How to do an academic essay

The academic essay is a type of composition written in prose that briefly analyzes, interprets or evaluates a theme . In other words, try to solve a problem by means of arguments. This type of text tries to answer a question (not necessarily to demonstrate a hypothesis), tries to support a thesis by means of the argumentation or exposition (see argumentation and exposition). This type of text motivates critical thinking and independent of who writes, as it encourages the student to look for a problem and its possible solution, as well as a deep and individual analysis of a particular subject.

The characteristics of the academic essay vary according to the requirements of the citation and reference model being used (APA, MLA, etc.). However, as general characteristics we can say that every academic essay makes use of a formal language and is written in third person plural or neutral; Has relevant content and well documented as well as shows an own opinion but justified with other sources. Finally, between ten and fifteen extension pages, every essay requires an introduction, a body, conclusions and bibliographical references.

Role in academia

The essay plays an important role in the academic environment, because it is considered a good resource for the evaluation of the knowledge acquired by the students. Many teachers choose this type of text because it is ideal to evaluate, as it motivates both the critical posture of the student as well as demonstrates the knowledge acquired in the area being investigated or developed. On the other hand, this type of text is quite flexible and can be applied to all areas of study and research (with its due variations), so it is an ideal tool to evaluate the student’s handling of argumentative, expository and persuasive resources As well as the ability they possess for the accumulation and revision of diverse bibliographic sources, according to their area of study.


The typical structure of the academic essay consists of an introduction, an EX POSITIVE-ARGUMENTATIVE development, conclusions and bibliographical references. We will now explain each of these parts in detail.

The introduction serves to present the purpose of the essay, to show the approaches, in general, that will be presented in the development and to give a brief notion to the reader of the organization of the text. The introduction also serves to present the central thesis of the essay, ie the question that is intended to answer. It is necessary to limit the topic and focus on some point of interest to achieve a clear thesis and draw the reader’s attention. In this way, we can affirm that the introduction consists of two parts: a brief general introduction to the theme and the organization of the essay, and the exposition of the central thesis.

In the body of the essay the aspects exposed in the introduction are developed, beginning with the more general or contextual aspects about the subject and finishing with the arguments that support the thesis that is exposed. The organization of this part of the essay is varied and depends on both the theme and the author’s intentions. This section is the most important of the essay, not only because it exposes and argues the thesis but also because it demonstrates the writer’s capacity for organization, exposition and argumentation (Gamboa, 4).

Once you have the introduction and the essay body, the author can move on to writing the conclusion. The conclusion recapitulates the thesis and main ideas that were exposed both in the introduction and in the body of the essay. In this section, begins by making a brief summary of the essay and ending with a well thought out phrase, which closes the thesis exposed by the author. It is in this part where the author has to close the essay with an answer to the question that was raised, which may or may not coincide with the author’s pre-research ideas. That is, the central thesis may be true or presented as false, the important thing is to close the essay.

The bibliography is one of the fundamental parts of the essay because it is where arguments, information and ideas are supported. Without a correct bibliography, the essay may not be supported or declared as plagiarism. It is also important to remember that citations, whether textual or paraphrased, are supported in this last part of the essay. The bibliography can be books, internet sources, DVD’s, magazines, theses, other essays, anything that provides information on the subject, the important thing is to quote it according to the model being used.

Steps for the preparation of the essay

The steps for the preparation of the academic essay are as follows:

To pose a problem within a discipline (thesis)
Selection and delimitation of the theme.
Formulate several hypotheses around the problem. That is, the problem has a solution, yes or no? how? why? etc.
Get information from various sources such as books, DVD’s, CD’s, internet, magazines, etc.
Read, summarize and select useful information.
Determine the line of arguments.
Select the information that supports the argumentative line.
Sketch the possible bibliography according to the model of appointment and reference chosen.
Draft a text.
Correct the draft, paying special attention to the argumentative-expository line.
Review parenthetical references, citations and paraphrases, footnotes and final references.
Final edition of the essay.