Learning how to write an English academic essay well is extremely important for anyone who wants to study abroad or who wants to pursue a degree at a Western university. However, writing well in English isn’t only a means to obtain a higher education degree or to be accepted into a program abroad. For anyone interested in succeeding beyond university and academia, they will still need to know these critical writing skills.

Many Taiwanese students approach English academic writing with a great deal of fear. Some students simply choose to write their essays in Chinese and ask for professional help to convert it into English. Other students may bite the bullet and try to write the paper directly in English, but they lack the ability to construct an essay that contains proper academic structure and support.

Those who don’t have a good grasp of writing structure and who have never learned how to properly analyze and organize their thoughts tend to fail when they try to write on their own. Even if they have a large English vocabulary and are proficient in English grammar, they find it extremely difficult to write English academic essays that will be logical and well constructed to the end reader.

Well written English academic essays contain proper structure, and various forms of academic writing are styled differently depending on their purpose. In this article, we’re going to go over a few of the common types of essays that students are required to write in American universities. Next, we will go over the specific structure used to support these English academic essays.

Extended reading: What is academic writing and why is it important?

3 common types of academic writing

Descriptive Writing

The purpose of a narrative English essay is to provide information and state the facts. In such essays writers will generally describe objects, locations, emotions, experiences, and events in detail. Narrative academic English writing is suitable for when you need to describe a single event, express yourself, or document a research process. The focus of narrative writing is to immerse readers into an experience the author is trying to recreate. Therefore, it is appropriate to use metaphors or various other sensory descriptors to immerse the reader. Compared with other types of English essays, narrative academic writing is a more vivid way to engage the audience.

However, writers should beware that when writing a narrative English essay, they shouldn’t simply state the facts of an event or keep a record of a process. They need to be aware of the deeper meaning behind what they’re writing, and answer questions such as: “What have I learned from this event and experience?”, or “Why was I so impressed with this experience?”

Descriptive English writing usually contain the following characteristics:

  • Centered on a specific topic
  • Focused on on themes and not on a personal argument
  • Topic is clearly introduced in the introductory paragraph (You can use rhetorical tone of voice or make a bold statement in the Hook to quickly bring attention to the topic)
  • More dynamic and delicate writing styles can be used
  • Suitable for describing a single event and/or experience

Analytical Writing

When a professor asks students to categorize specific information and facts, or compare two pieces of information, it is appropriate to use analytical writing for academic papers. Analytical essay writing is used to analyze and compare two different theories. Therefore, the essay needs to include a critical thinking process and come to well thought out conclusions. It should not focus on personal opinions, but portray objective analysis, and focus on explaining “why”, “how”, and “so what?”.

Analytical papers usually have the following characteristics:

  • Are supported by research into academic documents and fact-based information
  • Stimulates ideas through a brainstorming process
  • Compares similarities and differences according to specific or partial facts (shown in the form of color coding, flowcharts, tree diagrams, and charts)
  • Every section and paragraph in the paper needs to revolve around the main axis of your analysis
  • Suitable to for analysis and comparison of different theories

Persuasive Writing

The biggest purpose of persuasive English essays is to persuade the readers. When you need to debate, evaluate, discuss a certain proposition, and persuade readers to support your argument, it is best to use persuasive academic writing as the format for your essay.

In order to strengthen your stance, when you write a persuasive English essay you must present some evidence to support your argument, such as public academic information, credible facts, research, quotes from others’ evaluations, and concrete evidence. You must also organize this information in a way that supports your argument to ensure your structure is clear and more convincing.

Persuasive English essays are usually the strongest and most powerful, they also have the following characteristics:

  • The topic is of interest to the reader
  • Contains in-depth understanding of the pros and cons of your argument
  • Every piece of evidence presented in the article must support your main argument and be directly related to the argument
  • If you want to strengthen your stance, emotional appeals can be added at the appropriate moments
  • Suitable for expressing a clear personal argument on the subject, provided it includes supporting evidence

Extended reading: How to write a simple persuasive essay (SPE)

Clarifying the purpose of a piece of academic writing and establishing good writing structure are two important starting points to writing a good academic English paper.

Before starting your essay, besides spending time deciding on the topic of your paper, it is also necessary to clarify the purpose of the essay. This is how you will know which writing structure is the most appropriate. Clearly establishing a writing structure can help you more easily construct an essay, more efficiently conduct research and collection of information, and better defend the arguments you want to make. 

From these commonly used English writing structures, we can also see that the point of writing essays is not just to complete an assignment. Through the process of writing essays, students improve their logical thinking skills, research abilities, and critical thinking skills.

Based on our many years of teaching experience, we have found that Taiwanese students excel at exams that test their knowledge of English mechanics. However, most of the students still lack the ability to convey personal ideas and opinions, and are weak at organizing their thoughts or analyzing facts. Writing with the absence of personal opinions makes it difficult for them to communicate their ideas clearly, and makes it even more difficult for them to write a good article or essay. 

Englist is a program in Taipei that focuses on English academic writing. The writing courses we provide are all taught by teachers who speak English natively and have solid backgrounds in education. We not only help students learn the structure of English essays, but we also encourage them to expand their worldview, strengthen the depth of their thinking process, and develop their analytical skills.

If you are struggling with an English academic paper or want to improve your English writing ability and communication skills, don’t hesitate to contact us.


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