The same structure can also be for each individual paragraph. Start with a ‘topic’ sentence that tells the reader what the aim of the paragraph is, then a few ‘body’ sentences that do what you said you would do, then a final ‘wrap’ sentence which make sit clear to the reader what you want them to understand from the paragraph.
Not all sources are equal
* Appropriate academic journals are those that undergo peer-review and have editorial oversight to ensure the accuracy and validity of published research. They establish the credibility of findings through a rigorous review process. There are, on the other hand, LOTS of predatory journals1 that will publish anything for a fee without proper review. Here’s a useful (if a little outdated) list of these dodgy publishers: Beall’s List ↗️
News sources: Journalism is different to academic work, thus we have to treat its products differently. News articles are useful for some things but nor for other, we have to use information in the appropriate manner.
Remember, a newspaper might contain an accurate report of a lie.
This assumption means that academics take things literally; for instance, if you write, ‘Everyone these days has a smartphone’ then literal-minded academics might assume that you think that ‘everyone’ (which literally means 100% of all human beings!) has such a phone.
This is obviously wrong.
Following on from the previous point; if you want to make a claim about reality…
Then you have to present some evidence for that claim.
‘Common sense’: as a rule of thumb, if you can find 5 independent, credible sources that make the same claim without evidence then you might be able to argue that a piece of information is ‘common sense’ and no reference is required.
Quotation - the exact words of the original
Paraphrase - eg. condenses a paragraph or two of original material into a single sentence (in your words)
Summary - overview of main ideas of a work in your own words
Attributions, in the form of a citation, are always required!
Using words from another person’s work with a couple of nouns or adjectives replaced by synonyms is still plagiarism! This is what simple tools like Rephrase do — and academics (and our plagiarism-checking software Turnitin) are wise to such superficial changes. Don’t be afraid to quote another author directly if their words best capture the point you want to make. Just be sure to use quotation marks and provide the full citation details.
Get used to using some kind of bibliographic software, eg. Zotero (my recommendation) or Mendeley
Questions you have about how to format things, how to write certain things (people’s names, numbers, titles of films etc) will be answered in an academic style book, eg. APA
It is very likely that over the past 100 years someone else has had the same questions as you and a solution/convention has been agreed on.
Get used to ‘how things work’ in academic writing as soon as possible, then you can concentrate on sharing your ideas.
If you write write an essay that presents only information that supports your argument, you are doing ‘advertising’.
A good essay acknowledges and/or deals with the weaknesses of an argument as well as its strengths.
If we ignore, don’t mention or don’t account for data/facts that seem to undermine support for an argument, we weaken our position (make ourselves seem less trustworthy 😈)
We can also undermine our position as ‘reliable voice’ by, for instance (and this has happened!), declaring undying love for the subject of our essay (individual, country, music group etc), or demonstrating that our identity as a ‘fan’ has overridden our duty as an academic to approach the subject in (as far as possible) a rational and objective way. In order to make a convincing argument you need to come across as reliable and trustworthy.