Essential Elements of Academic Writing

A. Structure


  • Includes a thought, question, quote, or other literary device to spark interest in the topic for readers
  • Introduces the essay’s topic/purpose clearly and concisely (called thesis statement)
  • Communicates the relevance and importance of the topic
  • Previews the major points to be covered in the body of the paper
  • How to Write an Essay Introduction by
  • Body Paragraph, by


  • Includes two or more major points which develops the topic of the essay
  • Uses an organizational structure which is easy for readers to follow in developing the major points (e.g. chronological, logical, or other approach)
  • Major points are organized in paragraphs. Paragraphs are at least 3 sentences in length
  • The body of the paper communicates an argument – major points develop and reinforce the thesis statement (i.e. topic and purpose of the essay)
  • The rule of three for writing effective paragraphs and essays, by
  • The Introductory Paragraph, by
    • Transitions
    • Transitional words and sentences connect the various parts of the paper into a unified whole. Transitions are used effectively to guide readers from one section of the paper to the next
    • Writing transitions by Purdue Online Writing Lab
    • Transitions by


  • Repeats the thesis statement – topic and purpose of the essay
  • Reviews major points presented in the essay
  • Presents concluding thoughts or ideas on the topic
  • Challenges readers – inspires readers to take a different perspective, change behaviors, or take action based on the information presented on the topic
  • How to write a conclusion by

 B. APA Style and Formatting

  • Includes a separate title page with paper title, student name, course, due date, and faculty name. An abstract is not required for 100 and 200 level courses
  • Paper is double-spaced, uses 12-point font size, has 1” margins, and utilizes Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier font
  • Identifies sources used with ‘in-text’ citations and includes a ‘References’ page at the end of the paper
  • Basics of APA style tutorial
  • Download an APA template

 C. Avoiding Plagiarism