The ability to write a decent academic essay is one of the keys to success in university and is therefore a skill worth developing. The academic writing you produce may not be up to much at first, but by reading how other academics approach their essays, articles, dissertations and books you will have a better idea of what is expected of you when writing for an academic audience. You will also be able to hone your writing skills by taking on board the criticism and advice given to you by your tutors, so that by the time you have to write an in-depth dissertation you will feel comfortable writing in an academic style.
When writing an essay that is intended for an academic audience, you have to introduce the argument you intend to make, develop this argument, present relevant evidence and consider a range of different viewpoints, which you then evaluate, before concluding your argument. Although the ideas you have and the way in which you interpret your evidence are subjective, you have to dissect the evidence and arguments you present in an objective, scientific fashion. Apart from in the introduction, where it may be appropriate to write in the first-person, you should stick to writing in the third-person, rather than drawing attention to the fact that what you are saying is an opinion.
In whatever subject you write about you have to discuss and assess what other academics have said about the particular topic you are focusing on. Failing to do so will have a negative impact on your marks, because you will not be able to provide a comprehensive exploration of the issues you need to. It is also important to reference your sources and to acknowledge who said what and where their work was published. You won’t be able to get away with claiming someone else’s ideas as your own and you could find yourself being punished for plagiarism if you are not careful. Different institutions and departments have their own ways of referencing, which you may be told about or be expected to find out for yourself.
To produce an effective piece of academic writing, it helps to read extensively and to create a plan to keep you focused on the argument you intend to make. If you dive straight into writing your essay or dissertation, it will be harder for you to develop a consistent and coherent argument, as you may be unable to recall who said what and how this relates to your argument. You could end up repeating yourself or missing out key concepts and points that you ought to have raised. You will certainly make life easier for yourself if you organise your notes and know what it is you want to say. It is therefore essential that you don’t leave your essay until the last minute, as you will probably discover that many of the books you need are not in the library and that you don’t have the time to write a decent essay. Basically, the success you have with your academic writing is all in the planning!