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Academic Writing

This guide provides information about academic writing resources

What is an Academic Essay?

An academic essay is structured with an introduction, a body and a conclusion and there are 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

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.

The Introduction

  • 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

Main Body

  • Series of paragraphs and/or paragraph clusters that elaborate on the main 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.

Report Writing

A report is a clearly structured document that identifies, examines and investigates an issue, event or finding. There are several types of reports with the main aim is to give an account, to answer a question or to present a solution to a problem.

An effective report is written for a specific purpose and audience, is accurate, logical and follows a standardized format so that readers can find information efficiently.  Information is delivered in a concise writing style,  is organized with headings and sub-headings and data is presented in graphs and tables. A report will present recommendations for an action based on supporting information.  

For more information, please visit the Academic Tip Sheet on Report writing

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