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Writing guide map What is an academic essay?

You've written essays at school, and sometimes you may have had to write a so-called persuasive essay. But an academic university essay is something different. 
As you may have noticed, it involves an argument –-- using the word in a special sense. A university essay usually sets out a “thesis”, which it then proves at length. It's a tradition that comes down from the 13th century, when aspiring undergraduates in Oxford and Cambridge would compete with each other to argue such topics as whether Adam had a navel, or whether every angel heard what one angel says to another angel. Although we are now, thankfully, well into the age of science rather than of superstition, writing an essay with a convincing argument remains the way of getting on in higher education and the professions.

The structure of an academic essay


Most essays start with an introductory paragraph that contains the thesis --– the point of view that you will argue and develop in your essay.  It's  usually placed at the end of the introductory paragraph.  We can say that the introduction comes to the point.

Each main paragraph (there will be more than three!) will then develop your argument…





...and you may return to your thesis at the end, to show that you have completed your argument. So the point is restated, in different terms, and is followed by a short conclusion.

This is a very simple diagram of a workable essay structure.  Now we need to understand the process of writing the essay, from the initial assignment to the final paragraph.


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