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Writing Academic English Essays Free

In our information age, somebody needs to produce that information, and it can’t all be pictures or videos (try as YouTube might). Luckily, there are a variety of free online courses(MOOCs) available for all types of writers and aspiring writers.

Note: Not all of these courses are available. Add a course to MOOC Tracker and we will notify you when the course becomes available. To signup for a course, click on the green ‘Go to Class’ button on the course page.

Basic Writing & Composition

Creative Writing for All: A 10-Day Journaling Challenge

An Online Skillshare Class by Emily Gould

Creative Writing for All: A 10-Day Journaling Challenge (1 month free trial)
via Skillshare
Internationally acclaimed author Emily Gould walks you through a 10-day creative writing challenge! Filled with inspiring examples, observation prompts, and clever revision tricks, it’s perfect for writers and enthusiasts eager to rekindle creativity in a personal and artful way.
Self Paced

Perfect Tenses and Modals
via University of California, Irvine
In this course, you will learn about important intermediate verb tenses, including present perfect, present perfect progressive, past perfect, and past perfect progressive
Next Session: 26th Mar, 2018

Adjectives and Adjective Clauses
via University of California, Irvine
Being able to adeptly use adjective clauses in speaking and writing is useful for upper level English learners. Adjectives and adjective clauses are very common in English, so students need to be able to understand them when they see them or hear them.
Next Session: 5th Mar, 2018

Tricky English Grammar
via University of California, Irvine
Learning English can be tricky, and in this class you’ll focus on some of those tricky issues. You’ll get clear explanations about the difficult grammar points and practice in using them correctly.
Next Session: 5th Mar, 2018

Creative Writing: The Craft of Plot
via Wesleyan University
In this course aspiring writers will be introduced to perhaps the most elemental and often the most challenging element of story: plot. We will learn what keeps it moving, how it manipulates our feelings, expectations, and desires.
Next Session: 12th Mar, 2018

English Composition I: Achieving Expertise
via Duke University
You will gain a foundation for college-level writing valuable for nearly any field. Students will learn how to read carefully, write effective arguments, understand the writing process, engage with others’ ideas, cite accurately, and craft powerful prose.
Next Session: 26th Mar, 2018

A beginners’ guide to writing in English for university study
via University of Reading
Learn how to use English for study at university or college and develop your writing skills, vocabulary and grammar.
Next Session: 22nd Jan, 2018

Write101x: English Grammar and Style
via University of Queensland
Write101x will enable you to learn how words work so that you can write the concise, lucid, nuanced, and compelling prose that is so valued by readers.
Next Session: 19th Feb, 2018

Adventures in Writing
Stanford University via Stanford OpenEdx
Welcome to Adventures in Writing, a series of graphic-novel style learning modules designed to help you learn more about and practice a range of effective written communication skills. You’ll immerse yourself in the adventures of Maya and Chris, using each module’s interactive exercises to apply what you’ve learned
★★★★★ (1 rating) | Next Session : Self Paced

Scribble: Writing for New Writers
via OpenLearning
This course will take students through the process of writing from simple paragraphs to more complex writing structures and eventually research writing.
★★★★☆ (4 ratings) | Next Session : Self Paced

Thinking Like a Writer
via Michigan State University
This course revolves around the work of revising writing, learning, and engaging with language and community. You will explore who you are as a learner as you write about yourself and your language use, as well as consider who you are as a communicator as you critique texts, persuade audiences, and collaborate with others.
Next Session: 23rd Jun, 2014

Essay Writing

Creative Writing: Using Your Mistakes to Power Your Personal Essays

An Online Skillshare Class by Emily Gould

Creative Writing: Using Your Mistakes to Power Your Personal Essays (1 month free trial)
via Skillshare
Ever had a story you couldn’t wait to share? Join author Emily Gould to learn how to write a personal essay that gets read.
Self Paced

Getting Started with Essay Writing
via University of California, Irvine

In this course, you’ll learn all about academic essay writing and, specifically, how to write three types of essays: compare/contrast, cause/effect, and argument.
Next Session: 5th Mar, 2018

How to Write an Essay
 University of California, Berkeley
College Writing 2.1x is an introduction to academic writing for English Language Learners, focusing on essay development, grammatical correctness, and self-editing.
Next Session: Self paced

English Grammar and Essay Writing
via University of California, Berkeley
College Writing 2.2x is the second part of the academic writing course. In this part, you will focus on proofreading and self-editing; revision vs. editing; common errors in grammar, punctuation, and spelling; understanding tone and diction; vocabulary development.
Next Session: Self paced

Journalistic Writing

Content Marketing: Blogging for Growth

An Online Skillshare Class by Eric Siu

Content Marketing: Blogging for Growth (1 month free trial)
via Skillshare
Explore how entrepreneur Eric Siu creates content not just for the sake of writing, but for hitting your own goals. In this 80-minute deep dive class, you’ll learn Eric’s step-by-step structure for creating compelling blog content — the same process that has helped him build a seven-figure business, Single Grain and the five-star-rated podcast, Growth Everywhere.
Self Paced

English for Journalism
via University of Pennsylvania
This course is designed for non-native English speakers who are interested in developing the skills needed for a career in modern journalism.
Next Session:12th Mar, 2018

Journalism Skills for Engaged Citizens
University of Melbourne via Coursera
This is a course in basic journalism skills, designed for the many people who are now taking advantage of new media to publish news, views and information
Next Session : 13th Sep, 2016

Introduction to Journalism
via University of Strathclyde
Learn about the key principles and debates in journalism and enact the role of a journalist in the context of an escalating story.
Next Session:28th Mar, 2016

Community Journalism: Digital and Social Media
Cardiff University via FutureLearn
This is a course in basic journalism skills designed for citizens who are using new media to publish news, views and information. We cover writing skills, interviews, ethics, law and accessing public forums and documents. We also introduce basic investigative skills.
★★★★☆ (3 ratings) | Next Session : 8th Feb, 2016

J4SC101x: Journalism for Social Change
University of California, Berkeley via edX
J4SC101 has been designed for students who are interested in the intersection of public policy, journalism and social sciences and who are looking to use their expertise and careers to drive positive social change.
★★★☆☆ (1 rating) | Next Session : Self paced

Writing Fiction

Storytelling Fundamentals: Character, Conflict, Context, Craft

An Online Skillshare Class by Daniel José Older

Storytelling Fundamentals: Character, Conflict, Context, Craft (1 month free trial)
via Skillshare
How do you write a story that feels alive? What makes a story different from an anecdote? Join renowned urban fantasy writer Daniel José Older for a 40-minute dive into the fundamentals of narrative storytelling!
Self Paced

Creative Writing: The Craft of Style
via Wesleyan University
Your style is as unique and distinctive as your face, your voice, except that you can choose it, you can can work on it, enhance it. In this course we will introduce aspiring writers to the art of putting pressure on written language.
Next Session: 12th Mar, 2018

Creative Writing: The Craft of Setting and Description
via Wesleyan University
In this course aspiring writers will be introduced to the techniques that masters of fiction use to ground a story in a concrete world.
Next Session: 12th Mar, 2018

Writing for Young Readers: Opening the Treasure Chest
Commonwealth Education Trust via Coursera
This course is for curious students and aspiring authors with a passion for writing for young readers
★★★★★ (12 ratings) | Next Session :  19th Mar, 2018

How Writers Write Fiction
via University of Iowa
An interactive study of the practice of creative writing, How Writers Write presents a curated collection of short, intimate talks created by fifty authors of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and literary translation.
Next Session: 24th Sep, 2015

Start writing fiction
via The Open University
This hands-on course helps you to get started with your own fiction writing, focusing on the central skill of creating characters.
Next Session: 3rd Sep, 2018

The Future Of Storytelling
via University of Applied Sciences Potsdam
Learn how to analyze, contextualize and create stories and narratives in current media: from understanding storytelling basics to discussing new online tools and formats, this course brings together a network of media researchers, creators, and students.
Next Session: 25th Oct, 2013

How Writers Write Poetry
via University of Iowa
The course presents a curated collection of short, intimate talks on craft by two dozen acclaimed poets writing in English. Craft topics include sketching techniques, appropriation, meter, constraints, sound, mindfulness, and pleasure. The talks are designed for beginning poets just starting to put words on a page as well as for advanced poets looking for new entry points, thoughts about process, or teaching tips.
Next Session: Mar, 2015

Applied Writing Skills

Content Curation: How To Create A Viral Site From Scratch

An Online Skillshare Class by Greg Jeffries

Content Curation: How To Create A Viral Site From Scratch (1 month free trial)
via Skillshare
About This Class Ever wonder how those sites like ViralNova or GodVine get so much TRAFFIC and literally blew up overnight? Oh, and did I also mention sites like that generally tend to generate over six figures per month and usually sell for tens of millions?
Self Paced

Advanced Writing
via University of California, Irvine
It will help you raise the level of your writing and make you more aware of the type of writing you can expect in college. You’ll learn what plagiarism is and how to avoid it using correct MLA citations.
Next Session: 5th Mar, 2018

How to Succeed at: Writing Applications
via University of Sheffield
This free three week course will help you produce a perfect CV, application and online profile when applying for a job or course.
Next Session: 12th Mar, 2018

Writing for the Web
Understanding the difference between writing for print versus writing for the web starts with learning about how readers behave differently online. This course brings to light how to accommodate the needs of online readers through web design, writing style, structure and search engine optimisation.
Next Session: 18th Mar, 2018

ColWri2.3x: Academic and Business Writing
via University of California, Berkeley
An introduction to academic writing for English Language Learners, focusing on essay development, grammatical correctness, and self-editing.
Next Session: 18th Apr, 2016

Stunt Writing for Personal Growth
The Stunt Writing For Personal Growth class includes prompts, lectures, readings and discussions for writers of any age, at any level. Inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous quote, “Do one thing every day that scares you,” Stunt Writing For Personal Growth is a process that uses writing as a tool for you to learn about yourself, and gain skills in communicating your own unique story.
Next Session: 20th Jul, 2015

Writing in the Sciences
via Stanford
This course teaches scientists to become more effective writers, using practical examples and exercises. Topics include: principles of good writing, tricks for writing faster and with less anxiety, the format of a scientific manuscript, and issues in publication and peer review. Students from non-science disciplines can benefit from the training provided in the first four weeks (on general principles of effective writing)
Next Session: Self paced


Did you know that college freshmen write an average of 92 pages during their first year of school?

By the time they’re seniors, this number nearly doubles to 146 pages.

That’s a lot of writing!

The type of writing used for all these many, many pages is known as academic writing.

Even if you write every day, the type of English writing necessary for academic writing is a whole different beast (in other words, it’s completely different).

It’s not the kind of writing you might use every day, like in blogs or in letters. Academic writing has a certain structure and style that you probably won’t see anywhere else.

You’ll need to write in academic English in universities, scientific institutions and many other places that value higher learning and thinking. This is something to consider if you plan to attend an English-language high school, college or university. It may also be important for some companies and organizations you are thinking about working for.

Not to mention, if you’re applying to graduate programs you’ll need to use academic English to pass the GRE.

Don’t worry. All it takes is a slightly different approach, some good tips and practice to become an expert at academic writing. If you’re heading for a university soon, at least you know you’ll be getting plenty of practice!

Before you start studying how to write in academic English, you’ll first need to understand what sets it apart from other English writing.

The Smart Student’s Guide to Writing in Academic English

Before You Learn Academic English Writing

Academic English is used in any formal learning institution where writing plays an important role. Nearly all the writing you’ll do in a university will require academic English. Whether you’re writing an essay or a lab report, you’re using academic writing.

The skills you learn for college can help you in your career, as well. Reports for office jobs, essays for scientific journals and many other careers require you to know academic writing. Learning it early and getting lots of practice is a good way to get ahead in your career!

To succeed in academic writing, we recommend that you start when you’re already at an intermediate or advanced level of English.

Academic writing is one of the highest forms of English writing. Even though it’s fairly easy to learn when you already know your English, it can be a real challenge if you’re still struggling with grammar and vocabulary.

Don’t let any of this discourage you! Spend some time with this guide and you’ll come out better prepared to tackle academic writing, no matter what level of English you have.

Features of Academic English Writing

Academic English writing is different from other writing. It’s more structured and formal, following stricter guidelines and rules. Even the font and font size you use are important for academic English, so don’t even think about printing out that paper in Comic Sans font!

Academic writing usually has:

  • A clear introduction (beginning), body (middle) and conclusion (end).
  • A strong point for the reader to come away with.
  • Evidence to support the point being made.
  • Impersonal writing (that is, there’s no use of the words “I” or “me.”)
  • Double-spaced, Times New Roman, size 12 font.

Knowing this information brings you a huge step closer towards mastering academic writing.

To take you the rest of the way, here’s a beginner’s guide to English academic writing. Use this guide to prepare yourself and learn more about writing for universities and other institutions.

7 Beginner Tips for Learning to Write in Academic English

1. Take a course in it

Since university offers so many chances to write, you’re likely to learn academic writing by just attending an English-speaking university.

If you prefer to be more prepared before diving in, you can always take an preparatory (introductory) course. Taking a preparatory course will strengthen your English and writing skills, and it will teach you the fundamentals of academic writing through instruction and experience.

You can find local institutions offering courses on academic English writing (in fact, the college you plan on attending may have one), or you can do your studying from the comfort of your home. There are several courses available to take online, in your own time and at your own pace.

  • Coursera has a series of courses available for a fee, among others. Browse around and you’re sure to find the course that fits your availability and study style.
  • Inklyo offers affordable online courses on writing essays and writing persuasively. You can follow these courses at your own pace, so they’re easy to fit into any schedule. They also offer a variety of other courses and books that you can use to improve your English writing in lots of different areas, such as proofreading, grammar and more.

2. Learn to write formally

Forget everything you know about writing online. Writing for academic purposes means writing formally. What does that look like? Here are a few general rules to remember when writing formally:

  • Do not use contractions. As the previous sentence shows, instead of writing “don’t,” write “do not.”
  • Do not use slang or colloquialisms. Choose the most fitting words for your paper based on their dictionary definitions, not the way people use them in conversation. For instance, if you’re using the word “literally,” use it to mean “exactly, without exaggeration,” which is the original, correct meaning of the word.
  • Do not use the first person point of view. This just means you shouldn’t use personal words like “I,” “me” or anything else from your perspective. Distance yourself from your writing, and let facts speak for you. Instead of saying “I think the experiment shows…” say “The results of the experiment imply…”
  • Remove feelings and stick to facts. Academic writing is all about the facts. Intense and emotional language is generally not used in an academic paper. Use words that don’t show your feelings about something. For instance, instead of saying something is “bad” or “terrible” you can say it’s “inadequate” or “poor.”

Formal writing is crucial to academic writing, as well as business writing, official letter writing and many other scenarios. It’s a great idea to learn it!

3. Use the appropriate grammar style book

Until now, you may have been learning grammar from a classroom, a textbook or the Internet. Academic writing uses its own group of rules, which combine all the grammar rules you’ve learned and standardize them, which means that they make them exactly the same for anyone who’s using them.

To do that, academic writing requires the use of a grammar style book.

These grammar books cover everything from how to capitalize abbreviations to when to correctly use a comma. They’re also really useful for citing your work, which is listing any books, articles, papers or other material you used or referenced in your research. The most common style books used in formal writing are:

  • APA (American Psychological Association): This style is most commonly used in academic writing and journal articles. It’s also used in the business and social science field, which includes psychology, economics and other social writings.
  • MLA (Modern Language Association): This style is most commonly used in the liberal arts and humanities, meaning any writing that deals with literature and culture.
  • Chicago Manual: This style guide is one of the oldest and most complete guides out there. It’s not used as commonly, but it’s most often used in business, criminology, history and a few other areas.

Although APA is the most commonly used academic style, it’s not always the one used in schools. Different schools, departments and classes may have different requirements, so check in with your instructors about which style to use.

4. Learn by example

One of the best ways to learn academic writing, aside from practicing it, is by reading. Browse through a few academic papers and you’ll quickly understand how this writing differs from others.

Some examples of academic writing can be found online, on these websites:

  • JSTOR is a huge database of academic journals on many topics. If you’re currently attending university, ask about it. Your college credentials may give you free access to the website’s library.
  • Questia is another database of journals, which you can access for an introductory price of $1 for the first month, which is perfect for anyone who just wants to take a look at a wide range of writing in a short time span.

Many of the examples you’ll find above are professional level papers, so don’t be worried if you can’t understand them! College-level academic papers can be much simpler. The important part is to use the correct format and style.

5. Use outlines and drafts

Half the work in an academic paper goes into the preparation. Before you can write a paper, it’s a very good idea to plan it first. Many writers of all sorts use outlines. Even the article you’re reading right now started as an outline!

Writing an outline gives you a chance to plan what you’ll write, organize your thoughts and make sure everything fits together.

Think of writing like constructing a building. You wouldn’t want to start building until you have a plan. Otherwise your structure might not hold up well, and it might even fall down!

How your outline looks is up to you. As long as it helps you organize your paper and makes sense to you, it can even look like a tree if you want. It should be whatever works for you.

For inspiration, check out TeacherVision’s sample outlines or use Gallaudet University’s outline template to create your own.

Another important part of writing, especially when writing a paper or report, is to write drafts. A draft is an unfinished version of a final paper. Some papers go through many drafts, as the writers see what works and what doesn’t, apply feedback, edit and revise the work. Writing drafts can turn a good paper into an excellent paper. Just look at how different the first and fifth draft of this book excerpt are!

6. Form and support a strong thesis

Nearly every type of academic writing has a thesis. Your thesis is the central idea of your writing.

The thesis is the statement or claim you make in your writing, which the rest of the paper will try to prove. Your thesis can be something as simple as “divorce has changed Western society,” or it can be something much more complex.

Essays aren’t the only type of writing that uses a thesis or central idea. It’s an important part of any kind of academic writing, like lab reports, scientific writing, book reports and many others. No matter what you’re writing, you need some main idea to hold the piece together.

A thesis statement needs to be specific and concise (short and to the point). Some good examples and tips for writing thesis statements can be found at Kibin and UNC.

7. Get feedback

How do you know what to edit when you’re writing your drafts? With the help of others, of course!

Many college classes give students a chance to peer review each other’s work, which means reading writing by others and suggesting how it can be improved. Use the feedback from your classmates, professors or even friends to improve your writing.

If you can’t find anyone who will read all 94 of your freshman year pages, you can give yourself feedback. Use a peer feedback guide like this one or this one to find areas of your writing that can be improved.


By learning about academic writing, you’ll make things easier for yourself when the time comes to actually write.

Now get out there and start practicing!

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