Academic Essay Writing for EFL Learners

Elaboration, 2018

99 Pages




Unit 1 : Getting Ready to Write
Section One: Pre-writing Stage
Brainstorming Techniques: Freewriting, Listing and Clustering
Section Two: While-writing Stage
Section Three: Final-writing Stage
Proofreading and Editing
Essay Revision Checklist

Unit 2: Five-Paragraphs Essay
Section One: The Three Parts of the Essay
The Introductory Paragraph
The Body of the Essay
The Concluding Paragraph
Transition between Paragraphs of the Essay

Unit 3 : Types of Essays
Section One: Descriptive Essay
Steps for Writing Descriptive Essay
Basic Features of Descriptive Essay
Types of Descriptive Essay
The Three Parts of Descriptive Essay
Descriptive Essay Checklist
Section Two: Narrative Essay
Basic Steps for Writing Narrative Essay
Useful Language
Basic Essay Format
Model Essay: Granndy
Narrative Essay Checklist
Section Three: Example/Illustration Essay
Stages for Writing Definition Essay
Useful Language.
Basic Essay Format
Model Essay: Evil
Illustration Essay Checklist
Section Four: Argumentative Essay
Useful Language
Basic Essay Format
Instruction and Question Words
Argumentative Essay Checklist
Section Five: Contrast and Comparison Essay
Useful Language
Patterns of Organisation
Comparison-and-Contrast Checklist
Section Six: Classification Essay
Steps for Writing Classification Essay
Useful Language
Sample Essay: Food
Classification Essay Checklist
Section Seven: Cause and Effect Essay
Planning the Essay
Transition Words and Connectors
Types of Organisation
Instruction Words
Sample Essay: How Weather has Changed World History
Cause/ Effect Checklist
List of Figures
List of Tables


Writing is both a challenging and an interesting task that requires much writer’s attention, that is, it is a type of communication that expresses ideas and makes a chain between the writer and his readers. Thereby, it is unique, creative, and is done for purpose.

Among the most essential forms of academic writings are essays that writers start to learn and write from college. They develop an idea in four or five paragraphs, or in a whole book, but the most commonly used are five paragraphs essays or timed essays because they can be written in class period.

‘Lectures on Academic Essay Writing’ is a booklet for second year students. It is an outgrowth of teaching academic writing for many years. Our experience as teachers and writers has taught us that writing is the most difficult task that requires much practice. Learning how to write essays needs more basics rather than instructions especially in classrooms. Indeed, classrooms are learning communities that are improved through evaluating their members’ writing skills. Henceforth, this booklet provides an unpretentious manner on teaching students how to write different types of essays through practices that reinforce their writing skill and provide them with a supportive learning environment that helps them to be good writers.

The first part of the booklet provides a detailed rehearsal of the different stages of essay writing, followed by a part that introduces the different elements of an essay, while the last part displays essential explanations on argumentative, process, cause/effect, and comparison/contrast essays. Hence, this part addresses the writing process from paragraph to essay.

This work-book offers activities and practices on topics that are linked to their daily lives. Furthermore, the different units supply the student with bases on the use of linking and transition signals.

Unit 1 Getting Ready to Write

Goals of the following lessons:

- Identifying the different stages for essay writing

- Pre-writing Stage
- While-writing Stage
- Final-writing Stage

Getting Ready to Write

This unit is intended to give the learner an overview about the process of writing an essay through introducing the student to the necessary stages. It will also provide some activities since the best way to learn how to write an essay is through practice. Hence, planning an essay takes more time because the writer has many ideas to organise. Let’s introduce some points concerning how to plan an essay:

Section 1 Pre-writing Stage

In this stage, the writer has to select the topic depending on two essential points:

- According to his attitudes.
- According to an assignment.

After selecting the topic, the writer has to narrow it in order to be discussed in an essay of five paragraphs or a timed essay since students are required to write an essay in a precise period of time.

After selecting and narrowing the topic, the writer has to gather ideas for his subject. In fact, there are many ways including listing, clustering, freewriting, journal writing, interviewing classmates, friends and gathering data from secondary sources such as books and journals.

After collecting references, the writer has to generate a thesis statement which will form the basis of the whole essay. This idea (thesis statement) has to be developed through supporting ideas (generating supporting ideas). Hence, he has to brainstorm ideas that fit the thesis statement. After formulating the main idea, the learner has to keep sure that his idea suits the purpose of the essay. In order to develop the outline of the essay, he has to follow these steps:

Brainstorming Techniques: Freewriting, Listing and Clustering

Brainstorming is the first step through which the learner generates and organises his ideas. He has to write everything that comes to his mind, so that he will not forget any point later on. In fact, brainstorming has many advantages. For instance, it helps the learner to select the topic according to an assignment and the time allotted. Hence, this part will teach the student how to brainstorm his ideas employing either freewriting, listing techniques or mapping:


Most of students prefer to employ the freewriting technique since it helps them especially when they have a short timed essay on one hand and many ideas about the topic. This technique involves writing without stopping. It should be called flow writing since the writer remains focusing on analysing the topic until it is finished. He does not take into consideration grammar, spelling or punctuation at this stage.


The student’s essay assignment:

Adrienne Rich wrote “Lying is done with words and also with silence”. Do you agree? Use your personal experience and/or your observations to support your answer.

A Short Freewriting Draft on the Subject

Do I agree? I think so. Is it a lie if you don’t say something when you know something? Not technically, but it has the same effect, doesn’t it? I remember when I saw Jay with someone else but I didn’t tell Karen. She never came out and asked me if Jay was cheating on her, but I knew. But that’s not really a lie is it so what do you call it? But there are more important cases where not telling the truth can be deadly. Like if you know someone is planning to commit a crime, and you don’t tell anyone. Didn’t someone go to jail for not telling the police she knew about the Oklahoma City bombing before it happened? But that’s not a lie, it’s just not telling, so not telling is not the same as lying. But it can have equally terrible consequences. I guess the point is that you know a truth but you don’t reveal it. So they’re not the same but they do the same thing. People can get hurt. Unless you believe what you don’t know won’t hurt you. But that probably falls into the same category as a white lie. It’s the other lies and other silences that are the problem (Smith, 2003, pp. 32-33).

A closer look on the short draft reveals that the student presented many issues and provided many examples and arguments that help him in the developmental part of his essay. He also gave definitions to a lie and found a thesis statement to start the introductory paragraph of his essay. Through reading this drat, the student can find that there are lots of run-on sentences, repetitions and informal language. Thus, the freewriting technique can help the student to generalise his ideas and look after his language.


- Using the freewriting technique, brainstorm your ideas according to the assignment given to you. Keep sure that you have enough ideas about the topic in order to use this technique.
- Imagine that you get a work as an engineer in architecture. Describe a time when you make an error in some of your plans and, hence make the lives of many people in danger or risk. Thus, what are the solutions to avoid that risk?


Unlike freewriting technique, listing focuses on listing ideas not putting them into sentences. It is also of eminent importance for collaborative works in groups and takes a short period of time in comparison to freewriting.


In this example, the student has to list his ideas about a given topic.

In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge your generation will face? What ideas do you have to deal with this issue?

The answer of the student was as follows:

- Being overwhelmed by technology.
- Staying in physically touch when everything becomes virtual.
- How will we know what’s real?
- If people live longer, what about the generation gap?
- Find better ways to take care of parents, and grandparents.
- Being overwhelmed by information.
- What about the people who don’t have access to technology—social inequality.
- The environment.
- Slow consumption of our resources.
- Recycle more.
- Come up with alternative fuel sources.
- World government?
- Disease—new viruses—bird flu?
- What about our new power for destruction, biowarfare?

(Smith, 2003, p. 34)


Activity 1:

List your ideas in fifteen minutes about the following topic:

There are many factors that help one to build a strong identity, what are these factors?

Activity 2:

Employ both techniques to brainstorm your ideas and write a timed essay on the importance of research at university level. Compare which technique is suitable for this topic.


Clustering is another technique employed for brainstorming. It helps to make a connection between your ideas and create subtopics that can be developed into topic sentences. In order to draw a map, you have to draw circles. The central circle should contain the main idea that will be developed into a thesis statement later on. Then, you have to draw other circles that consist of sub-ideas that make the topic sentences of the developmental paragraphs.


illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1.1. Clustering (Adopted from: Robitaille & Connelly, 2007, p. 40)


Use clustering technique as a part of brainstorming and write an essay about the pros and cons of employing the social media.

Section 2 While-writing Stage

This stage includes three important parts mainly drafting, editing-reflecting and revising. Thus, after generalising ideas through brainstorm technique, the learner has now to put them into an essay. He has also to decide which idea is the thesis statement and what are the topic sentences?


It involves drafting the first version of the essay and develops the subject matter. Unlike the previous stage, the student has to decide the thesis statement, the topic sentences and the supporting details. Therefore, he has to select which idea is appropriate to be a thesis statement that can be developed for a whole essay. However, drafting the body of the essay with its conclusion or the introduction depends on the writers’ choice. Some decide to draft the introduction first and others prefer to write the body with its conclusion rather than the introduction. Besides, writing the draft becomes easier if the student brainstorms well his ideas employing one of the previous techniques.

Drafting the Introduction

The introduction is the most important part of an essay because it introduces the reader to the topic, provides a theoretical background about the subject and the main idea that the whole essay revolves around. The writer has not to start with the thesis statement first in writing the introduction but with the theoretical background and the purpose.[1]


My car is indispensable to me. I am a single mother of two children and I live ten miles out of town. I also work twenty hours a week and I am taking classes at the community college. Without a car, I would be lost. Lot of the kids, I see at school, have new cars, but I do not see how they can afford them. I know I cannot even though nothing would make me or my kids happier than owning a new car. My car has lots of disadvantages because it’s unreliable, costs me too much for repairs, and its appearance (Robitaille & Connelly, 2007, p. 80).

Drafting the Conclusion

When the student finishes the introduction and the body of his essay, writing the conclusion is the final step. Thus, he has to read again the draft in order to write the conclusion depending on the thesis statement and supporting details within the developmental paragraphs.

The main purpose of the conclusion is to bring the essay into an end. In fact, the length of the conclusion depends largely on the topic being explored and the essay. There are many points that the writer should take into account in conclusion writing:

- Reminding the reader of the thesis statement.
- Summarising the most important points discussed in the body of the essay.


My car is a junker. Even though I hate the thought of spending the money, I guess it is about time to start looking for a later model used car. I will have to work more hours to make the payments, but it will be worth it to have a car that I will feel safe in. I would also like a car that would not cost an arm and a leg in repairs and that my kids would not be embarrassed to be seen in (Robitaille & Connelly, 2007, p. 81).

Practice: Select one of the following topics and write a draft taking into account how to generalise ideas.

- Music
- Youth
- Technology
- Marriage

Section 3 Final-writing Stage (Revising)


Proofreading and Editing

It is the final stage in the process of writing in general. It involves reading the work in order to check language structure (spelling and grammatical mistakes, punctuation and capitalisation). For this reason, the essay has to go under proofreading process in order to avoid mistakes and add the necessary changes or ideas. Hence, through proofreading, the writer can clarify and develop his ideas. He can also change the supporting details or add others.

Proofreading is also important in terms that the writer can check the language through deciding to add specific adjectives, adverbs, transition words and action verbs in order to strengthen his language and make it precise. It is also important to verify the length of sentences, i.e., to make a mixture between short, long and different types of sentences. Once the writer finishes proofreading, he can check again repetitive words or phrases and avoid awkward sentences through editing them. Editing involves checking the structure and the content as well. Therefore, proofreading and editing are of a paramount importance to clarify and make the meaning clear and easy to understand.

In short, as a writer, you should take into account important tools for revision. A dictionary, a grammar handbook, and a thesaurus are of paramount importance. Therefore, the writer has to write often, proofread carefully, edit judiciously, and revise until he is satisfied (Smith, 2003, p. 20).

Essay Revision Checklist (Robitaille & Connelly, 2007, pp. 85-86)

illustration not visible in this excerpt


Activity 1: Select a topic and write an essay depending on the writing techniques listed above. Brainstorm your ideas and make an outline for your essay through choosing freewriting, listing or clustering, then write the first draft. Exchange your first draft with your classmate and edit your drafts. Use the above techniques and prepare your final draft.

Activity 2: The following essay needs a revision. Try to proofread and do the necessary changes concerning punctuation, capitalisation, check long/short sentences and their types, sentences fragments, run-on sentences, transition and make clear simple and concise language. There are some of the notes that you have to take into account during revision.

First Draft: Don’t Support Nuclear Energy

Can you add some kind of introduction before giving your thesis statement ?

Even though it can provide the world with a source of electricity, nuclear power is not a good energy source because it is too expensive, the materials used in the

Good thesis statement –very clear

Power plans are not safe, and there is a great possibility of accidents.

Can you add a topic sentence for this paragraph?

First of all, nuclear fuel is expensive. It must be taken out of the ground and transported great distances. As fuels are used up, they will become even more expensive, just as oil and gas have become more expensive. In addition, nuclear

Can you explain this idea a little more?

power plants are expensive to build and to operate. It is expensive to train workers.

Needs transition You have used “expensive” 5 times in the paragraph…

Nuclear materials are not safe. When uranium is taken out of the ground, radioactive gas is released. This is not safe for the miners. Uranium itself is also not

Why is uranium not safe?

safe. Being around uranium is not safe for workers.

Needs transition

Most significantly, there is always a possibility of nuclear accidents. The power

plants themselves can fail when they get old or if they are not build correctly. The

Nice specific example

Machinery can malfunction, too. In 1979, problems at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the United States resulted in radioactive materials escaping into the nearby community. More recently, equipment failures were responsible for accidents

Can you explain what happened at these places?

in power plants in Tarapur, India (1992) and Darlington, Canada (1992).

Can you add a transition?

Workers at nuclear power plants can make mistakes. Perhaps the most famous of these incidents occurred at Chernobyl (in the former U.S.S.R.) in 1986.

Radioactivity from the ChernobyI accident was recorded as far away as Eastern

Good detail

Europe, Scandinavia, and even Japan. Human error was responsible for power plant

Are these the only mistakes that have happened?

Accidents in Kola, Russia (1991) and Tokaimura, Japan (1999). There is no way we can guarantee that workers will not make mistakes again in the future.

Even natural disasters can affect nuclear power plants. An earthquake in

Can you give some comment about this?

the Pacific Ocean in 1981 washed nuclear waste out into the ocean.

It is true that oil and gas cannot replace them with an energy source that is too expensive and is dangerous from the time the fuels are taken out of the ground and even after the plant is running.

I think you need some kind of concluding sentence. What do you recommend instead of nuclear power?

(Zemach & Rumisek, 2007, p. 98)


Baily, S. (2015). Academic writing: A handbook for international students (4th ed) . Routledge

Bowker, N. (2007). Academic writing: A guide to tertiary level writing. Retrieved from:

Kane, T. S. (2000). Oxford essential guide to writing. Oxford University Press, Inc.

Oshima, A., Hogue, A. (2007). Introduction to academic writing (3rd ed). Pearson Education, Inc.

Robitaille, J., & Connelly, R. (2007). Writer’s recourses: From paragraph to essay (2nd ed). Thomson Wadsworth

Smith, B. (2003). Proofreading, revising and editing skills success in 20 minutes. Learning Express, LLC.

Write better essays in just 20 minutes a day (n.d.). (2nd ed). Learning Express, LLC.

Zemach, D. E., & Rumisek, L. A. (2007). College writing from paragraph to essay. Macmillan.

Unit 2 Five-Paragraphs Essay

The Goal of this lesson:

- The three parts of the essay
- The Introductory Paragraph
- The Body of the Essay
- The Concluding Paragraph
- Transition Between Paragraphs of the Essay

Section 1 The Three Parts of the Essay

Academic essay is one of the most important assignments that a university student is required to write. It reflects his understanding of the lectures, how much research is devoted to enrich his knowledge, and tests his analytical capacity. This capacity involves employing comments and a variety of materials that are selected through readings. Indeed, a student needs to write in a good style that allows his readers to understand and appreciate his ideas. Thus far, an essay is a piece of writing that revolves around one topic. This topic should be developed into three paragraphs since it cannot be discussed within one paragraph. Then, these paragraphs should be linked by adding an introduction and a conclusion. In other words, an essay follows the basic format of a paragraph; it starts with an introduction, the body and then the conclusion. This can be explained through Figure 2.2:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.2. Different parts of an essay (Adopted from Oshima & Hogue, 2007, p. 147)

The Introductory Paragraph

The introductory paragraph is the most important part in an essay. It takes about 10% of the length and information of the whole essay because it gives the reader the first insight about the topic. For this sense, it is taken with more care since the whole work can be judged from its introduction.

The introduction consists of two parts: general statements about the topic to attract the reader’s attention to the subject and a thesis statement that states the whole idea of the essay. It is similar to the topic sentence of the paragraph.

- General statements

- Provide a theoretical background about the topic.
- Attract the readers’ interest through a hook.

- The thesis statement

- States the topic.
- Lists subtopics for the topic sentences.
- Determines the pattern of organisation.
- It is the last sentence in the introduction.

Henceforth, the introductory paragraph follows funnel model because it moves from the general statements to the thesis statement. For this reason it is called a funnel introduction as figure 2.3 shows:

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2.3. Elements of the funnel introduction

How to get the reader’s intention?

There are many strategies that can be applied to attract the reader’s intention towards reading your essay including:

- Provide some background information about the subject.
- Give definitions on the subject.

How to structure the thesis statement?

The thesis statement is the sentence that tells the main idea of the essay. It can be compared to the topic sentence which states the main idea of the paragraph.


Activity 1: Read the following introductory paragraph, underline the thesis statement, then circle the topic and draw another line under the main idea.

Everyone knows the koala, that cute Australian animal that resembles a teddy bear. Although koalas look like toys, they are actually strong climbers and spend their days in the treetops. Mother koalas carry their babies around from tree to tree in a pouch, or pocket, on their stomach. Although there were millions of koalas in Australia in the past, they are now a protected species of animals, as a result of human population growth, deforestation, and hunting, the number of koala has declined (Meibis & Gonzalez, n.d., para, 1).

Activity 2: Select one of the following thesis statements and then write an introductory paragraph and keep sure that you respect the structure of an introduction for the essay.

1. Internet addiction has become a great problem for the parents.
2. A child under the age of ten should not be let alone at home.
3. Meat should be conserved in the refrigerator less than three months.

The Body of the Essay

The body of an essay, which consists of two or three paragraphs, is called developmental paragraphs. They are linked to the thesis statement since they express, explain, prove and analyse an attitude or a point of view. Each paragraph should include a topic sentence which develops one main idea that should be supported by details but not necessary a concluding sentence.

Each topic sentence in the developmental paragraphs should prove that one side of the thesis statement is true. In fact, the main idea of the topic sentence is supported with three points that should be proved through examples, statistics or quotes. In order to have good supporting details, a writer should make an outline as explained in part one. The outline helps to realise coherence and unity. Besides, an outline aids in dividing the topic into subtopics.

As it has already been mentioned before, the developmental paragraphs turn around one idea in the thesis statement. Throughout the following steps, we can know how to break down the thesis statement into subtopics that are used as topic sentences which are related directly to the thesis statement.

How to break down the thesis statement into topic sentences

After the writer decides the thesis statement, he should divide it into three essential ideas that can be written as topic sentences. For example, if the thesis statement is about the negative sides of smoking, the writer has to convince the reader about the illnesses that may result from the nicotine, social problems and money wasting. He should also know how to break down the thesis into a topic and a central idea.

Thesis statement: smoking has many negative effects.

The topic: smoking

The main idea: has many negative effects.

Hence, in each paragraph the writer can discuss one effect of smoking.

Practice: Break down the following thesis statements into possible topic sentences:

- Global warming has many reasons.
- Internet can have many bad effects on teenagers.
- Algeria has many beautiful places to visit.

Topic sentences for the first example:

- The heat is melting glaciers and sea ice.
- Many species have been impacted by the high temperature.
- Precipitation has increased across the globe, on average.


- The student should know the principal or the purpose behind the breakdown of the thesis statement into topic sentences.
- The student should break the thesis according to effects, causes, process, types, comparison, contrast or examples.
- It can be helpful for the student if he turns the thesis statement into a question, so that he can be able to know its purpose.


Thesis statement: Social media can develop communication.

Question: How can social media be beneficial in communication?

Possible answers:

- Social networking sites allow users to share, interact and connect with like-minded people.
- Rapid dissemination and amplification of content and the ability to lead informal conversations
- Social media offer suggestions on usage and possible types of scientific content.

The principle behind the break down: the main idea from the thesis statement is “can develop communication”; hence, the student should explore the advantages of social media in developing the individual’s communication.


[1] Organising the introduction and the techniques used in writing an introduction for an essay can be explored through unit two and three.

Excerpt out of 99 pages


Academic Essay Writing for EFL Learners
University of Saida Dr Moulay Tahar  (Department of English)
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This textbook is addressed to English learners at University levels who are always struggling on how to build their essays in a foreign language. It gives details on how to write and structure an essay taking into account language structure (the use of transition and signal sentences) in addition to the different types of essays, so that they will be able to develop research papers and dissertations in the future.
academic, essay, writing, learners
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Nadia Ghounane (Author), 2018, Academic Essay Writing for EFL Learners, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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