Guide to Types of Academic Writing

Guide to Types of Academic Writing
Table of Contents
  1. Guide to Types of Academic Writing
  2. What is academic writing?
  3. What are the different types of academic writing?
  4. Descriptive
  5. Critical
  6. Persuasive
  7. Analytical
  8. Conclusion

What is academic writing?

Academic writing is different from writing a novel,  cause and effect essay or a short story. It mainly involves the presentation of ideas, and its primary purpose is to properly communicate these ideas to the readers. Moreover, academic writing has its own set of rules and conventions.

Academic writing has a broad definition. Unlike other types of writing, such as fiction, academic writing and research put great emphasis on the clarity of ideas and the coherence of their presentation. Academic works are judged based on their contribution to the advancement of disciplines and have little or nothing to do with literary creativity.

The key to writing an excellent academic work lies in having a good structure and reasonable facts and arguments. Having a good structure allows you to logically present your ideas. It also allows your readers to better understand the flow and reasoning behind your arguments. Furthermore, reasonable arguments and facts serve as the foundations of your work. These determine whether your work can stand against critics or not.

What are the different types of academic writing?

Given the general idea of what academic works are, there are four types of academic writing. These are descriptive, critical, analytical, and persuasive. This article serves as a practical guide to help you familiarize yourself with these types.


Descriptive academic writing is more straightforward compared to other academic writing types. A descriptive academic paper is aimed at providing information and facts about a given topic. It mainly involves describing certain ideas or events. The significance of this writing type lies in how you can wholly and effectively contextualize these events and ideas for the readers.

The key to writing a good descriptive academic work is being able to clearly and concisely explain the most important parts of events or ideas. This means properly discerning which information of events or ideas should be prioritized. In general, this includes the presentation of data, explanation of methodology, and thorough and objective analysis of the available data.

Although the main task in descriptive writing is describing and explaining, there still must be some critical analysis involved. The important thing is that you present an adequate context and objective account of the topic while avoiding biases as much as possible. An effective descriptive academic work can elicit an experience for the readers as they read your work.


In contrast to descriptive writing, critical academic writing focuses on a critical analysis of a given topic. The emphasis of this type of writing is on the formation and presentation of arguments. Critical writing does not only mean summarizing and reporting on the main ideas and key points of a topic. It also involves the evaluation and critical analysis of these ideas. Writing a good critical paper means engaging both sides of an issue objectively. You must first be able to provide impartial accounts of both sides and only then can you give your analysis.

This type is used often when tackling a specific issue that supports only one side of an argument or debate. This allows you to question and criticize the assumptions and conclusions of one side while presenting arguments in support of the opposing side. This style is often used with regards to writing about controversial issues or when presenting discoveries that are contradictory to the established truths in a discipline.

It’s not enough that you form coherent arguments and have a clear logical structure. You also have to make sure that the assumptions you make are accurate. You might be able to write coherent and compelling arguments, but if they rest on false or questionable assumptions, they may remain untenable.


An academic writing type that’s similar to the critical writing type is persuasive writing. The main difference is that the latter only requires presentation and argument for one particular point of view. The main purpose of persuasive academic writing is to encourage your readers to see your point of view and, if possible, agree with your evaluation.

Your goal when writing a persuasive article should be to evaluate and argue for a certain position that will allow the readers to see where you are coming from. You can achieve this by presenting data and previous studies that will help support your position. Moreover, the use of persuasive language may also be helpful as long as it is backed by facts.

However, avoid cherry-picking data and research because aside from being fallacious, it doesn’t do much for the advancement of a field. It is often better to present studies and data that may counter your original position so that you can present further data and studies that will strengthen your position. In other words, this allows you to present counter-counter arguments, and this can prove very useful in persuading your readers.


Analytical academic writing refers to a type of writing that involves the reorganization of facts and finding their connections. The main emphasis here is on the comprehensive arrangement and presentation of the ideas underlying a given data set.

You can think of it as a descriptive academic work that’s taken to another level. Whereas a descriptive article only provides information and facts about a subject, an analytical article makes sense of these facts and information and discovers or creates ideas based on the analysis of these connections. Moreover, analytic works often help breakdown the facts and arguments in a given topic and present them to the readers in a restructured manner.

An analytical work may also involve contrasting between different ideas and comparing existing facts to other ones. It may also introduce a research problem or present a solution to one.


Some academic works are meant to be easily understandable by the general public, while some use specialized language and words that require a high level of proficiency in a certain field. This means that writing academic articles also varies in the presentation of certain concepts and ideas. This is why it’s very useful to know the different types of academic writing types. Familiarizing yourself with all of these will surely help you improve your academic writing and become a more effective writer.