Skip to main content

Tips for Writing to an Academic Audience for ESL Students

State your thesis

Like many styles of academic writing from around the world, North American academic essays and research papers are usually "thesis-driven." This means that you as the writer must explicitly state the main point or thesis of your paper at the start.

A thesis statement is one or two sentences that:

  • shows the purpose of the paper or essay
  • indicates the basic components (main points) of the paper or essay
  • offers the unique point of view or the argument of the writer

Here is an example of a thesis statement:

All university students should be encouraged to study abroad in order to learn a new language and experience a different culture.

Develop the main points stated in your thesis 

Once the thesis of the paper is established, the rest of the essay must "flow." In order to do this, develop points that directly relate to your thesis. It often helps to make an outline of your paper showing how the ideas connect. Here is a simple example of an outline for the thesis above:

  • Introduction: thesis – University students encouraged to study abroad
  • Point 1: language immersion
  • Point 2: learn about new culture first hand
  • Conclusion: Countries around the world should make great efforts to encourage their students to study outside of their borders.


In an English academic paper, the conclusion is usually a simple summary of the paper’s main points.  The writer may also be asked to give an opinion at this point or offer solutions to the problem or make a prediction about the future of the topic.  Do this ONLY if asked for by your professor; otherwise, simply summarize your main ideas.

Use transitions

Connect the different sections of your paper with transitions. Transitions are words (like however, therefore, additionally, thus, also) or phrases (like for example, on the other hand, in conclusion) that show a link between a paragraph or sentence and the one that precedes it. You usually put a transition at the beginning of the paragraph to connect it to the previous one. 

Back to top

© Concordia University