Ace Your Next Assignment: A Guide to Writing an Effective Academic Essay


As much as I want to say that academic writing is easy, it’s not. Academic writing means following certain rules and guidelines, including a specific format and structure. The good news is that there are also some tricks you can learn along the way to make your life easier as you write academic essays. In this guide, we’ll cover all the steps for creating an academic essay—from understanding what type of assignment you’re given to revising your final draft before submitting it. By using these tips and tricks, your next assignment will be much less stressful!

Understand the assignment.

The first step to writing an academic essay is to understand the assignment. Read it carefully and make sure you know what kind of essay you’re supposed to write, how long it should be and what format it needs to be in. Be sure that your professor has given clear instructions about things like citation style (MLA vs APA vs Chicago Manual), referencing styles (Harvard or Vancouver) and in-text citations (parenthetical citations vs footnotes/endnotes).

Plan your time.

Planning your time is the most important part of writing an essay.

To begin with, you need to take into account the amount of time it will take for you to research and write your paper. The amount of time varies depending on how much research needs to be done, how long it will take you to write each section (e.g., introduction or conclusion), if there are any other tasks that need doing before starting work on your essay such as reading through past papers or looking up references in books/journals etc., etc..

It also depends on what kind of assignment you’re given – so make sure that whatever task has been set out by your teacher or tutor fits within this schedule! If they ask for a 2000 word essay in three hours and then give us ten minutes per paragraph… well then we’ve got ourselves a problem!

Start researching.

Now that you have a topic and an idea of what the paper is going to be about, it’s time to get down to business. Start by doing some research!

You can use many different resources for this:

  • The library. Your school likely has a large collection of books that contain useful information–and even if yours doesn’t, there are still plenty of great online libraries with lots of articles and essays written by experts on your subject matter. If you’re writing about something current or controversial (like politics), consider using one or more scholarly journals instead; these are peer-reviewed publications where professional scholars share their research findings with other academics in their field. They’re also great places for finding primary sources like government documents as well as secondary sources such as newspaper articles or book chapters written by experts in their respective fields.*

Take notes as you do your research.

As you conduct your research, take notes. You should use a pen and paper or computer to do this. If using a computer, use a word processing program to take notes.

  • Highlight important points (in bold or underline) in the text that may be relevant to your essay.
  • Underline key words or phrases in the text that could be used as keywords for an outline of your essay later on.

Organize your notes by subtopics.

Once you’ve finished taking notes, it’s time to organize them. There are a few different ways to do this:

  • Mind map. A mind map is a visual representation of your ideas that can help you see connections between them and make sure each topic gets its due attention in your paper. To create one, start by writing down the main idea of each subtopic on a separate sticky note (or in Word). Then connect those notes together with lines showing how they relate to one another–for example, if one subtopic was about “literary devices” and another was about “character development,” then draw an arrow from one topic over to the other so that all four topics are connected together as part of one larger concept (in this case literary analysis). You’ll end up with something like this:
  • Table of contents/outline form(s). If you prefer working with lists rather than drawings and arrows (and most people do), then consider making tables instead! Tables are especially helpful because they allow us to keep track of our research without having it get too messy or confusing as we write out our arguments later on down the line…

Outline what you plan to say.

Once you have a solid idea of what your essay will be about and why, it’s time to start writing. But before you do, it’s important to outline what you plan to say. An outline can help keep track of all the major points and supporting details that need to be included in your paper. It also helps ensure that each paragraph has its own clear focus so that readers won’t get lost or confused as they read through your writing.

An academic essay should have an introduction, body paragraphs with specific topic sentences and supporting evidence/details, and a conclusion (for more information on these components, see our article: How To Write An Essay).

Write a draft of your essay.

Once you’ve got your thesis statement and outline, it’s time to write a draft. You’ll need to get started by sitting down at your computer and opening up a word processor (such as Microsoft Word). Once this is done, it’s time for the actual writing!

In order to make sure that your essay flows well and makes sense, try using a template or rough draft before working on the final copy of your paper. A template will help guide you through what information needs to be included in each section of your essay so that when it comes time for editing later on down the line there will be less room for error–and if there are any errors left over after editing then we can fix those too!

Revise your draft and make changes as needed.

After you have written your draft, it is time to revise and make changes as needed. You should check for grammar, spelling and punctuation errors first. Then check for flow and organization. You may need to add or remove some sentences or paragraphs so that your essay flows smoothly from one point to another. Finally, take a look at word choice; does every word in the sentence mean what it should? If not, change them!

When revising your essay:

  • Look for grammatical mistakes
  • Check spelling accuracy
  • Make sure that each sentence has a clear subject (who) and verb (doing something).

Academic writing is not about just throwing words on the page.

Writing is a process that requires you to think carefully about what you want to say and how best to say it. It’s important to plan your time, organize your notes, outline what you plan to say and revise your draft as needed.

If you’re new at academic writing or if English isn’t your first language then here are some tips:


The process of writing an academic essay can be a bit overwhelming at times, but by following the steps outlined above, you can make it easier on yourself. You will feel more confident in your ability to write a good essay when you understand what is expected from you and how much time it will take. By taking care of these things before starting work on your paper or presentation, you’ll be able to focus more on making sure everything flows together smoothly instead of worrying about little details like grammar errors or formatting mistakes which might distract readers from what really matters most: your ideas!

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