Academic Writing Complete Guide

Purpose and Audience of this Guide
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Essay Writing
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Good Academic Scholarship
Understanding Feedback
Exam preparation and Techniques

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Descriptive essays

Descriptive essays have been used to paint a vivid picture of a place, a person, place, or a thing. The purpose of the descriptive essay is to bring to the fore, the meaning of a topic using in-depth details and sensory observation. The power of language is very essential when writing your descriptive essay as well as every human sense to bring the subject to life for the audience. If the audience comes out of your essay feeling like they have met the person, gone to a place, smelled the food and held a certain object, then as a writer you have done a good job. If they come out of that essay with a serious emotional connection and deep appreciation for the significance of the subject, then as a writer you have hit the nail on its head.

Descriptive essays can also be class assignments where a student has to decide on what he is going to describe. The best way is to start by brainstorming for the essay. An outline and subsequent writing of the descriptive essay using sensory detail and strongly worded description of the subject then follow. It is crucial that every time you write an essay of any kind, you proofread to ensure it is the best piece for submission to your instructor.

topics idea 2

Brainstorming for your descriptive essay ideas

  • Choose a person as subject to describe
    You can decide to describe a person that you know very well in your life. He can be a family member, best friend or even a mentor. When you choose a person as the topic for your descriptive essay, ensure that they have enough material you can use for your description. You can also choose to describe a fictional person from a book, a story, or even a television show.
  • Picking a place or an object as a topic for your essay
    Your essay can focus on something specific to a place or an object. You can talk about your school, home, or work place. You can also talk about a fictional place from a book or a movie.
  • Selecting an emotion as your topic
    Some of the descriptive essays revolve around an emotion. You can use anger, loss, desire, love, or any other emotion as the bass of your descriptive essay. When it comes to emotion, you can try to be more specific. For instance, if it is love, you can choose to write about brotherly love or self-hatred. The two a good recipe for a powerful descriptive essay.
  • Enumerate all the sensory details of your topic
    Once you settle on a topic, you can formulate a list of all the sensory details in your topic. You can use a piece of paper or even a computer to classify the senses in terms of touch, sight, sound, taste, and smell. Write down as many details as you can find for the topic based on each sense.

Writing your descriptive essay

  • Make an outline of each essay sections
    Formulate a brief outline that shows how your essay is going to be organized. This should include the introduction, the body, and conclusion sections. If you have a standard five-paragraph descriptive essay, you need to have one paragraph for your introduction, three body paragraphs, and a single paragraph for your conclusion. Alternatively, you can have sections that allow you to have as many paragraphs as possible in the body part of the essay. If your essay is a class assignment, the instructions should indicate if the essay is going to follow the five-paragraph format.
  • Formulate a thesis statement
    This is the key idea of your descriptive essay. It states the purpose of your essay and acts as a guide for the rest of the paper. It is supposed to come in your introduction and restated in the conclusion of your essay.
  • Write a strong and intriguing description
    This paragraph sets the scene and introduces the topic to the audience. It is essential to use the list of sensory details to write your introduction. A strong opening will pique the reader’s interest. To close your introduction, make known your thesis statement.
  • Use a vivid adjective to describe your topic
    Adjectives that express emotion are applicable here, and you have to be as specific as possible. For instance, instead of using an adjective like angry go for a specific adjective lie ‘rageful.’ You are also free to use adjectives that link to the senses like ‘rotting,’ ‘bright,’ and ‘pungent’ and so on.
  • Incorporate metaphors and similes
    Metaphors compare one thing to another, and they help to show the reader your thoughts on the topic, instead of telling the reader how you feel. For instance, you can say, my mother is a workhouse. She has not taken a break for years. Similes compare one thing to another using the ‘like.’ For instance, you can say, “My Mum is like a fierce warrior in battle.”
  • Talk about your emotions and what you think about the topic
    It is okay for you to express our emotions in the essay. The first person pronoun is particularly applicable when you are describing the subject in details. Your emotions can relate to joy, anger, or disgust with the subject. You can talk about how you relate emotionally to the subject.
  • Close your essay with a strong conclusion
    All your thoughts in the essay ought to be tied to the conclusion. You can restate your thesis statement and end with a strong sentence. As a rule of thumb, the conclusion does not allow you to introduce any new information or evidence that you have not discussed in your essay. The idea is to evaluate your thoughts in the essay and close with a short final statement.
writing process 2 1

Polishing your essay

  • Reading your essay aloud
    Now that you have completed the first draft of your descriptive essay, it is crucial that you read it aloud to yourself. As you go along, you can pay attention to any awkward or unclear sentences. Underline them for later revision. Read the essay aloud to a tentative audience and expect to hear their feedback. They will be able to tell you about anything that is unclear or vague in your sentences.
  • Let other people see your essay
    Peers, teachers, family members, as well as mentors can be the people who can read your essay. Let them tell you if the essay is descriptive and laden with sensory details. They also have to tell you if they got a clear picture of the subject by the end of the essay. You have to approach this with an open mind for constructive criticism. This will not only make your essay stronger but also the way you deal with criticism.
  • Revise your essay for clarity and length
    You can go through the essay deleting any sentence that is not necessary. Use strong adjectives to substitute the weak ones. Ensure the descriptions of your subjects are easy to follow and clear. If your essay had a word limit ensure that you stick to it. You can add more details to the paper or delete unnecessary content to reach this word count.

Sample topics for your descriptive essay

There are many topics that one can use to write their descriptive essay. If you are facing difficlutie4s in generating one, consider using these suggested topics as your starting point.


  • Describe the characteristics of an excellent role model
  • Describe the distinctive characteristics of your best friend from your regular friends
  • Describe the average human to an alien who has never seen one before
topic people


  • Give a description of a place you dreamt about that is not there in real life
  • The ideal place to plan an event of your choice
  • Paint a picture using words about the most beautiful place you have even been
topic places


  • Describe an event that triggered your favorite memory and how the setting influence it
  • Describe the most common memories that come to your mind and what makes them so significant
  • Describe the characteristics that separate regular events form unique memories in your life
topic memory


  • Describe a particular moment in your life that you took a minute from a social setting to appreciate life
  • Talk about a moment in your life when you either you led people or did something that you never thought you could
  • Describe a moment that made your life to take a full U-turn and explain how you dealt with the experience


  • Describe objects that hold sentimental value to you and the reasons that occasioned that
  • Describe something that you would preserve in a time capsule to tell people about what life is like today
  • Describe a technology to people from dark ages to save your life, especially if you have been accused of witchcraft
topic object

When writing your descriptive essay always ensures that everything follows a chronological order. Ensure that the essay sounds fantastic enough to your instructor. This is essential for you if you are looking for a good grade.

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