Types of Academic Writing

Many students find academic writing challenging when they get to college and university. This is because students are excepted to write in a formal academic style that follows specific rules.

The following are common Academic Writing styles:


The essay is probably the most common form of academic writing. It is usually divided into three parts: introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion. Essays require students to reference their work with in-text and end-text references (see below for more information on referencing).

Undergraduate courses often require essays from between 500 and 3,000 words. Postgraduate courses can require essays between 2,000 and 10,000 words.


Annotated Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography (sometimes called an AB), is a collection of summaries of academic texts for a specific topic. The AB include an end-text reference at the top of the page, followed by a summary of the article of approximately 200 words.

The purpose of the AB is to show that a student has completed important research on a topic before the writing process.  The AB will then help the writer the essay or report.


Literature Review

A literature review is a form of academic writing that analyses the research that has been conducted on a topic. It can include information about the main theories related to the topic, as well as gaps in the literature that require more research.

Literature reviews often look at the seminal texts for a topic. In other words, they analyse the most important works that have been published in that area.



A portfolio is a collection of individual pieces of work that is completed by a student over a period of time. For example, each week’s lecture or tutorial may require the student to write a portfolio item that uses the information from the session.

A portfolio is sometimes called an Activity Journal or Weekly Journal. In creative classes, Portfolios are often used to showcase student work.



Adult learning often uses reflections. This is because adults often have enough life expereince to be able to relate the information they have learned to real world situations. When adult students learn new information, it is therefore useful to reflect on what they know from their own experience.

Student reflections often follow a specific structure. For example, the reflection may ask the student to consider what they have learned in class, then find examples that match their skills, and explain how this will be useful for their future learning.

Because reflections are based on the student’s perspective opinion, they usually do not require in-text or end text references.



In some subjects, such as business and science, students are expected to write reports. The benefit of writing reports is that they allow students to do their research, show conclusions, then write a list of recommendations that the reader should follow.

Reports are a great way for students to research real world situations and issues. In the daily world of business and government, report writing is common practice. This makes reports a great to think critically about a topic as it occurs in every day life.

The sections of the report often include Cover page, Executive Summary, Discussion / Findings, Conclusion, Recommendations, References, Appendices.

Reports can vary in length from 1000 – 10,000 words. Students should make sure they follow the instructions carefully when writing reports, as the structure can vary significantly.



Students at university are expected to reference. This is because students need to show where they got the information from for their essays.


In-Text Referencing

Most academic papers require in-text referencing. This occurs when the student writer needs to acknowledge the source of the specific piece of information. For example, if there are statistics in a journal article, the student can use these statistics, then add an in-text reference afterwards.

For example, a sentence with an in-text reference may be as follows:

Leading software companies in California that have implemented eLearning have shown an average improvement in staff productivity of 37% (Wallis, 2018, p. 77).


End Text Referencing

End text references show the details of the book, journal or website that contains the information that was used in the in-text reference.

The structure of the end-text reference will be different depending on the source type (book, journal, website, etc.), as well as the referencing style (APA, Chicago, Harvard, etc.).

For example, the structure of an end text reference for a Journal Article using the APA style is as follows:

Author’s Surname, A. B. (year). Article title: Subtitle. Title of Journal, volume (issue), Page range, Digital Object Identifier DOI

Wallis, S. D. (2018). Upskilling IT: Productivity solutions in the IT industry. Journal of International Management, 7(22), pp. 56 – 102


Referencing styles

There are many different referencing styles. The most common styles are MLA, APA, Chicago, Harvard and Vancouver.

The following image shows how end-text references are formatted using the most common referencing styles.


Research is an essential part of being a student at college or university. By researching, you are proving that you can use effective skills in analysing questions, reading and critical thinking skills.

The following resources are important aspects of university research,


Google Scholar

Google Scholar is a very powerful tool that helps students find relevant academic information. It is similar to the normal Google, however, the results listed are for academic books, articles, patents, citations and government reports.

The Google Scholar search engine has great features that allow users to search by date range and subject relevance. Alerts can also be created that show user when new research is published for a specific area.

The Cite button for each reference on Google shows the credibility of each source. The higher the Cite number, the more it has been referenced by other published works.

The inverted commas symbol can also be used to show end-text references.


University Research Databases

When students are enrolled in a college or university course, they will normally gain access to online databases that cover specific academic writing. These databases are very powerful collections of academic work and can cost the university millions of dollars for student access.

Common academic databases include ABI/Inform, Emerald, ProQuest, JSTOR, Academic Search, LexisNexis Academic, ScienceDirect, Scopus, Web of Science, WorldCat, Project Muse.


Academic Writing Skills

The following concepts are important for students to understand with academic writing.


Formal Writing

A formal style should be used when writing in an academic style. The formal style includes the following:

Language Area Academic Style  

Not Academic


No contractions can not can’t
Passive voice it can be seen that… as you see…
Signposting language furthermore, … also …
No Abbreviations kilograms Kgs
Precise words websites things
No Phrasal verbs collect pick up
Generalization Many respondents consider that everyone agrees that




Paraphrasing is the skill of rewriting a sentence so that it keeps the same meaning of the original sentence, but uses different word forms, sentence structure and synonyms.

The following example shows an original sentence, then the paraphrase:

Original sentence:

It is necessary for staff working with multinational companies to have cultural awareness.


Cultural understanding is essential for employees at multinational companies.




Plagiarism is a type of academic misconduct. The most common form of plagiarism occurs when a student copies academic work from an original source but does not include a reference.

Sometimes a student will copy large sections of writing from a book or journal article then submit it as their own writing. This is also plagiarism.

Plagiarism can lead to a student getting a score of zero for a piece of academic writing, so it is essential that students paraphrase their writing.

Looking for synonyms to help your paraphrasing? Check out https://www.thesaurus.com/



Turnitin is software used by thousands of major universities around the world to find plagiarism. It is easy for academic teaching staff to check a student’s work with Turnitin so they can easily see if the student has plagiarised.


Academic Reading

Before a student can start writing, he or she must spend time doing academic reading. Often academic texts such as journal articles and textbooks are challenging to read because they contain difficult vocabulary and complex sentence structures.