Academic essays



1.      What are academic essays and critiques?


Academic essays ask the writer to develop ideas and demonstrate the ability to make coherent connections between arguments and evidence. The writer also needs to develop a personal proposition by employing critical thinking skills. Critiques ask the writer to develop an understanding of the area of study, and demonstrate the ability to evaluate the significance of the area of the study.


Both academic essays and critiques require the writer to interpret central phenomena and claims in the related subjects and disciplines. Skills such as research, summarising, paraphrasing, evaluative, argumentative, and disciplinary and academic English writing skills are expected in both assignment genres. Yet, the structures of these assignment genres depend on the assessment focus and subject requirements. Therefore, it is important to strictly follow the conventions for the structure, style and content of academic essays and critiques in different disciplines and subjects. The following table summarises some of the characteristics of academic essays and critiques.


Genre family

Academic essays



To demonstrate the ability to construct a coherent argument and employ critical thinking skills

To demonstrate an understanding of the area of study and the ability to evaluate its significance

Stages / components

Ø Introduction

Ø Series of arguments

Ø Conclusion

Ø Descriptive account with optional explanation

Ø Evaluation with optional tests


Ø Challenge

Ø Commentary

Ø Consequential

Ø Exposition

Ø Factorial

Ø Academic paper review

Ø Business/organisation evaluation

Ø Financial report evaluation

Ø Project evaluation

Ø Review of a book / film / play / website

(adapted from Nesi & Gardner, 2011, p. 38)%

About this website

EWRite is an open access online literacy platform for PolyU community that has two major objectives:

  • to support PolyU students’ literacy development within and across the disciplines
  • to support subject and language teachers to implement system-level measures for integrating literacy-sensitive pedagogies across the university

This platform provides access to generic genre guides representing typical university assignments as well as links to subjects offered by faculties with specific disciplinary genres and relevant support materials.

The materials can be retrieved by students by choosing the genres that interest them on the landing page. Each set of materials includes a genre guide, genre video, and a genre checklist. The genre guide and video are to summarize the genres in two different ways (i.e. textual and dynamic) to fit different learning styles. The genre checklist is for students to self-regulate their writing process. The genre guide and checklist include links to various ELC resources that can provide further explanation to language items (e.g. hedging and academic vocabulary).

The platform also acts as a one-stop-shop for writing resources for students, language teachers and subject leaders. Information about the English Writing Requirement policy can also be found on this platform. There are training materials for new colleagues joining the EWR Liaison Team.