Other than conventional assessments tests, CATs and main examinations, academic papers form an important part of grading system in high schools, colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning. For students, academic papers have over the years become an important part of their academic life. Without knowledge of research methods and lack of proper writing skills, writing a good academic paper can be a challenge. An insight on how to conduct research and write these papers is essential, before starting to write.

Keywords: academic paper, college essay, research paper


Writing Guide

Students' first test of writing is at elementary levels, through writing compositions and short stories. As they advance to high school and colleges, the demand for these skills become relevant. Contrary to the compositions, academic papers require prior research before drafting. Therefore, academic papers, require different writing skills. The purpose of an academic paper is to portray gathered knowledge, and disseminate it by writing, and inform other people or readers.

According to Dartmouth (2013), an academic paper is writing done by scholars for other scholars. From this definition, the reader of the academic paper has high expectations of the paper; hence, students need proper research skills and excellent writing skills to deliver the results. It is also important to appreciate the nature, level, and subject of the academic paper, though the demands may vary depending on these categories. Term papers, essays, research papers, thesis, and dissertation, serve as major examples of academic papers.


A visit to a library marks the beginning of a research through which the paper is written. The purpose of a research is to find answers to questions, which are interpreted as titles of the academic papers. The University of Kansa (2013) outlines the various reasons why research is important before writing. Research gives new information to the writer to build on their case, as well as examples to be provided in the papers. In addition, facts and statistics obtained through research add to the credibility of the academic paper.

Research should be based on the keywords or topics – to minimize chances of having irrelevant information in the paper. The research can be done on books, magazines, journal articles, newspapers, videos, or even personal interviews. The mode of research, in such cases, will depend on the nature of the topic or specific instruction given. For efficient research, The University of Notre Dame (2009) recommends the use of footnotes to build up a “get list” from books and articles. Once the research is completed, a solid foundation to build an academic paper has been built.


According to Phillips University of Marburg (2012), all academic papers should be written following a particular guideline. For instance, a formal outline of the academic paper is important in setting out the body of the essay. The title page, introduction, body, and conclusion form the basic structure of most academic papers. Some research papers, however, may require additional options, or a different approach. A good example is a thesis, which needs drafting of a thesis statement, putting a table of contents, discussions, and results. In essence, students ought to do research on the nature of the academic paper, and how it should be written.

An academic paper should strive to answer questions posed on the topic – comprehensively. In doing this, proper grammar and arrangement of sentences structures is important. The legibility of the paper, to both scholars and laymen, should be driven by the desire of the writer to inform. In addition, knowledge of reference and writing styles is mandatory. Proper referencing, through various styles, will help in coming up with a non plagiarized academic paper.

Various writing styles, as explained by Purdue Online Writing Lab (2013) can be used in writing academic papers. Each style has distinct features – structure of the academic paper, in-text referencing, footnotes, and general referencing. The choice of the writing style depends on the instructions given by the lecturer. Some of these styles include MLA, APA, Harvard, Chicago Manual, among other. Compliance with all the rules of the style is important to make the paper credible and acceptable.