Essay Writing

The ability to present the reader with an argument, set out in a logical and cohesive manner, is an important assessment criterion for most academic writing. As well as presenting your own argument, backed up by evidence, your instructors will expect you to report on, and evaluate, existing research. Developing the language that you use to report and connect ideas in academic writing will help you with both these tasks.


You need to use evidence and examples to strengthen your argument. It is not sufficient in an academic essay (as opposed to reflective writing) to write only what you feel or what you think. You need to back this up with evidence from other reliable sources. Evidence can take different forms (including quotes). Here is one example of how evidence has been used to support what the author is thinking:

"It could be argued that there is a strong case for introductory writing courses for all new undergraduate students at university. Essay writing is a major assessment component in many undergraduate degree programmes and evidence suggest that for a number of reasons, essay writing is a 'struggle' (Read et al., 2001). Essay writing is particularly difficult for new students making the transition into higher education. Jones and Smith (2000) interviewed 200 new students and found that they has no previous experience writing extended essays and usually had little sense of what is expected. The research suggests that many new students could benefit from additional support during this time of transition."

One way to incorporate evidence is to:

      • State your claim
      • Provide evidence or examples to support the claim (it must be relevant
      • Comment on your evidence

Using Connecting Words to Link Ideas and Evidence

Appropriate use of 'connective' words will help the reader know where they are in the essay, if you are arguing for or against an idea, and the connections between different parts of your writing. Carefully chosen 'reporting words' will communicate your evaluation of other people's research. Below are suggestions for sentence openers, for linking words and for reporting on other writer's ideas. Using a range of reporting and connection terms will also add variety and interest to your writing.

To start a new paragraph which is going to add a SIMILAR IDEA

      • In addition
      • Another reason/aspect/example
      • Furthermore
      • Moreover
      • Also
      • In the same way
      • Similarly
      • Additionally

To start a new paragraph which is going to introduce a CONTRASTING IDEA

      • Compare this with
      • In contrast
      • However
      • In spite of
      • Admittedly
      • However
      • Although
      • Conversly
      • Whereas

To introduce AN EXAMPLE

      • For example
      • This is seen in
      • An example of this is
      • A further example of this is
      • This can be illustrated by
      • The evidence is that

To POINT TO EVIDENCE that backs up your statements or claims

      • The evidence suggests that
      • Research has shown that
      • In support of this
      • Smith (2009) shows that

There's no great mystique about an "academic writing style", but it does take practice. The most important thing is to keep your writing clear and concise, and to get your ideas over in a comprehensible form. It is the clear expression of ideas that will impress your instructor, not a string of long, inappropriate words found in a dictionary. A wide range of vocabulary is of course important, but you must use the right word, and shorter ones are often better than longer ones.

The most important thing to remember is to avoid everyday, informal language, especially colloquial expressions or slang unless they have a point in the essay. Spoken language is naturally full of hesitations, repetitions, grammatical errors and unfinished ideas; but in your writing, structure is very important. Sentences should be complete and ideas arranged in paragraphs or sections, and you should aim for perfection in your grammar and spelling. Finally, you should remember that you are writing for someone else, that your essay will have readers. Punctuation, sentences, paragraphs, and overall structure are therefore critical.