What is an Academic Essay?

An academic essay’s purpose is to present a logical argument or thesis based on facts, observations, and inferences. It usually consists of three main sections:

  • An introductory paragraph that lays out the argument.
  • Body paragraphs that support or challenge the thesis statement.
  • A conclusion that restates the main idea in your own words.

Writing “academic essays” can mean different things at different schools. But many colleges require applicants to submit one or more sample essays as part of their applications. This means you’ll need to understand what specific classes deem an essay and how it fits into the application process in general. Let’s start with the basics: What makes an essay “academic” in the first place?

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Basically, any essay that is written for a class is an academic essay so long as it follows some basic guidelines and has a very specific purpose.


Generally, academic writing refers to the kind of writing expected of someone working toward a degree at a college or university, usually including expository and persuasive types of writing that address particular audiences and purposes. At the same time, certain formal elements such as research, documentation, and citation are used appropriately. Furthermore, academic writing aims to build an argument through reasoning rather than inform or describe.


An essay’s main objective is to persuade the reader about a particular issue with enough supporting arguments. The thesis statement tells the audience your position on this topic before you even begin discussing it in detail within the body paragraphs. Readers form opinions based on how well-constructed an argument is. If all of the facts, evidence, quotes, etc., are sound, then your argument is supported by reliable resources that people would believe in. Academic essays also have a purpose outside of just convincing someone about something. They generally serve as tools for researchers who type up their information in papers to save or use that information in the future.


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