What is Academic Writing? Common Types With Examples

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Candace Osmond

Candace Osmond studied Advanced Writing & Editing Essentials at MHC. She’s been an International and USA TODAY Bestselling Author for over a decade. And she’s worked as an Editor for several mid-sized publications. Candace has a keen eye for content editing and a high degree of expertise in Fiction.

Every person experiences writing an academic paper at least once in their student life. This type of writing uses accurate language, facts, logical flow, and a formal tone to showcase their knowledge.

These academic writing styles and examples will help you receive a perfect score or get that research grant. Keep reading to know the elements and types of academic writing with examples. 

How is Academic Writing Different from Other Types of Writing?

An academic paper is writing used in universities and scholarly publications with a formal tone in its content. It includes essays, research papers, research proposals, and other documents for scholarly publication. 

Any academic writing has the same process as other texts. However, the topic, idea, and tone are different. For example, a journal article brings attention to unbiased information through a clear and precise thesis statement.

A thesis statement includes the entire argument of your study or paper. It involves the central idea that shows your content reader what you will reveal or prove. Because it’s supposed to be objective, academic writing must have theories, causes, and effects.

This type of writing doesn’t always need to be based on facts. But it needs to be as objective and unbiased as possible. Here’s what differentiates academic writing from personal writing.

Academic Writing

Formal approach with an impersonal tone

Cites scholarly sources

Sentences are made of evidence, evaluations, and arguments.

Focused and well-structured

Personal Writing

Formal or informal approach may include conversational language.

Doesn’t require scholarly sources

Content is made of personal experiences


Elements of Academic Writing

The elements of academic writing vary according to the specific type of writing you’re producing. But here are some common elements of any academic writing assignment.

Academic Vocabulary

The best-known writers in any field of study know how to use jargon words in any report or essay to convey an academic tone. For the ordinary reader, everything might look like flowery language. But for readers in the same discipline, the writer makes convincing arguments.

An academic writing style always has a certain level of vocabulary. The two types include:

  • Academic vocabulary (more general).
  • Subject-vocabulary (for a particular field of study).

Some examples of general academic vocabulary include “analyze,” “concept,” and “construct.” In the field of law, some subject-vocabulary include “acquittal,” “dismissal,” “jurisdiction,” and “tribunal.”


Scholarly articles need to include proper citation styles to establish a more authoritative tone. The academic content must include research from reliable sources like studies and journal articles. 

Even if you only borrowed an idea and used it in a single sentence, you still need to follow proper referencing. Some style guides include Modern Language Association (MLA), Chicago Manual Style, and American Psychological Association (APA).

Academic content should also pay attention to the conventions of the reference list. Check the style guide to see how you should format the bibliography. Remember that other style guides also require footnotes. 


Academic essay writing needs to have a proper outline to convey the entire message. First, academic articles should contain a research question or thesis statement to develop their argument. This should be in the introduction part.

The body of writing contains all supporting details. You may use headings to divide longer texts into chapters. Your body paragraph should also start with a topic sentence all the time.

Don’t forget to use transition words when expressing connections between your ideas. Use the proper punctuations with a variety of sentence lengths.

Uses Third Person Point of View Most of the Time

Academic writing usually uses a third-person point of view like “he,” “she,” or “they.” The writer doesn’t refer to themselves as “I” or “me.” Instead, they use “researcher” to name themselves. 

Doing so provides more objectivity to the paper, separating the author from the academic topics. It also stresses the academic style where the writer supports their focused argument and not their personal experience. 

But some academic journals now accept the first-person point of view, especially APA. It doesn’t necessarily mean the writer is using informal language. Using credible sources and academic vocabulary still keeps the paper’s formality.

Common Types of Academic Writing

There are different types of academic writing, including a book report, journal article, and dissertation. Here are the most common types:

  • Essay.
  • Research paper.
  • Research proposal.
  • Thesis and dissertation.
  • Lab report.
  • Literature review,
  • Annotated bibliography. 

We can also categorize the major types of these papers into five. 

Descriptive Writing

Descriptive papers are the simplest types of writing that academic writers produce. It has several purposes, although it primarily offers facts and information in several fields of study. This academic writing can describe a phenomenon, person, place, case, or object.

You can also use personal experience when making descriptive essays. But effective writing includes using precise language to avoid turning it into personal writing. 

Analytical Writing

Most academic papers in universities aren’t entirely descriptive. A scientific question and an analysis typically follow a factual statement. Analytical writing includes reorganizing facts, showing relationships, and comparing information.

An academic study may include comparing and contrasting complex ideas and theories. 

Or you may deconstruct a single notion and contextualize it in a different social setting. You’ll find this writing style in reviews of literature.

When writing an analytical paper, always make the structure of your writing clear. Create an outline beforehand, and don’t forget to add accurate citations.

Persuasive Writing

Persuasive writing has the same characteristics as analytical writing, plus your point of view. This type of writing requires a coherent argument backed by relevant evidence throughout the paper.

The writer also has to include a recommendation, interpretation of findings, and an analysis of others’ scholarly writing. Some academic writing examples include persuasive essays and the final part of a research article.

Any persuasive assignment requires you to “discuss,” “evaluate,” or “argue.” As always, you need to add citations to your work to make yourself more credible. 

Critical Writing

Critical writing is a form of writing in college essays and postgraduate writing. Critical writing assignments follow a formal writing style with the added feature of another point of view.

What makes it different from persuasive writing is that a critical essay needs more than one point of view. And that includes your own. This writing should also have a strong statement or messages backed by authoritative sources. 

Academic Writing Example 1: Research Proposals

Colleges usually submit research proposals before conducting their studies. This form of academic writing is a concise yet coherent summary of your proposed research. It should contain the essential issues and questions that your research should address. 

Aside from outlining the general area of your study, the proposal also proves that your research will be unique and beneficial. Although it’s not a persuasive paper, it should convince the professor that your study is worth performing.

An excellent-quality paper also matches your research interest with the professor or supervisor. Consider it like an application on which potential advisers will pick if they want to support your research or not. 

The research proposal also allows you to demonstrate your skills and aptitude for the level of research you’re conducting. This is where you can prove that you can communicate complex ideas concisely and critically. 

Research Proposal Structure

The research proposal must always contain the following:

  1. A cover letter addressed to whom you’re proposing. It must show a summary of your proposal and why they should approve it.
  2. An introduction or abstract in a short paragraph.
  3. The rationale, significance, and limitations of your research.
  4. Your methods for conducting the study, including your budget. 

Research Proposal Example

Here’s a great example of an excerpt from a research proposal in the field of criminology:

The empirical focus of the research will be strategies of restorative justice, as articulated by Thames Valley Police. Recent developments in restorative justice constitute a radical realignment in police practices, resulting in a more holistic and multi-level approach (involving all forms of police’ consumer’, including victims, offenders, families, local authorities and members of the business community). In this regard, Thames Valley offers a unique case of a self-styled ‘model’ of modern policing and is considered to be one of the most innovative forces in the country (see, for example, their Restorative Justice programme, 2001).

Academic Writing Example 2: Dissertations

Dissertations are another type of academic paper with definite writing rules. This document aims to give evidence of a candidate’s knowledge and skills in a scholarly method. But the content itself may serve educational purposes that contribute to the field of study. 

This academic paper typically has ten to twenty thousand words that answer a specific research question. The answer to the research question may be based on an experiment, empirical study, or literature review. 

To advisers and professors, the method of producing a dissertation matters more than the result. You can still create a dissertation without actual findings or if your tested hypothesis was wrong. 

You might have to conduct a study even before writing the dissertation. A needs analysis, survey, or experiment will help you determine the significant “problem” or “question” you want to address.

Let your supervisor or adviser direct how you will conduct your studies. They will instruct the scope, limitations, and method for your research. 

Dissertation Structure

Dissertations and thesis papers always pay attention to structure. Below is the academic paper format of a dissertation:

  1. Abstract.
  2. Introduction (including the background of the study and its significance).
  3. Review of related literature.
  4. Methodology.
  5. Findings or data analysis.
  6. Conclusion and recommendations. 

Dissertation Example

Here’s one example of an excerpt from a sample dissertation:

This chapter will discuss secondary research findings using the National Health Service as a case study. The secondary sources discussed will use all relevant material such as books, journal articles, publications from the National Health Service website and newspaper articles that have been reviewed by an individual or a group of individuals who are involved with a study or have performed extensive research within an area which is directly or indirectly related to the main question of this dissertation.

Academic Writing Example 3: Abstracts

The abstract summarizes your dissertation or research paper found at the start of the document. It’s composed of evidence-based arguments and research outcomes in concise sentences. 

This type of academic writing is the shortest and, therefore, the easiest. It usually has around 150-300 words only. The word limit depends on the style guide you’re following or the advice of your research adviser. 

There are several acceptable approaches to writing an abstract. The easiest way is to imitate the structure of your large paper. It should contain the introduction, method, findings, and conclusions. 

Although the abstract is the first part of your thesis or research paper, it’s usually the last you write. Remember that it’s not an excerpt from your report or a reflection of your work. It’s simply a summary of everything in one paragraph. 

Abstract Structure

Your abstract must contain the following in only a few sentences:

  1. Aims.
  2. Methods.
  3. Results.
  4. Conclusion.

Abstract Example

Here’s an example of an abstract whose research focuses on medicine:

The Southwest shrub Juniperus communis (Juniper Berry) has many significant medicinal value in the Native American culture that has not been proven scientifically. One of the popular uses of Juniper berries aside from its detoxifying action is its potential to repel insects. This study focuses on the development of insect repellant from its essential oil obtained through steam distillation. 50 g of fresh berries was collected and dried for 5 days and is placed in a still tank with 100 mL of water for steam distillation using the Flinn Scientific Borosilicate Lab Kit. Gather the extracted oil and dilute 70% in three separate containers to be transferred into spray bottles. Testing involved the spraying of the dilute sample into a class jar with Anopheles juidthae (common NM mosquito) and compared this to the effect of a commercial insect repellant. After testing and comparing the result, the commercial insect repellant significantly showed that it is a better insect repellant compared to the J. communis diluted essential oil. However, the essential oil has also an insect repellant potential.

Practice Your Academic Writing Skills

There are different types of academic writing styles you’ll encounter as you enter university or college. Whether it’s a dissertation, research paper, or persuasive essay, remember to use a formal and impersonal tone. Doing so will help you become more logical and objective. 

Keep practicing your academic writing skills to succeed in your field of study!