Types of Academic Writing

There are five major types of academic writing:

Each type has a particular style of language you are to use, as well as a specific purpose to fulfill. Depending on the type of academic writing, there are different ordering and composing rules that must be followed to prepare a sound paper. However, when dealing with some assignments, you may even combine different academic writing styles to get more organized conclusions or impress your audience better. 

Personal or Reflective Writing

Reflective writing is evidence of reflective thinking. In an academic context, reflective thinking usually​ involves:

  • Looking back at something (often an event, i.e. something that happened, but it could also be an idea or object).
  • Analyzing the event or idea (thinking in depth and from different perspectives, and trying to explain, often with reference to a model or theory from your subject). 
  • Thinking carefully about what the event or idea means for you and your ongoing progress as a learner and/or practicing professional.

Reflective writing is thus more personal than other kinds of academic writing. The focus is on your thoughts and experiences. This is where you present your thoughts on a reading, discuss a personal experience, apply a theory to a real-life example, or some other focus that asks you to think about and explain your thoughts and experiences.  In this type of writing, one should use the first person voice (I, me, my)  and writing is usually less formal than a standard research paper. return to page top.

Descriptive Writing

The primary purpose of descriptive writing is to describe a person, place or thing in such a way that a picture is formed in the reader's mind. You should provide the reader with plenty of sensory images, which can immerse them in the atmosphere of your paper or help to paint a better picture using their imagination. 

Characteristics of descriptive writing

  1. Good descriptive writing includes many vivid sensory details that paint a picture and appeals to all of the reader's senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste when appropriate. Descriptive writing may also paint pictures of the feelings the person, place or thing invokes in the writer. 
  2. Good descriptive writing often makes use of figurative language such as analogies, similes and metaphors to help paint the picture in the reader's mind.
  3. Good descriptive writing uses precise language. General adjectives, nouns, and passive verbs do not have a place in good descriptive writing. Use specific adjectives and nouns and strong action verbs to give life to the picture you are painting in the reader's mind.
  4. Good descriptive writing is organized. Some ways to organize descriptive writing include:chronological (time), spatial (location), and order of importance. When describing a person, you might begin with a physical description, followed by how that person thinks, feels and acts. return to page top.

Analytical Writing

The analytical type is more focused on the analysis and organizing the information. If you want to write an excellent analytical paper, you are to devote plenty of your time to organize all the materials you are to use to make your work more well-structured. 

Among the methods that you can apply in your analytical writing, there are:

  • Analyzing;
  • Examining;
  • Comparing and contrasting;
  • Relating

Highlight your critical examination or analysis of a topic in order to interpret the strengths and weaknesses of a debate. 

  • E.g., if asked to analyze two models, you would look at each author’s claims, the evidence used to support the model, consider the assumptions, and then demonstrate how the models are similar and different.

Synonyms: explain, consider, determine, dissect, divide, estimate, evaluate, figure, interpret, investigate, resolve, scrutinize.​ return to page top.

Persuasive or Argumentative Writing

Persuasive type of academic writing is quite close to the analytical one but has one crucial difference. Here, presenting your viewpoint is a must. Persuasive writing makes you convince the audience that your certain idea or position on a particular issue is the right one. You collect various materials from trustworthy sources and consider which facts can support your thoughts in the best way. Simple "because I think so" won't be enough here, and you should approach the evidence gathering appropriately:

  • Read previous research on your topic and study different views on it.
  • Look through your paper's organization. How are the paragraphs structured? How is the evidence built?
  • Then, think about what methods of persuasion in different writings are the most powerful.
  • If it is possible, divide your viewpoints into sections to make the whole writing more understandable.Using sound reasoning, support a claim with research evidence​.
    • Fact: Emotional intelligence is “perceptiveness and skill in dealing with emotions and interpersonal relationships” (“Emotional intelligence, n.d., para. 2).
    • Claim: Emotional intelligence is a key factor to consider when assessing someone’s leadership potential. 
  • Synonyms: appeal, assert, claim, contend, defend, demonstrate, display, establish, explain, justify, persuade, present, reason, show. return to page top.

Critical Writing

Critical writing has much in common with a persuasive one except for one thing - you are to consider other viewpoints. When you deal with critical writing, you are not limited by only your ideas. You can and should look at things through the prism of other aspects and people, for example, a researcher who has studied your subject matter. You can go through different suggestions, doubts or thoughts in detail and present your interpretation. At the same time, you should back your viewpoint with enough evidence as well, and remember about the structure of your writing. Here, you will be faced with:

  • Debate
  • Evaluation
  • Disagreement
  • Critique

If you know what critical writing is and can do it well, you probably have excellent skills in preparing papers since that is one of the main requirements for this particular type.​ return to page top.