Academic Essay Writing Resource

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Pages: 33

For students at Charles Darwin University

A resource to assist tutors working with

Table of Contents

Purpose of this booklet This booklet aims to provide resources to tutors who work with Indigenous students at Charles Darwin
University. It is intended to provide you with information and exercises to assist you to scaffold students to be successful in their university studies. We focus on writing academic essays, because this is a skill student’s need in most university courses, and is a skill that can be transferred to assessments in other units. We know that students bring a wide range of skills and life experiences to the university setting. What we hope to do is to assist you, as tutor, to build on the students’ existing skills and knowledge, with transferrable skills that will enable them to succeed at university. Our philosophy aligns with the old proverb:

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, but teach him to fish, you feed him for life.”

The academic world


Critical thinking


Preparing to write an essay


Unpacking the essay question


Looking at the marking rubric


Understanding a Brainstorm of the essay topic


Developing a Taxonomy for the essay topic


Academic essay structure


A word on academic language


Writing a thesis statement


Writing an introduction


A note on using headings


Writing a paragraph


Essay: An annotated example




In-text referencing


Appendix 1: Analytical essay


Thanks to Jamie Pomfrett for providing original materials for this guide. Thanks also to Jamie, Debra Dank and David McClay PhD for reviewing this document.
Lesley MacGibbon PhD
ACIKE Staff Development
Charles Darwin University


The Academic World
The ‘academic world’ and the ‘real world’ are not the same. Levin (2004) explains that the ‘academic world’ and the ‘real world’ are not the same, and students need to learn the differences between these worlds.
The real world is where we experience our lives – we live and work, raise children, play or watch sport, spend time with family and friends and interact with the natural world. A lot of what we know about the real world is from our experiences. The academic world on the other hand is one of theories, explanations, ideas and critiques. We can’t experience them the same way as we experience the real world, through seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, smelling. In the academic world we learn from what is spoken, or more often written, about the world.
This means that in the academic world you learn at second hand, from what other people have written, rather than from your own experience. Levin (2004, p
5) argues that:
“The culture of higher education in the Western world is very much a culture of the written world”.

Exercise: Rules of the game
Ask your student which sport they play or follow. On paper or whiteboard draw up two columns. In one column list the rules of the game as the student identifies them. In the other column, list the rules of writing academic essays. Get the student to help to identify these if they can. Your completed list might look something like this:
Rules of soccer(football)

Rules of essay writing

You cannot pick up the ball unless you are goalie.

You must analyse the question carefully to make sure you answer what is asked. You can head the ball in the air.

You must use formal academic English – not slang or txt language.

You must play within the lines of the field.

You cannot just write your opinion. You must back everything you write with evidence (what other people have written).

You cannot physically push or shove players on the other team.

Different lecturers may have different rules about what academic language is – you will need to check with them.

Games are usually 45 mins each half.

You must reference where you got your information from. You must obey the Referee even if you don’t agree