that introduces the idea, supporting evidence, and a transition sentence that connects to the next paragraph. Use transition words to connect paragraphs and provide a clearer structure to your arguments and overall essay.

Step 6: Write the Essay Conclusion

The essay conclusion is the final part of your essay and provides a summary of your main arguments. It should also restate your thesis statement and provide a final thought or call to action. The conclusion should leave a lasting impression on the reader and provide closure to your essay.

Here is an example of a conclusion paragraph for an academic essay about “The American Dream”:

In conclusion, the American Dream has undergone significant changes since its inception. Despite its original intention as a means for individuals to pursue their own happiness and success, the American Dream has come to represent an unattainable goal for many Americans. The factors contributing to this decline include economic inequality, declining social mobility, and a lack of access to education and job opportunities. This shift in the meaning of the American Dream has significant implications for society as a whole, including increased poverty and social unrest. In order to restore the American Dream to its original purpose, policymakers must address these systemic issues and work to create a more equitable society where all individuals have the opportunity to achieve their goals.”

Note the terms and phrases in bold that identify the conclusion paragraph and point to the main topics that are summarized. 

Step 7: Revise and Edit Your Essay

Once you have completed the first draft of your essay, it is time to revise and edit. Review your essay for any mistakes, including grammatical errors, punctuation errors, spelling mistakes, and awkward sentence structure. Make sure that your essay is well-structured and that your arguments are well-supported with language that follows the conventions of academic writing and is appropriate for the essay assignment. To ensure your work is polished for style and free of errors, get essay editing from a professional proofreading company like Wordvice.

In conclusion, writing an academic essay is a process that requires careful planning, research, and critical thinking skills. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can write a top-quality essay that meets the expectations of the reader and earns you the grades you deserve. Remember to choose a topic that you are interested in and have a good understanding of, conduct research, create an outline, write a clear and concise introduction, develop well-supported body paragraphs, write a strong conclusion, and revise and edit your essay before submitting it.

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