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Best Academic Writing Books to Help Students Get Better Grades

William Ellis
November 20, 2022

What you'll learn

What you'll need

There are a lot of ways that you can improve your academic writing. Why not learn from successful authors that have written the book on academic writing to show you the tips and tools you need to succeed? You’ll find the best books on academic writing in the list below and what makes them unique so you can pick the academic writing books that will fit your needs.

The world of academic writing differs vastly from that of creative writing or writing merely for fun. Academic writing has a level of stakes that are different for everyone. For some, writing the perfect academic paper makes all the difference between getting accepted into college and coming up with a new life plan.


What sets academic writing apart?

Academic writing calls for a more formal tone than one would typically use when communicating with friends and family, or if one was creative writing. The standards of academic writing are stricter, and with good reason.

With academic writing, there are two specific goals typically in play, which is to educate and to earn a decent grade. If you want to achieve either of those goals, you must be at the top of your game. This means mastering the four types of academic writing.


What are the four types of academic writing?

Descriptive writing

The simplest of academic writing style, which is used to do nothing more than state facts and inform the reader of information. 

Commonly used words are: summarize, identify, and define.

Analytical writing 

While it can be comparable to descriptive writing, analytical writing differs in how information works together. This writing style makes a point to compare and contrast each section to truly allow the reader to form opinions. 

Commonly used words are: compare, contrast, and analyze.

Persuasive writing

Like the two before it, this style builds on analytical writing by adding opinion to it. Hence the name, persuasive. In this form, you’ll attempt to convince the reader of your opinion. 

Commonly seen words are: argue, debate, and consider.

Critical writing

Generally confused with persuasive writing since this style is similar but includes another point of view. You’ll attempt to convince the reader of your opinion while acknowledging another perspective. 

Often seen words: debate, assess, differ, and argue.


What books will improve my academic writing?

If you want to make the grade, then you must master your academic writing skills. This is something that can take years if you do not take the necessary time and effort to hone your skills. 

Numerous books on the market are designed to help you become a better overall academic writer. Here are the best academic writing books to help you take your writing to the next level.

Best books on academic writing


1. Move the Rock of Academic Writing by EssayShark

Move the Rock of Academic Writing: Complete Manual on the Academic Writing Process by EssayShark

One of the hardest tasks for many people to master in an academic style is writing in a formal tone. This book created by EssayShark is here to help you shift from a casual tone to a formal one while using all the necessary tools to make your academic work more legitimate.

You will learn to use a more serious tone and how to properly format your academic writing so that it conforms to any and all necessary standards. This is a great first stepping stone for mastering academic writing.

2. Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword

Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword

There is a misconception that all academic writing should be so formal and dry. The problem with that mentality is that when you are so dedicated to a style as rigid, it can make for a boring reading experience. No rule says one’s academic writing must be completely devoid of style.

In Stylish Academic Writing by Helen Sword, you will learn how to inject personality into your academic writing. You will learn that you do not have to write wordy, overly elaborate, and impersonal work. Sword will show you how to bring passion to your writing while maintaining respectability. This book is for you if you do not want your work to go stale.

3. The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing by Michael Harvey

The Nuts and Bolts of College Writing by Michael Harvey

Sometimes you need a book that is made for nothing more than supplying the absolute basics for a student. While this affordable gem is useful for all levels of college writing, it’s geared toward students who need extra polish in their work.

With his characteristic wit and easily understandable explanations, Harvey gives a complete overview of what goes into being a great writer in what might be one of the most classic guides on the market. Even an advanced student could glean useful information from the citation style guides and the unique collection of examples of more concise writing.

4. The Elements of Style Workbook by Michelle Poff PHD

The Elements of Style Workbook by Michelle Poff

If you were to create a list of books that every writer should have to improve their skill set, The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr. would be on that list. That book has been a standard for over one hundred years and has helped writers in every field and genre. The Elements of Style Workbook is a companion piece designed to update the 100+-year-old original work for modern readers and writers.

It takes the core principles taught in the original book and gives exercises that the reader can do to illustrate that they fully grasp the concepts inside the book. By applying a modern approach to a classic work, the reader can learn all that the original work has to offer thanks to a modernized, streamlined presentation that challenges them to put the book's teachings to work.

5. The Craft of Research

The Craft of Research Fourth Edition

One of the hardest lessons that a student learns after leaving high school and entering the sprawling world of college is that doing a Google search or reading a page on Wikipedia does not count as research.

This is a shock for some people, but with so much information readily available thanks to the internet, many people out there think that a simple search engine result is enough. The Craft of Research is there to show students just how wrong that thinking is and, more importantly, how to do research the right way.

The Craft of Research teaches the reader proper, intensive research. The reader will learn how to find the source of information and properly cite those sources. Furthermore, it teaches the reader that doing proper research is a skill that can be honed.

6. How to Write a Thesis by Umberto Eco

How to Write a Thesis by Umberto Eco

A thesis is a seemingly cut-and-dry affair for a writer. It is essentially the overall point of a piece of writing. Umberto Eco, the celebrated author of The Name of the Rose, offers up this remarkable guide for students.

Not only does he coach the reader through how to write a thesis, but he also gives pointers on how the reader should choose their thesis, how to do the correct research to back up the thesis, and how to take their concept to a final draft. 

Eco takes the guidance further by offering advice, sometimes even questioning the need for a thesis. It is a guide that is both helpful and entertaining.

7. Becoming an Academic Writer by Patricia Goodson

Becoming an Academic Writer by Patricia Goodson

Sometimes a writer needs to take a step-by-step approach to learn new or better techniques, which Patricia Goodson offers. Goodson advocates a process called deliberate practice, which is the idea that by continually practicing the craft of writing, one will become better and better at productive academic writing and mastery over the process.

Using fifty exercises proven to enhance even the most novice of writers, this flexible and self-paced guide allows each person to find their trouble areas and work on them more thoroughly. Now on its second edition, this enhanced version includes more of Goodson’s patented clarity and theory.  

8. Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students by Stephen Bailey

Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students by Stephen Bailey

This book will be of particular interest to students who are from other countries and may not necessarily be native English speakers. Academic Writing: A Handbook for International Students is there to help overcome some of the difficulties that can arise when writing in a language that is not your first language.

You will overcome phrases that get lost in translation and write in a way that allows you to express yourself. 

9. Write No Matter What by Joli Jenson

Write No Matter What by Joli Jenson

With the sheer amount of scholarly writing required of any student, finding ways to keep doing so can become tedious, especially when it seems as though the academic system is there simply to break you down. With Write No Matter What, Jolie Jenson wants to give you the tools and the willpower to keep on writing.

Joli Jenson goes to great lengths to illustrate that the academic environment can be stifling under even the best circumstances. Jenson’s book will help you to take some of the pressure of academic writing away so that you can still enjoy writing. There is advice here that works whether you are a college freshman or for graduate students who are about to write your final thesis.

10. The Only Academic Phrasebook You'll Ever Need by Luis Otavio Barros

The Only Academic Phrasebook You'll Ever Need by Luis Otavio Barros

One of the biggest problems that many writers have when they transition to an academic style is finding that perfect balance between intellectual and simple writing. Finding the right words in general can often be a major struggle. Fortunately, Luis Otavio Barros can cure this problem with The Only Academic Phrasebook You’ll Ever Need: 600 Examples of Academic Language.

This book is a compendium of phrases and words you will need to know to be able to write academic papers up to the proper high standard. You can use these phrases in academic writing and prose, essays, articles, and other forms of writing.

The book will also teach you key language skills and what words and phrases you need to avoid to strengthen your writing. Make no mistake, this book does not function as a cheat sheet. It is more like a guide you can feel free to listen to or ignore (at your own peril.)


How these academic writing books benefit you

Each book has a core teaching that will enhance your academic writing. Not only will it be easier for you to create academic works, but you will also have writing skills that you can carry over into other formats and genres should you so choose. They possess skills that you will carry with you for a lifetime.

However, it must be said that you will only develop these skills if you put them to work by sitting down and writing. No matter your writing process, real growth as a writer only happens once the writing legitimately begins. Sitting down and getting the words out onto the page or a screen is no different from trying to build muscle through exercise.

If you’re interested in other books on all sorts of writing to help you become a better writer, we have you covered with more reviews! Check out the best books for creative writing, essay writing books, books to help write novels, improve writing skills, or even help you write screenplays. You’ll find that you can learn something from many of these books to help you with any writing style moving forward.

Conclusion on the best books for academic writing

Academic writing is a skill you will carry with you for the rest of your life once you learn to master it. While many are eager to leave such skills behind after college, a writer never really forgets. 

Hopefully, at least one of these academic writing books above piqued your interest based on what you are trying to improve with your academic writing, and will help to give you the writing skills you are striving for.

There is a sort of symbiosis to these writing skills; if you use them correctly, they will help bring you to the life you want.

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