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Academic Skills Essentials: Essays

Academic essays

Do you need to write an essay but don’t know where to start? This page will guide you through the different parts of an academic essay.

 

What is an academic essay?

It is the presentation of an argument through reasoning and using evidence.  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 widely and coming to a considered position/stance based on evidence.

What is the structure of an academic essay?

Click on each element to explore the structure of an academic essay.

  • Roughly 10% of the overall essay
  • sets out the context/background of your argument
  • introduces the content of the essay
  • introduces the theoretical perspectives you will be using
  • defines key terms (where relevant)
  • sets out your thesis statement
  • Explains how the essay will be organised (order of points).

  • Roughly 80% of the overall essay
  • presents a topic sentence or central idea supporting your thesis statement
  • provides supporting sentences which extend on or amplify the topic sentence
  • gives evidence/examples/references to support/relate to your topic sentence;
  • provides a concluding/linking sentence.

  • Roughly 10% of the overall essay
  • restates your thesis statement/line of argument/central contention;
  • summarises the points and evidence you provided to support your thesis; and
  • may suggest areas for further research/investigation

What style of language should I use for an academic essay?

There are a number of academic stylistic conventions you should follow when writing:

• Use standard English avoiding American spellings.

• Write in the third person unless otherwise directed.

• Avoid slang terms, clichés and colloquial expressions.

• Avoid gender bias and sexist language.

• Avoid emotive language.

• Be direct – use the active rather than the passive voice.

• Be concise

References

Andersson, B., & Beveridge, A. (2007). A guide to assessments and skills in SCCA (2nd ed.). [Booklet]. Edith Cowan University.

Grellier, J. & Goerke, V. (2007). Communication skills toolkit: Unlocking the secrets of tertiary success. Social Science Press.

See Also

Activity

Check your understanding: Thesis statements

Read the following thesis statements for the same assignment. Which one is the most effective?

  1. It will be argued that basic blue sky science has been detrimentally affected.
  2. This essay will discuss the effects of economic slowdown, the encroachment of commercial interests and policy oversight in blue sky science.
  3. It will be argued that basic blue sky science has been detrimentally affected due to economic slowdown, the encroachment of commercial interests and policy oversight
  1. It will be argued that basic blue sky science has been detrimentally affected. This is not correct. This thesis statement contains an argument but no outline for the body of the essay.
  2. This essay will discuss the effects of economic slowdown, the encroachment of commercial interests and policy oversight in blue sky science. This is not correct. This thesis statement contains an outline for the body of the essay but no argument.
  3. It will be argued that basic blue sky science has been detrimentally affected due to economic slowdown, the encroachment of commercial interests and policy oversight. Well done. This thesis statement contains an argument and an outline for the body.