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The Beginning of Academic Writing

29 Apr 2016Student Tips

The ability to write a research papers is considered to be the main criterion for a successful education. This kind of texts, written "by scientist for other scientists” on highly specialized topics are called “an academic writing”. Generally, all genres of  the academic writing could be divided into two main groups - primary (such as an academic review, a monograph, a dissertation) and secondary (an abstract, a thesis, an academic presentation or a description of the research project).

However, there are a few genres, which are at the interface between scientific and journalistic styles, such as scientific articles or critical outlines. Researchers of a modern society should master all of the writing styles to obtain a possibilty to speak in wide public as experts. Students should study basics of the academic writing in order to gain another perspective of professional self-realization. Student term papers and degree works could be considered as a training forms of the primary scientific texts. It means that a student should act as a researcher, investigating a problem from a new angle and putting the results in the academic format. Thereby, a question or a given topic should be examined from the point of view of a certain methodology, analyzed with the applicable means and hence explained in an original way.

Essay as a literary genre

An essay as a form of literature writing has appeared in 1580 with the publication of Michel Montaigne’s book “Essais” - a collection of short obserations on psychological and phylosophical topics. His works drastically differend from other literary compositions and here is how. In French language words “essayer” and “essai” means “an attempt”, hence the essay is a composition, written in attempt to understand something. The literary discovery of Michel Montaigne lies in the fact that with expressing the ideas on paper, you are helping them to form.

Short compositions in a form of essay quickly became popular due to the clearness and utter frankness of the style, combined with the simplicity of exposition.

Essay as an Educational Tool 

The popularity of an essay as a literary genre has grown with the attention of such writers as S. Coleridge, E. Burke, T. de Quincey and others, but the first appearance of essays as a scientific writing has emerged only at the end of 19th century, with the change of public opinion toward the university system in the USA. This change was influenced by the idea that university professors should conduct scientific researches in addition to teaching students. This idea together with a concept of scientific degree, university department and whole structure of the educational establishment was borrowed from German universities at the end of 19th century. Starting with the Johns Hopkins University (est. 1876), the modern model of higher educational establishment has gained a vast popularity.

Inasmuch as teachers of natural sciences were also researchers and were conducting their studies at the universities, same requirement was put to professors of literature and languages and at the end of 19th century they were obliged to teach an academic writing to students. However, back then this practice had a big disadvantage - being experts in the field of humanities, they were not necessarily good writers. However, the things have changed eventually with the development of an academic writing as an independent university discipline.

In the modern scientific community essay gained popularity as an educational writing of students and young professionals. Essay are required for admission to universities, colleges and at job application.

Essay Writing Requirements

Essay is a small literary form, which does not imply a multy-choice format and focuses on the author’s opinion about a single question or a problem. For the successful essay it is very important to formulate a question to which the answer must be found in the further writing. 

However, the good formulation of a question is not enough, the essay should provide a reasoned answer. In a classical literary essay (let us refer to Montaigne’s “Essais”) the answer is not always particular and clear; these attempts are rather experiment without the significant results. In fact, the classical essay is a thought, a knowledge analysis of the author for a given topic. On the conratry, the students essay should clearly express author’s position and give a reasoned answer, based on the classical proof system. 
Depending on the specifics of the subject, the presentation of essays and topics may vary significantly. In some cases the essay could be written in a form of the analysis of the literature on a given topic or as a review of the existing studies. Also, the essay can be realized as an attempt of author’s comprehension of a particular aspect the knowledge or the experience gained. The essay could be based on the description and generalization of author’s attitude toward the question.

Writing university or college essays is extremely useful practice, because it allows students clearly formulate and express personal opinion, structure the information and use main term in argumenting their position on given topics.

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