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What is Academic Writing – Types & Tools for Students

Published by at July 18th, 2023 , Revised On March 20, 2024

Academic writing is a critical skill that students need to master to excel in their educational journey. Whether it’s writing essays, research papers, or reports, academic writing requires a specific approach and adherence to certain conventions. In this blog, we will explore the various types of academic writing and highlight some essential tools that can aid students in improving their writing skills.

What is Academic Writing?

Academic writing refers to a specific writing style commonly used in educational institutions, such as universities and colleges, and in scholarly publications. Its formal tone and clear and concise language characterise it and emphasise critical thinking and evidence-based arguments. Academic writing aims to convey complex ideas and information structured, allowing readers to understand and engage with the content effectively.

Academic writing is a distinctive form commonly employed in educational institutions and scholarly publications. It serves as a means of effectively communicating complex ideas and information within the academic community. Academic writing examples include essays, dissertations, thesis, lab reports, articles etc. Let’s discuss the different types of academic writing.

What are the Different Types of Academic Writing?

Academic writing varies from your PhD thesis to your college essays. Here are the most common types of academic writing.


Essays are the most common type of academic writing, serving as a platform for students to express their thoughts and arguments on a given topic. They can take different forms, including:

  • Argumentative Essays: 

These essays aim to persuade the reader by presenting a well-structured argument supported by evidence and logical reasoning.

  • Descriptive Essays: 

Descriptive essays provide vivid descriptions of a particular subject, allowing the reader to visualise and understand it better.

  • Expository Essays: 

Expository essays aim to explain and clarify a topic or concept, providing a comprehensive analysis and often including examples or evidence.

  • Narrative Essays: 

Narrative essays tell a story or recount personal experiences, often engaging the reader through storytelling techniques.

Regardless of the type, essays should have a clear thesis statement, organised paragraphs, and appropriate referencing to support the arguments made.

Research Papers: 

Research papers involve in-depth investigation and analysis of a specific topic. They require students to gather information from various sources, critically evaluate evidence, and present their findings in a structured and logical manner. Research papers typically include:

  • Introduction: Introduce the research question and provide background information.
  • Literature Review: Summarize existing research on the topic and identify gaps or limitations.
  • Methodology: Describe the research methods employed to collect and analyse data.
  • Results: Present the findings and data analysis.
  • Discussion: Interpret the results, draw conclusions, and discuss implications.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main findings and propose further research possibilities.

Proper citation and referencing are crucial in research papers to acknowledge the sources used and maintain academic integrity.

Literature Reviews: 

Literature reviews involve evaluating and summarising existing research and scholarly articles on a particular topic. A literature review aims to provide an overview of the current knowledge, identify gaps, and highlight areas for future research. Key elements of a literature review include:

  • Scope and Focus: Define the boundaries of the review and identify the key research question.
  • Search and Selection: Conduct a thorough search for relevant sources and select those that contribute to understanding the topic.
  • Analysis and Synthesis: Critically analyse the selected sources, identify common themes, and synthesise the information.
  • Evaluation: Assess the strengths and weaknesses of the existing literature and highlight any methodological or theoretical gaps.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main findings, emphasise the significance of the reviewed literature, and propose avenues for future research.

Lab Reports: 

Lab reports are common in scientific disciplines and involve documenting experimental procedures, observations, and analyses. Key components of a lab report include:

  • Title: Clearly states the purpose of the experiment.
  • Introduction: Provides background information and states the hypothesis.
  • Methods: Describes the experimental procedure and materials used.
  • Results: Presents the data collected, often in tables, graphs, or figures.
  • Discussion: Analyze and interpret the results, discussing their significance and potential sources of error.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the findings and their implications.

Lab reports require clear and concise writing, precise measurements and observations, and accurate referencing of external sources or methodologies.

Case Studies: 

Case studies involve in-depth analysis and exploration of a specific individual, group, or situation. They aim to understand the subject matter and draw conclusions or recommendations comprehensively. A case study typically includes:

  • Introduction: Introduce the subject and provide background information.
  • Methodology: Explain the research methods used to collect data.
  • Findings: Present the detailed analysis and results of the case study.
  • Discussion: Interpret the findings, analyse the implications, and provide insights or recommendations.
  • Conclusion: Summarize the main points and highlight the significance of the case study.

Case studies often require extensive research, critical thinking, and the ability to apply theoretical concepts to real-world situations.

Conference Papers

Conference papers are presented at academic conferences, summarising research findings or discussing specific topics of interest to the conference attendees.

Academic Reports

Academic reports are formal documents that present research findings, analysis, and recommendations on a specific topic, often used in scientific, technical, or business fields.


Abstracts are concise summaries of research papers or presentations, providing a brief overview of the study’s objectives, methodology, results, and conclusion. Each type of academic writing serves a specific purpose and follows distinct conventions and structures.


What are the Characteristics of Academic Writing?

Using formal and structured language, along with adherence to academic conventions and citation practices, is essential when aiming to write academically.

  • Formal Tone

Academic writing adopts a formal tone, maintaining a professional and objective voice throughout the text. It is important to avoid colloquial language, slang, and personal anecdotes to uphold the credibility and seriousness of the content.

  • Clarity and Conciseness

One of the key characteristics of academic writing is its emphasis on clarity and conciseness. Academic texts should be written in a way that readers from diverse backgrounds easily understand. This involves using straightforward language and organising ideas logically. 

  • Critical Thinking and Evidence-Based Arguments

Academic writing promotes critical thinking by encouraging writers to analyse, evaluate, and interpret information. Arguments and claims in academic texts must be supported by credible evidence, such as empirical data, scholarly sources, and logical reasoning. Engaging with existing research and providing a well-supported perspective on the topic is essential.

What are the Key Principles in Academic Writing?

The following are key points for students who wonder how to write an academic essay:

Objectivity and Neutrality

Academic writing strives for objectivity and neutrality. It aims to present arguments based on evidence rather than personal opinions. Writers critically evaluate sources and engage with existing research to provide a balanced topic analysis. Abbreviations are commonly used in academic writing to streamline the text.

Citation and Referencing

Various citation styles, such as APA (American Psychological Association) or MLA (Modern Language Association), are followed to ensure consistency and provide clear information about the sources referenced. Many academic writing skills workshops allow students to develop and refine their writing skills. 

Ethical Conduct and Originality

Academic writing requires ethical conduct and upholds the principles of originality and intellectual integrity. Writers should provide accurate information and properly attribute ideas and sources in academic essay writing.

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What are Some Tools for Academic Writing for Students?

Here are several tools available to assist students in their academic writing style.  These tools can help with various aspects of the writing process, from brainstorming and organising ideas to improving grammar and citation accuracy.

Enrolling in an academic writing course can greatly benefit students by providing them with essential tools and techniques. Here are some commonly used tools for academic writing:

Word Processors

Students can enhance their skills for academic writing with essential features for writing, formatting and editing documents. 

Google Docs

A web-based word processing tool that allows collaborative writing and easy access to documents from different devices.

Reference Management Tools

  • Zotero is a free reference management tool that helps students organise and cite sources, generate bibliographies, and save research materials.
  • Mendeley is a reference manager and academic, social network that enables users to organise, annotate, and share research papers and collaborate with peers.

Grammar and Writing Assistance Tools

  • Grammarly is an online writing assistant that checks grammar, spelling, and punctuation and provides suggestions for clarity and style improvement.
  • Hemingway Editor: A tool highlighting complex sentences, excessive adverbs, and other readability issues to improve writing style and clarity.

Plagiarism Checkers

  • Turnitin: A widely used plagiarism detection tool that compares a student’s writing against a vast database of academic sources to identify any potential instances of plagiarism.

Mind Mapping and Organisation Tools

  • MindMeister is a web-based mind-mapping tool that helps students brainstorm ideas, create visual outlines, and organise thoughts for essays and research papers.
  • Evernote: A note-taking app that allows students to capture ideas, take notes, and organise research materials across different devices.

Collaboration and Communication Tools

  • Google Drive is a cloud-based storage and collaboration platform that enables students to share and collaborate on documents, including writing assignments, with peers and instructors.
  • Slack: A team communication tool that facilitates group discussions, file sharing, and project coordination among students working on collaborative writing projects.

Writing Style Guides and Reference Resources

  • APA Style: The official website of the American Psychological Association provides guidelines and examples for citing sources in APA format, widely used in the social sciences.

Strong academic writing skills are essential for higher education and scholarly pursuits. Students who are concerned about how to write an academic essay can take assistance from this blog. These skills in academic writing can assist students in producing high-quality projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

Academic writing is a specific style of writing used in educational institutions and scholarly publications. 

The different types of academic writing that students encounter are:

  • Essays
  • Research Papers
  • Dissertations And Theses
  • Academic Articles
  •  Book Reviews
  • Case Studies
  • Conference Papers
  • Academic Reports 
  • Literature Reviews
  • Abstracts.
  • Microsoft Word
  • Google Docs
  • Zotero 
  • Mendeley
  • Grammarly 
  • Hemingway Editor
  • Turnitin
  • Grammarly Plagiarism Checker
  • MindMeister and Evernote
  • Google Drive and Slack

Students should use reference management tools like Zotero or Mendeley to ensure proper citation and avoid plagiarism to organise and cite sources accurately.

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