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Academic Writing: What Is an Essay?
An essay is a piece of writing, usually from an author's personal point of view.
The essay must be well structured (i.e. organized) and presented in a way that the reader finds easy to follow and clear: it must look tidy and not present any obstacles to the reader. It must have a clear readable interesting style.
Academic writing must contain an argument or claim. This means it must address an issue or raise a question and present the appropriate data or information to illustrate it in a logical sequence, and then analyze and comment on it critically - both by reference to sources and by pointing out any illogicalities, such as inconsistencies or omissions. Students are assessed on their ability to select the appropriate and relevant information to illustrate their argument or claim.
Good academic writing has a formal structure, unlike fictional or personal writing. Exploiting this means that readers know what to expect, which greatly helps the communication process. The burden of communication is not carried at the word or sentence level alone but through the overall structure and organization of the text. The content should be individual and reflect the writer's argument and research.
Essays contain the following basic elements. These may be in the form of paragraphs for undergraduate essays, or sections for postgraduate essays or dissertations. The overall structure of a thesis (as well as, to an extent, the chapters) will have a similar pattern.
A definition of an essay is a rather vague, so far I haven't seen a clear definition of what an essay is. It could be due to the reason that essay is multifunctional, i.e. it can be used for a variety of purposes, in a variety of settings, in different spheres etc. In view of academic work, let's try to define an essay from the academic standpoint.
So, an academic essay can probably be best understood as a testing or trial of the value or nature of a thing. This kind of testing has been recently acquired as a pedagogical tool. In this case, the main purpose of essay writing is to improve student's writing skills, to judge the comprehension and mastery of the material learned during classes. This helps to expose their analytical, organizational, critical thinking skills etc. A formal essay would normally ask the student to present his/her views on a given subject, thus making an essay strongly subjective. First person narration is usually strongly discouraged, if not prohibited. Normally an essay would comprise 5 paragraphs (essentially called a five paragraph essay), but there are many other types of essays: descriptive essays, narrative essays, compare and contrast essays, persuasive essays, argumentative essays, definition essays etc. Basically, you name the type of the essay according to the purpose it serves, here you can find a more or less comprehensive list of essays:
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