Essay Writing and Academic Writing: Similarities and Differences Explained by Our Expert Writers

essay writing VS academic writing

Students can have many questions about writing essays. Some of them are practical — how to write a good thesis, what a proper paper structure is, and so on. These questions are often reasons for a google search on something like “how to write an academic paper.” Other questions are more theoretical and help students to have a stronger background knowledge. One such tricky question is about the similarities and differences between academic and essay writing. 

We’ve invited James Snyder and Kate Roth, the Senior Supervisors from the Essay Writing Department, to talk about the differences between essay and academic writing. In the interview, they’ve given explicit answers to the most common questions about academic writing.

Q: What are the different types of essay writing?

James: This question can have many correct answers, really. When it comes to typification, there are always a few of them. You can find typification that includes four, five, ten, twelve, or more essay types. One of the most common and shortest means of categorization divides essays into argumentative, expository, narrative, and descriptive essays. As you can see, everything depends on what you want to do with your reader — convince, explain, share your experience, or just describe something for them. 

common essay types

Q: What are the different types of academic writing?

Kate: It depends on the academic area. Let’s begin with the basics. What is academic writing? When we say “academic”, we mean that it has a relation to official science and education, as far as education provides us with basic knowledge of official science (or not so basic, depending on your level). I just want to say that the types of academic writing depend on the particular major. It’s clear that academic writing for philology students and for those who are studying physics will be different. Of course, I can provide some examples of academic writing types, such as case studies, research articles, literature reviews, or reports. But their relevance will depend on the field. Some majors will include case studies and reports, and students of others can get their degrees never facing these types of academic writing. 

Q: How do I write an academic essay?

James (smiles): After you get a proper amount of sleep.

Kate (giggles): And eat well.

James: And clearly define what you will write about.

Kate: Actually, academic essay writing starts even long before a student chooses the first words if only it is not the title of the paper. The peculiarity of academic writing is that a writer must use scientific sources to make the essay relevant and grounded in a contemporary scientific context. The first step that any student must take is to collect sources that will become the basis for the essay. After that, it is necessary to think about the structure.

James: Or even write an outline.

Kate: Yes, indeed. An outline is very helpful. When a student has a good outline, writing the essay becomes very easy. They just need to turn the points in the outline into full paragraphs.  

stages of essay writing

Q: How are academic and business writing similar?

James: Actually, they can even be the same.

Kate: Yes, as I said – ​​academic essay writing depends on the major.

James: And the business major clearly exists. Hence, business writing can be included in academic writing. But that does not mean that they are absolutely the same. Business is a specific area with its own rules and a lot of numbers. Because of that, business writing can include some papers with case studies and calculations and be written without additional sources and not be considered academic. 

Q: How is academic writing different from other types of writing?

Kate: It depends on what those other types of writing are.

James: Like with the work that business majors do that we already talked about. It may be part of academic writing and may not be.

Kate: Let’s look at the basics one more time. Google will tell us that academic write is “a formal style of writing used in universities and scholarly publications.”

So, generally speaking, any paper written by a student, even if it is an essay about yourself without any sources or a strict structure, can also be included in academic writing.

In the first years of university, professors can often load students with essays for writing skills development. But speaking more strictly, academic writing is a very specific type of text that requires a wide use of sources and has a defined structure for every paragraph and almost every sentence in it. Due to this complexity, students often have problems with writing academic papers in their first years. 

James: Yes, it can be really difficult to hold all those details in your head.

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Q: How is academic writing different from writing a letter?

James: In all of its components — language, structure, the use of sources…

Kate: It depends on the type of the letter. For instance, application letters can be considered part of academic writing. 

James: But if we are talking about common letters, written from person to person… I mean, some private business…

Kate: In such cases, a work of academic writing and a letter will be as different as night and day. A letter is written in the first person, even if it is a very official one. Academic writing, in turn, forbids the use of first-person pronouns and states that the narrative must be as objective as possible. You will hardly cite anything in the letter, and academic writing, as we’ve already said, requires using different scientific works to support the ideas presented. Their structure is also very different. In a letter, things can be left very vague only if it is not a very official one, such as an application. An academic paper has a strict structure. The easiest and most general one includes an introduction, body, and conclusion, but often, the particular type of academic paper means that you must have some specific parts. For example, a literature review (yes, it can be both a separate work and part of an academic paper as well) or a methodology section.   

Essay Writing VS Academic Writing:   

essay writing vs academic writing

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Steven Bloom
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Steven is an IT student who constantly seeks new opportunities for self-development. He is also fond of popular culture and entertainment. Lately, Steven has started writing about the challenges he faces as a student. He finds it helpful to brainstorm when difficult tasks arise.