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Writing an Academic Essay

Xiaofan Gao
By: Xiaofan Gao
Sep 16, 2020 • 7 min read

Writing an Academic Essay

You’re back in school. While most, if not all, of your classes are online, you’re glad to interact with your friends and meet new people. Your bubble is burst, however, when your professor announces that a significant part of your grade will consist of academic essay assignments. Like many college students, you’re not a fan of making arguments for topics you don’t really care about. The issue is more “How can I ensure I get a good grade on this”?

MacBook Pro near white open book

Understand The Purpose

Essay assignments can be trickier than exams in this regard. As long as you study what the professor tells you to, you can earn an A on tests. With essays, you can spend an entire month or two and still get a C. Today, we’ll be talking about some ways you can minimize the number of points professors usually take off your papers. Disclaimer: After reading this article and following these steps, you aren’t guaranteed to receive a better grade, but you’ll definitely be in a better place than you were before. 

Connect With Topic 

Here’s the thing. If you don’t like a topic, there’s no way you’ll write 10+ pages on it. You won’t even want to start writing! Thus, if you have the option of choosing a topic, pick one that you resonate with or could talk about for hours with someone. You’ll be more motivated to do research, spend time working on it, and revising it. If your professor is the one choosing, then find ways to connect the topic with any of your areas of interest.

silver and black beads on brown wooden box

Find a Niche

For instance, I hate geology so much. It’s the one class I couldn’t stand throughout all my years in school. What if I had to write a 5-page paper on it? Thanks to a popular cartoon I used to watch, I ended up liking gemstones. I read about how they’re formed, what properties they have, and what kind of jewelry you can make with them. So I could always do my paper on the geology of gems. See, it’s that simple. If you have any doubts about if your topic works, ask your professor. 

Research Before Writing your Academic Essay

One common mistake students make is that as soon as they have their topic all figured out, they start forming their thesis statement and getting all the body paragraphs going to have a general structure. But what if your topic doesn’t have much research backing it up? In other words, how will you support your argument if you don’t have any support, to begin with? Remember, the primary purpose of an academic paper is to convince the audience that your thesis is right. If you don’t cite trusted sources, you’ll be making an empty argument. Once you realize you can’t continue on, you have to go back to the drawing writing board and develop another argument. This means the time you spent on what you wrote in your academic essay, before it is wasted. 

Topic and Closing Sentences

Thesis statements are important because they are the pillar your argument stands on. Professors will spend an entire class session, helping students think of, craft, and perfect one. As such, you should spend more time focusing on other areas of your paper, like the topic and closing sentences. You might think, “What about the body paragraphs then?” I believe body paragraphs are the more manageable parts because all you have to do is introduce the evidence and state how it supports your argument. Plain and simple, if you ask me. The topic and closing sentences are a different beast. Not only do you have to check if the closing sentence of the previous paragraph matches the topic sentence of your current one, but you also need to have all the topic sentences tie back in with your thesis. Don’t forget that your topic and closing sentences must also connect with the body paragraph. Whew, that’s quite a lot of work! 

Business newspaper article

Solid Sources

In the previous section, I mentioned how the body paragraphs are easier to handle, as long as you have the evidence. Your argument is only as strong as your evidence allows it to be, meaning you need the best proof to represent dependable sources. What counts as a reliable source? There are many answers, but some commonly agreed factors include how formal and recent the source is. For instance, if you decided to cite an article from The Onion, a satirical news site, I’d be less inclined to believe you than someone whose paper contains studies done by The New York Times.

Current Sources

If your article’s also from way, way back, that would also make me hesitant about trusting it. There’s nothing inherently wrong about old sources, but, since some methods they use and conclusions they come to are outdated, their findings would not be as applicable in present-day scenarios. This depends on the topic. If you’re researching how people communicated back in the 1950s, then, sure, feel free to use old, wrinkled newspapers. But if you’re trying to convince us that the government should invest more into interplanetary travel, I’d much prefer an article from the last few years. 

white book behind mug

Finish With a BANG 

You’ve done it! You’ve managed to type out 19.5 of 20 pages for your final essay. You can feel the excitement building as you finish the closing sentence of your penultimate paragraph and move on to the last part. You’re hesitating on what you want to write. It’s imperative to leave your reader with something they’ll never forget (or, at least, not until they’ve put your grade in). Think about it. You spent twenty pages trying to convince them that you’re right, and now’s your last chance to do so. Are you just going to regurgitate the thesis that they probably don’t even remember and call it a day? No, you’re going to leave them with something to think about, something that’ll make them pause and go “Hmm, I’ve never thought about it like that before, but now I might.” 

If you have any more tips on writing an excellent academic essay, let us know our social media pages!

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