14 Secrets Ways to Write a Winning Academic Essay

What determines the grade you will get in your academic essay? Seriously
Is it the grammar, sentence structure, or luck? Be honest.

Well, be assured that it’s not luck. This means that there a number of things that determine the test on your score. Confused? Let me tell you a story

Back in High School, we were given an essay exam on a topic I was familiar with. Sadly, I thought I was going to get a straight A. 100% sure.

But, I didn’t even come close to an A (of course the professor was damn crazy and tough). You see, different instructors look for different things in an academic essay.  But what should you do to get that fair grade in all essays?

Tooltip:  this article helps you write a goddamn good academic essay. Read it from start to end. Thank me later.

Going straight to the point, let’s get started

 #1. Understand the question

If you need to read the question in your academic essay more than 30 times to understand, do it. Let’s take an example of an essay question:

Poverty is still a major problem in developing countries as much as they continue to receive financial aid. It has been suggested that other forms of aid should be provided in developing countries to reduce poverty. Do you agree with the above statement? If yes, why? If no, why not? State and explain other forms of aids that could be provided.

So what does it take to understand the question above? To begin with, you need to write down the keywords like this:

  • Poverty
  • Developing countries
  • Financial aid
  • Other forms of aid

In short, identifying the important keywords in the question will help you to come up with many ideas.

#2. Read different sources related to the question

Sources can break or make your academic essay. And by the way, you have to think a lot before selecting your sources. In our previous post, we explained how and where to find the right sources.

#3. Plan how you will handle the academic essay

Allan Lakein said that “Failing to plan is planning to fail”?

Well, we do not want that to happen, do we? Like any other assignment, you must plan before writing the essay.

You can begin by asking yourself how you will handle the academic paper. How will you write the introduction, body, and conclusion?

But that’s not all, how many sources should you use? Brainstorm yourself to get more questions. In fact, you can list down the general subtopics that you think will be relevant to the topic

When coming up with subtopics for the essay, ensure they are related to the key points of the paper.

#4. Basic Outline of the academic essay

While this may be done in the previous subsection, it is wise to do it separately.

The basic outline for an essay includes the introduction, body, and conclusion. Hopefully, by now you understand the topic. In this part, it will be easier to come up with a good introduction.

After writing the intro, write the body. Consider having subtopics. Just like paragraphs, subtopics must have the topic sentence, evidence, claim and an example.

#5. Word count

Did you know you can get an F for not meeting the required word count in your academic essay?

Ooh well, that is sad.

Isn’t it?

Well, that is not entirely true.  To meet the word count in academic papers, please plan and write down how many words you want in each section to have. Take for instance a 1000 words academic essay.  How would you do it?

100 words introductions, the body could be 800 words and the conclusion 100 words, Boom!

And your word count is done. Impressive right?

#6. Get to the point

If you can use five words to explain your ideas in the paper, then don’t use seven. Short sentences are better than long sentences.



    • They are easy to understand
    • They guarantee fewer chances of going off topic
    • You can’t bore the reader with short sentences
  • It helps to avoid redundancy

 #7. Use the correct transitions

Transitions are words that help you to maintain flow from one sentence or paragraph to another. The most popular transition words are:

  1. However – to show a contrast
  2. Because – to give a reason
  3. Likewise/similarly – to mean the same as
  4. Finally/So – used when giving a conclusion.
  5. Or – to show options

An example:

The Rwandese government has built schools, roads, and housing for its citizens using financial aid. However, in Zimbabwe not much has been with the financial aid received every year. (Just an example)

However’ is a transition word used in the example to show contrast. Try reading the sentence without, ‘however’. Note any difference?

Yes, transitions in the academic essay help the reader move from one sentence or paragraph to the next with ease.

Tooltip:  use the correct transitions to avoid changing the meaning of the sentence.

#8. Avoid using colloquial phrases

  • Rwanda is ‘kind of a developing country that is making strides to reduce poverty.
  • Good governance, education, and accountability are ‘sort of required for effective use of resources in developing countries.
  • It is extremely unethical for a leader to use financial aid for self-enrichment.

The bolded words in the above sentences are only used in conversations and informal writing, not in an academic essay.

Using extremely, sort of and kind of does not add any value to the sentence.

#9. Avoid contractions

Ooh, well the list is endless but it cannot be complete without talking about contractions.

Contractions are the short forms of words. For example, using isn’t instead of is not, they’re instead of they are not. Just like colloquial phrases, contractions are only used in conversations and informal writing.

Try to avoid using them when writing your essay.

#10. Understand the meaning of a synonym before using one

Although synonyms are words that have the same meaning, when interchanged they can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

For example, according to Thesaurus, the synonyms for poverty are;

hardship, bankruptcy, deficiency, shortage, depletion.

Let’s now replace poverty in the sentence with shortage or depletion. The sentence would read:

Rwanda is a developing country that is making strides to reduce depletion.

Well, it gets more complicated if you use the wrong synonym in the wrong context. Make sure it actually makes sense when used in that sentence.

#11. Homonyms in essay writing

These are words that have the same spelling. Some are pronounced the same way but have a different meaning. In the simple terms, it’s like two people who are called Alex.

The two may share the name, but they are entirely different people. For example, ‘minute’ is used to indicate a measure of time while a minute can be used to mean tiny.

To be honest, be careful when using homonyms. Consider using a dictionary if you often confuse such words.

#12. Cite the sources of the academic essay well

References or citations give evidence of where you got your information.

There are different reference styles used in writing academic papers:

  • APA
  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • Oxford
  • Harvard

When writing your academic essay, use the reference style requested by your professor. If it’s MLA use MLA and don’t mix different styles in your essay.

#13. Formatting and Style

Although your professor will indicate the required formatting, most academic papers use Times TimesNew Romans 12 pt size, double-spaced and ‘1’ margins.

The first sentence of each paragraph in your academic paper should also be indented. You can easily change the above settings on your Microsoft Word to default.

#14. Always proofread and review your essay

The first draft of your essay will most likely have a few errors. Your sentences may also be inconsistent.

Take some time to go through your work to make sure that your points are related to the topic. When you are done with reviewing your essay, use online tools such as Grammarly, HemmingwayApp, and Turnitin.

These tools help you to check grammar, spellings, sentence structure, and plagiarism of your academic essay.

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