Skip to main content

Academic Writing Styles

Completion requirements

There are various ways to approach assignments. Different questions, different subjects, and different objectives will require different methods of writing. Here we outline a few of the various writing styles employed in academic writing, when they are appropriate, and how you would go about utilising these to full effect. 

Four academic writing styles

Understanding the four main types of assignment writing style, how to use them, when to use them and what they require.

Within academia there are four primary styles of writing that are often required when completing assignments. These are as follows: 

  1. Descriptive
  2. Analytical 
  3. Persuasive 
  4. Critical 

It is imperative that you understand not only how to use each style but also how to understand when to implement them as well as identify when you are being asked to use them.

Descriptive writing

The descriptive writing style is just that, descriptive. This style is usually required when an assignment asks you to ‘outline’, ‘examine’, ‘explain’ or ‘describe’. When using this style, your aim is to take the subject in question, be that a feature, process, event or object and give a detailed account of it. This means that your writing is styled toward informing and delivering understanding of a particular entity. The reader should be able finish reading your writing with a full understanding of the entity you are writing about, to the point where they can demonstrate their knowledge of the entity should they need to. This is the most commonly applied and straightforward writing style. However, this writing style suffers from over-use and inappropriate use. It is important to remember when this style is appropriate and use it accordingly, if an assignment requires you to evaluate two concepts you wouldn’t employ descriptive style (apart from an introduction to the concepts) as the assignment wants you to be critical about said concepts worth/importance etc.

Analytical writing

The analytical writing style requires that you demonstrate your knowledge of the relationship between two concepts or entities. This covers pieces of writing that aim to contrast, compare, assess and/or evaluate the concepts. When you are producing an analytical piece, it is appropriate to assume that the reader will have a degree of knowledge concerning the topic and you must focus on giving your own thoughts on the topic using evidence and examples to support your conclusions. The reader should be able to finish reading and be able to understand the differences and similarities of the concepts whilst also being informed as to the depth to which these concepts are impacted by said factors. This style is most appropriate when the assignment requires you to ‘analyse’ ‘discuss’ or answer ‘to what extent’.

Persuasive writing

The persuasive writing style requires that you demonstrate your knowledge and opinions of a subject and use this to convince the reader to identify or agree with the position or belief that you hold on the subject. This means that when the reader has finished reading your assignment they should agree or at least understand your argument and beliefs. This style is often used when the assignment requires you to ‘justify’ and ‘evaluate’ a topic as you are aiming to demonstrate your knowledge whilst giving a robust conclusion informed by your opinion of the subject.

Critical writing

The critical writing style is often seen as the most difficult style as it requires confidence to carry it out effectively. The style itself is similar to that of analytical writing, as it requires that you consider evidence and use it to make reasonable conclusions whilst considering both the strengths and limitations of said evidence. With critical writing it is important to be informed make use of multiple perspectives of the topic and utilise them to support or criticize the evidence you are writing about. A key aspect of this writing is avoiding bias. Whilst you may have more limitations than strengths it is important to ensure said limitations do not heavily outweigh the strengths or you may be unintentionally demonstrating bias. Critical writing is appropriate when the assignment asks you to ‘critically evaluate’, ‘critically assess’ or justify.

Understanding these styles is paramount to success, as the wrong style applied to an assignment will often result in a failure. When you can identify which styles to use you can structure, plan and carry out your assignments in a much more effective and insightful way.

About Us

BusinessBalls has been used by over 120 million people during the last decade. The website provides leadership, management, and compliance training for individuals and organisations. For over a quarter of a century, we have supported aspiring managers and leaders from all around the world — Find out more. The use of this material is free for self-development, developing others, research, and organisational improvement. Please reference authorship and copyright of material used, including link(s) to and the material webpage. 

Disclaimer: Reliance on this material and any related provision is at your sole risk. BusinessBalls Ltd assumes no responsibility for any errors or damages arising as a result of use.

Key Partners

Accipio Logo

You are currently using guest access (Log in)