The Framework of an Academic Essay
Writing academic essays can be thought of as a hierarchy of ideas. In the case of an academic essay the overall structure remains the same whether the task is to argue, discuss or contrast.
Sets the broad context for the essay
Contains relevant background information
Establishes the importance of the topic
Leads to the focus statement
The Focus Statement
(also referred to as the Thesis Statement)
Clarifies the purpose for writing
Outlines the scope of the essay
Delineates the main segments of the discussion, explanation or argument
Series of paragraphs and/or paragraph clusters that elaborate on themain points contained in the focus statement.
Purpose is to tie together ideas contained in the essay.
Should not contain new material
Most often contains a summary of the main ideas linked back to the focus statement or an evaluative statement. (This material is taken directly from Puhl & Day 1992, p.4)
Puhl, L., & Day, B. (1992). Writing at university: a guide to writing academic essays and reports at Edith Cowan University, p.4. ECU: Perth, Australia.
What is an academic essay?
For our purposes, we can define an academic essay as a document that has a defined structure – an introduction, a body and a conclusion.
What are the main types of academic essays?
If we cosider the the intent of the academic essay we can define three main types:
• Descriptive – describes a subject, e.g. a person, place or event.
• Expository – explains a concept or theory.
• Argumentative – presents an argument through reasoning and the use of evidence.
The argumentative essay
Most academic essays will require you to present an argument through reasoning and the use of evidence. In the process of planning and drafting your essay, you will need to respond to the assigned question by thinking, reading and writing your way to a considered position/stance, or thesis statement. The thesis statement is expressed as one or two sentences in the introductory paragraph of your essay, and supported in the body of the essay by a series of topic sentences, one in each paragraph. Each topic sentence is in turn supported by evidence and examples from your readings and research, reflection, observation and analysis.
Your essay should connect your thesis/focus statement and the major points you make to support it (your topic sentences). It should also connect the topic sentences with the evidence and examples you use to develop and illustrate them. Failing to provide an adequate, workable thesis/focus statement or failing to support it or ‘stick to it’ are two of the more common mistakes made by undergraduate essay writers.
Excerpt from the ECU Academic Tip Sheet: Academic Essay
Additional links related to academic writing can be located under the Writing Resources tab.