Rhetorical Patterns Used in Academic Writing

Like other forms of writing, academic writing has a purpose, and as one who will be writing an academic paper, you should know the reason why you are writing. Knowing your purpose would make it easier for you to plan your academic paper. Is your purpose to analyze or to describe? Or is it to persuade or criticize? Your purpose for writing gives direction to your writing and oftentimes dictates the mode of writing or rhetorical pattern you will be using. If your purpose is to analyze an issue, then you might wish to use a combination of descriptive and analytical models; if your purpose is to persuade, then you might wish to use the persuasive and critical writing modes of writing.

When you are writing a paper on “Facebook as a Marketing Tool” for instance, you might wish to introduce your topic using analysis to convince your readers that your paper will provide important information not found in previous researches. In your discussion section, you might wish to use the description as you summarize the important aspects of your study. In your conclusion, you might wish to use critical analysis as you evaluate the issue from multiple perspectives, combined with persuasion as you try to convince your readers to accept your findings and arguments. As you can see, there are various ways to explain your topic.

The descriptive type is the most basic of all types of academic writing. However, no academic paper is purely descriptive as most papers use a variety of writing techniques. As the term implies, this kind of academic writing explains a topic or issue by clarifying and giving information through description. Descriptive writing assignments are done by means of identifying, explaining, reporting, recording, and summarizing. Examples of descriptive writing assignments include abstracts and studies reporting scientific findings, and research articles that explain an issue. Other examples include academic papers on school-related concerns, qualitative survey, even formal reports describing certain issues and phenomena.

In this type of writing assignment, your task involves more than just giving information about your topic. Your explanation should involve detailed information in the form of statistics, actual data or scientific findings explained in a way that is vivid and clear to your readers. By reporting the findings in a graphic way, you will give your readers a clear idea of what your paper is about. For example, if your paper is about the buying habit of millennials, you might wish to discuss about what they spend their money on, their preferences, and the reasons for their spending spree. The descriptive element of your paper may be reflected in the body of your paper, where you explain in detail the results of your findings. It is not rare, however, to find descriptive elements in the conclusion. Since this is the most basic of all types of academic writing, descriptive writing is a skill most students should master.

Analytical writing assignments involve not just describing and defining the topic, but rearranging the facts in a logical sequence. If you are writing a paper on the instructional consultation practices of two schools, you might wish to examine two conceptual frameworks to determine their similarities and dissimilarities, to find out whether they contribute to or debunk your research problem. You need to do extensive brainstorming alone or with your peers to make sure that the structure and intent of your academic paper are clear. In analytical writing assignments, be prepared to analyze, compare and contrast, relate, examine, and categorize.

This type of writing assignment involves classifying your information clearly and logically. Because you will have a tremendous amount of information in the course of your data gathering, you need to be able to arrange those data systematically, making sure that all the ideas form a unified whole. You might wish to discuss in what ways the two schools are alike in terms of the instructional consultation practices, and in what ways they are different. You might also wish to view the consultation habits of the students to determine if they share similar practices. In your introduction, you might wish to describe the instructional consultation practices in both schools, giving your readers a vivid explanation of how the practice is observed in the schools you are examining. You may then proceed to evaluate the merits of your topic when you discuss your findings in the conclusion. 


Brainstorming is a mental exercise that involves noting down ideas and associations concerning the topic.

This kind of academic writing requires you to convince your readers of an argument whose varied angles you have thoroughly analyzed and which you would like to defend. Persuasive elements in academic papers are usually found in the introduction and conclusion of the paper, where important ideas are often emphasized.

Persuasive writing involves giving information that has been restructured to accommodate several opinions, including those of the writer and others who have written about the same topic. Because you are making an argument, you need to defend your topic by evaluating your findings and discussing them in the context of your theories so you can take a position that you can eventually defend. All your claims should add up to form a convincing argument.

At the same time, you have to be ready to evaluate other writers’ position on the same topic or issue. Other writers’ assumptions about the topic have a bearing on your topic, for it is through their assumptions and findings that you can determine if your argument is weak or strong compared to theirs. For instance, if your study is about federalism and its economic and political implication on social institutions, you need to position yourself against the conviction of others whose point of view is entirely different from yours. Evaluating their points of view would allow you to assess the credibility and reliability of your own arguments.

In academic writing, it is a good idea to be mindful of the assumptions you will be making. Avoid illogical conclusions. For instance, it would be unwise to state that federalism will result in political strife and the further fragmentation of the republic, if your claim is based on hearsay. You can avoid false claims and illogical conclusions if you have strong evidence or actual and relevant data to back up your claim. 

Writing assignments that require you to evaluate, assess, debate, critique, disagree, and consider, fall under critical writing assignments. Examples of this type of writing assignment include reaction papers, reflection papers, a critique of a topic, book reviews, research papers about complex topics requiring multiple perspectives. When you want to determine the merits and deficiencies of an existing research, you are using the critical mode of writing. When you use this mode of writing, you need to identify the main arguments in addition to summarizing important aspects of the topic. Just like when you engage in an analytical writing assignment, you need to rely on logical reasoning and empirical evidence or hard data to back up your claim.

In a critical writing assignment, you are expected to weigh not just your own assumptions but also the merits of alternative arguments so you can arrive at a holistic evaluation.


Academic writing requires enhanced skills, particularly in the areas of critical reading and writing.