Sources and Tools for Academic Writing

The exact process of writing an essay will depend heavily upon the form of assignment you have. Though in general most essays can be crafted according to the following steps:

  1. Define the topic
  2. Craft a preliminary thesis statement
  3. Gather information
  4. Set a basis or criteria for judgment
  5. Analyze and interpret
  6. Conclude

These seem easy enough, right? Let's dive into our guide on how to write an academic essay!

Sources of Information

In most cases, when crafting an essay, your main reference of information should be the item that you are writing about. So, obviously, if it's a book, then it will be your main source. Likewise, other critiques or reviews written about the same book that you'd like to include or mention in an evaluation would also fall under the category of main sources.

Other sources may include supportive evidence and information such as statistics, newspaper clippings, reviews in scholarly journals, or physical items (i.e., artifacts). Regardless of the medium, the most decisive factor of your sourcing, as with your topic, will be the type of writing your are conducting. Some will only require one or two sources, as in the case of a book review, while others may require much more.

Helpful Websites

After you've identified the sources you need to consult to gather your information, you may still be in need of a bit of assistance for the writing and drafting portion. Thankfully, there are many useful websites to help you with formulating essays. Though these do not cover all the types of essays you can generate, they offer a wealth of information that may be valuable for multiple types.

  • Purdue OWL
  • Roane State Community College
  • University of North Carolina
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Cayuga Community College

Tips & Tools

Use paragraph structure acronyms

You may have learnt some of these in middle or high school — they are primarily used to improve the flow and organizations of paragraphs, and likewise improve the overall quality of a paper. Some acronyms used are PEEL (Point Explain Evaluate Link) or TRI (Topic Sentence Restate Illustrate).

The first one is a simple formula that is beneficial for evaluation essays the most as it explicitly details where you would incorporate the evaluation portion for each paragraph. The TRI is also useful (possibly for expository writings in most cases) but also can be used to help you write a transition paragraph in research papers, for example.

Use synonyms to further detail and explain points

This is a commonly used and obvious tactic to improve your writing skills. In many cases, thorough explanations often involve several synonyms in one sentence. The English language is a vast one and there are many ways to say the same and similar things to really clarify each point. This little tip may really work to improve your writing overall; in a way that many people will notice.

Clearly state your point and objective

One major fault of many poorly received essays is unclear or vague objectives. If criticising someone elses work, entity, concept or idea, you have to be sure that you yourself are not subject to criticism for the poor articulation of your main ideas. Clarity in this respect can be one of the most valuable attributes of a well-crafted essay.

Use a T-style chart to organize information

In many cases, you will have a set criteria or guideline for making judgments of each aspect or element being discussed. Sometimes to allow you to better organize your essay, it's best to first organize your information using graphic organizers.

For instance, if you are writing a book review, you may decide to create a pros-and-cons list to carefully review the good and bad things about the book. You would simply create a two-column table with "pros" written on one side and "cons" written on the other. Sometimes. little tips such as this go a long way in helping to create a well-supported paper.

Incorporate parallelism to drive your point home

Parallelism is a handy technique that adds a bit of rhythm and style to your writing. It involves repetition in grammatical structure, usually with verbal constructions. For instance, "The dialogue here is not only moving; its convincing, it's heart-wrenching, it's reality." With this example, you can see the resemblance in form of all the phrases after the semicolon.

Some writers use parallelism a lot while some try to use it more sparingly. For persuasive pieces, for instance, they fare very well, but can also be easily infused in most types of writing, including evaluation.

Additional Information on Writing Tools

In addition to the above writing techniques, some writers also may benefit from online interactive tools as well. For most, this usually involves word-processing programs, review and critique forums, and blogging tools. Though when it comes to tools specific to teaching and learning about essay formation, most are geared towards elementary, middle and high school students.