Types of Academic Writing – Examples and Characteristics

Types of Academic Writing – Examples and Characteristics

There are many different types of academic writing, but what exactly are they? What are the main differences between them, and how can you tell them apart?

There are several different categories of academic writing, but in general, there are five primary types of academic writing. These include expository, persuasive, argumentative, narrative, and descriptive pieces.

This article will discuss each of these types in detail so that you can learn how to recognize them when reading or writing an essay.

1) Expository Essay

In an expository essay, you present your audience with a carefully researched, well-reasoned argument. (Think: research paper.) The primary difference between an expository essay and other types of academic writing is that you’re not arguing for or against anything; instead, you’re using facts to provide evidence for your argument.

Expository essays are typically 5-7 pages long (single-spaced), which can seem like a lot. However, if you take your time with these critical components, you can tackle your project successfully.

For instance, many professors will expect sources cited within one or two pages at the end of each body paragraph; other professors may want these sources in footnotes at regular intervals throughout your work.

2) Analytical Essay


This essay analyzes, interprets, evaluates, or discusses a given topic. You should use specific examples to support your argument. The focus is on exploring both sides of an issue to come up with a conclusion.

Students often write analytical essays during an academic course but also while writing for journals or scholarly books. When writing an analytical essay, it’s essential to use language that shows you have understood what you are reading.

At the same time, you should be being able to construct an argument based on evidence from sources relevant to your field.

3) Persuasive Essay

Persuasive essays require a fair amount of research, strong evidence, and an authoritative voice. Unlike other types of academic writing, persuasive essays don’t ask you to argue for or against a particular viewpoint.

They instead ask you to explain your perspective in a way that persuades readers to agree with you. Persuasive essay topics cover an array of diverse opinions on any number of issues—sometimes even encouraging multiple perspectives through the use of counter-arguments.

Regardless, writing persuasive essays requires that you give as much thought to how you present your views as to what those views are.

4) Narrative Essay

A narrative essay is a nonfiction essay that reads more like a story, recounting real-life experiences. The details should be so vivid that readers feel they are experiencing these events along with you.

Not only do you tell your story, but you also help your reader learn something or get them involved in what’s happening.

These stories can be either about yourself or someone else—but regardless, they carry valuable information to anyone who reads them. When writing a narrative essay, consider answering these questions: Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

5) Argumentative Essay

Think about an issue or topic that you’re interested in. Write an essay explaining your viewpoint on that topic, including examples to support your position.

The most important thing to keep in mind is how you want to persuade your audience – what points do you want them to agree with? What examples will help illustrate those points?

Those are what will be most effective for your argumentative essay, so put them at the forefront. The other thing to keep in mind is staying on topic – while it’s OK to use other sources as evidence, don’t let them detract from your main point.

Use quotes only when necessary; otherwise, paraphrase information from reliable sources into your own words.

Unique characteristics of Academic Writing

When writing for college, business, or trade school, specific characteristics apply across all forms of academic writing.

First and foremost, academic writing is authoritative: It’s your job to cite your sources and back up your points with evidence. And while we’re not going to tell you how to write a conclusion, you need to know that it needs to be logical and well supported by your argument. Oh, and above all else: Organized.

While other forms of writing may allow for some spontaneity (like creative nonfiction), organizing your thoughts ahead of time is paramount when it comes to academic papers!


The most distinctive characteristic of academic writing is its formality. Students should use formal language in their work, mainly when citing sources (also known as referencing). This means keeping sentences short, sticking to an active voice whenever possible, avoiding slang terms or casual language, and generally writing more formally than you would normally speak.

The idea is that your audience consists primarily of academics who expect highly educated writers with a thorough understanding of research methods. Exceptions to formality do exist.

Sometimes it’s necessary or appropriate to use informal language in an academic setting. But keep in mind that any time you deviate from a formal tone, you’re bound to receive potential criticism about not demonstrating an adequate grasp on scholarly conventions.


When writing academic papers, it is essential to be aware of how complex a topic can be. This helps you to avoid rambling on and on without a point.

It also enables you to avoid getting stuck when you write out a single idea or section for an extended period because everything surrounding that specific idea or section may not have been fully formed in your mind yet.

So, by taking a little extra time to ensure you consider an assignment’s complexity, you will ensure your essay flows and makes more sense to other people who read it.

Before writing an academic paper, think about the different types of academic writing to know which style suits your topic best.


In academic writing, objectivity is paramount. This doesn’t mean your opinion or argument can’t be present, but it does mean you must try to remove as much emotion as possible from your writing.

In other words, you can say something without trying to make a point. Not only will it make your research more credible by showing that personal opinion doesn’t drive your reporting, but it also makes reading your work easier.

Your audience will rely on what you’re saying instead of having to interpret any hidden meanings in a particular statement or sentence.


When writing academic papers, you need to follow a certain level of accuracy. If you are not 100% sure about your facts, make sure you cite where you got them from, so other people can easily verify your sources.

Please don’t be overly cautious about what points go into your paper, but make sure you know them all. Accuracy also applies to spelling and grammar. Write everything correctly, or else you risk losing points for careless mistakes on simple things like typos.

Accuracy is a vital characteristic in academic writing because it shows how trustworthy your information is. It also shows that what you are presenting has been adequately researched by multiple sources instead of just one or two.


General academic writing tends to be explicit, meaning it spells out essential concepts and aims right away.

When writing for an academic audience, you can assume that your readers will need some hand-holding; otherwise, they probably wouldn’t be reading your paper in the first place.

Besides highlighting a main thesis or argument early on, general academic writing also offers a lot of background information about a topic before diving into specifics.

Your reader may have little or no knowledge about your field, so it is essential to provide enough context to put current research in context.

For example, if you are reviewing another scholar’s work, don’t just jump into discussing their methods without explaining what those methods are.


Like stock options, use hedging to insulate yourself from risk.

If you have your mindset on a particular topic but are concerned about finding enough sources, begin your paper by briefly stating what you plan to argue about. This helps you lock in a subject and shows that you’re committed to following through on it.

If one or two sources provide all your evidence for that point, then use those—even if you could use other sources as well. This is referred to as hedging because it protects against catastrophic failure: not only do you lose credibility, but no grade at all if things go poorly.


Another characteristic of academic writing is its responsibility. When you’re developing a research paper, dissertation, or thesis, you’re generally addressing an area for which there isn’t much information available.

You’re taking it upon yourself to create that knowledge by researching and presenting your results in a formal setting. This puts great responsibility on you to do your best work and present it in a way that conveys your findings.

There are many different types of academic writing.

Each type has its unique characteristics, which include audience, purpose, formality, structure, etc.

The four major types of academic writing are descriptive/explanatory (discussing real or imaginary objects in detail), persuasive (persuading an audience to act in a certain way), argumentative (arguing one side over another), and narrative/descriptive (creating stories).

Too much? Please keep it simple; let’s work on your school assignment. Trust me, we know our way!


Author Since: June 23, 2021