How-to Write an Academic Essay Paper
Basic Writing Elements for High School and College
The essay deadline is tomorrow, and that Word document still sits staring, blank, before the frazzled writer. What to do? Where to begin? Before an “A” paper can be written, a writer first must know the basics of academic writing. The basic elements that need to be included in an academic paper are a subject, a thesis statement, an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, transition sentences, and a conclusion.
The Beginning: Subject Matter, Thesis Statement, and Introduction
The place to begin is with a topic. What is the essay about? In the world of academics, more often than not, the subject matter is chosen by the professor. This may limit the creative aspect of the essay; however, when GPA is on the line, it is highly recommended to follow the professor’s guidelines. Once the subject matter is chosen, move on to the next phase: the thesis statement.
The thesis statement is critical to the academic essay. It is one sentence that sums up the overall idea of the essay. This does not mean that every idea is included in this statement; rather, include the main ideas of the essay in this statement, in the order that each idea will be discussed throughout the body of the paper. It is meant to let the reader know exactly where the essay is going, like a road map. It is meant to entice the reader to continue reading. It is typically the last sentence of the introductory paragraph.
The introduction to any academic work is also important. The introduction is, after the title, what grabs the reader’s attention. It is meant to give a basic idea of what the essay is about. This is the reader’s first glimpse of the writer’s style, ideas, and beliefs, so it is crucial to keep the attention of the reader. If the writer catches the reader’s interest from the very beginning, it is much easier to maintain that interest throughout the body of the essay.
The Middle: Body Paragraphs and Transition Sentences
The body of the paper is the area for discussion of the main ideas. Each main idea receives its own paragraph, and that paragraph is introduced with a topic sentence. Think of a topic sentence as a mini thesis statement. It needs to give a basic idea of what the paragraph is about to discuss. For each paragraph, remember to address only the ideas listed in that paragraph’s topic sentence. Once the body of a paragraph is completed, move on to the next paragraph. Continue this process for each paragraph. Essential for literary criticism is the citation from the primary text to prove your thesis. Quotations need not be long--in fact as a rule they shouldn't be--to be persuasive. Simple "words" quoted in your "text" can really "help" your paper!
In order to make an essay flow from one idea to the next, each paragraph also needs a transition sentence. A transition sentence is one that connects the end of a paragraph to the beginning of another paragraph. When writing an academic paper, it is best to connect the dots for the reader. In order to do this, the writer must create a link between two ideas. An example transition sentence is this: “Not only do dogs bark, but they also wag their tails.” In this case, the first paragraph would discuss dogs barking, and the second paragraph would discuss how dogs wag their tails. A sentence like this is simple, but effective. It creates a connection between two paragraphs that wouldn’t necessarily have a connection. Continue the process of using transition senteces throughout the entire body of the paper.
The End: Conclusion
An academic essay needs a conclusion. A conclusion paragraph should recap the main ideas of the paper. This is done by restating the thesis statement, followed by a brief discussion of the points made in the body. After that, the conclusion is a chance for the writer to make a final point. Think of the conclusion as the closing argument in a defense case. Finally, a good essay needs a “punch.” The punch is the last sentence that ends the essay and gives the reader something to think about. It should leave the reader pondering the issue, and it should be memorable.
The essay is due tomorrow, but equipped with these basic writing elements, an "A" paper can be achieved. Remember that the basic elements that need to be included in an academic paper are a subject, a thesis statement, an introductory paragraph, body paragraphs, transition sentences, and a conclusion with a punch.