Basics of Academic Writing Benjamin L. Stewart, PhD

When will you be asked to complete an academic writing assignment?

  • HCI (semesters 1 y 2)
  • Composition (semester 3, 4, or 5)
  • Academic Writing (7th semester)
  • Thesis Seminar (8th semester)
  • Linguistic courses throughout the BA
  • Any other course where APA is required - Ask instructor if you are not sure!
Parts of an essay
Introduction paragraph

Hook - one sentence

  • Famous quote (No citation but state author's name if known)
  • Essential question
  • Interesting fact, statistic, etc. (citation)

Background - three-five sentences

Introduce the context of the problem, background information, history, etc. that the reader needs to know in order to better understand the thesis statement. Avoid discussing points that will be discussed later in the body paragraphs.


Thesis statement - one sentence

The thesis statement is the main idea of the essay stated in one sentence. It concludes the introduction paragraph (the last sentence) and should include a transition (i.e., introductory phrase, subordinating clause, or a sentence connector). A thesis statement typically includes the following three sections: TOPIC + OPINION, CLAIM, OR POSITION + THREE REASONS OR WAYS.


Body paragraph - each supporting the thesis statement

Conclusion paragraph

Restate and reword the thesis statement (from the introduction) - one sentence

Significance, relevant, big idea, connections with relevant concepts, etc. - three-to-five sentences

Closing statement - one sentence

Sentence Outline - "Skeleton Essay"
  • Topic sentence (reason or way) #1
  • Topic sentence (reason or way) #2
  • Topic sentence (reason or way) #3


APA to avoid plagiarism

APA Cheat Sheet

Formatting Text

  • Times New Roman, font size 12
  • Double space with no added spacing between paragraphs and headings; Microsoft Word tends to add additional spacing between paragraphs (and headings) by default.
  • One-inch margins all the way around (top, bottom, right, and left); An exception might be for theses (8th semester thesis seminar) that are bound, which would require a 1.5 inch left margin while all other margins remain 1.0 inch
  • No more than three level headings; five-paragraph essays only require one level heading.
  • Level I heading should be centered to the page, in bold, and main words are capitalized; level II heading should be aligned to the left, on its own line, in bold, and main words are capitalized; level III heading (if necessary) should be indented as part of the body paragraph, in bold, first word only capitalized, and a period after the last word;
  • All headings should be approximately six to twelve words
Created By
Benjamin Stewart


Created with images by Tom Parsons - "Above Brecon" • FrankWinkler - "landscape nature mountains" • Markus Spiske - "untitled image" • Picdream - "crane hooks hook winch" • João Silas - "Cianorte desktop" • Fabian Grohs - "untitled image" • davide ragusa - "Windy portrait" • GulArt - "shaking hands hand giving welcome" • pixel2013 - "graffiti hauswand skeleton skelet art sprayer wall" • rawpixel - "untitled image"

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