In order for us to analyse our growing collection of academic writing, we are using the following categories to classify the documents in the Cambridge Corpus of Academic English:

ESSAY: systematic discourse with argument structure, eg:

  • Argumentative essay
  • Commentary
  • Discussion
  • Thesis

DISSERTATION/THESIS: presents research findings; submitted in support of candidature for a degree, eg:

  • Undergraduate dissertation
  • Masters dissertation/thesis
  • Doctoral thesis

CREATIVE WRITING: fictional or factual recount of events, eg:

  • Short story
  • Plot synopsis
  • Character outline
  • Reflective recount

CRITIQUE/EVALUATION: demonstrates understanding of the object of study; evaluates / assesses the significance of the object of study, eg:

  • Academic paper review
  • Financial report evaluation
  • Interpretation of results
  • Policy evaluation
  • Product / building evaluation
  • Project evaluation
  • Review of book / film / play
  • System evaluation
  • Teaching evaluation

DESIGN SPECIFICATION: outlines design of product or procedure that could be manufactured or implemented, eg:

  • Application design
  • Building design
  • Database design
  • Game design
  • Label design
  • Product design
  • System design
  • Website design

EMPATHY WRITING: translation of academic ideas into a non-academic register, for a non-specialist readership, eg:

  • Letter
  • Newspaper article
  • Information leaflet
  • Expert information for journalist
  • Expert advice to industry
  • Expert advice to lay person

PROPOSAL: makes a case for future action, eg:

  • Book proposal
  • Building proposal
  • Business plan
  • Catering plan
  • Design proposal
  • Legislation reform
  • Marketing plan
  • Policy proposal
  • Research proposal

METHODOLOGY RECOUNT: written in order to become familiar with disciplinary procedures and methods, and record experimental findings, eg:

  • Computer analyses
  • Data analysis report
  • Experimental report

CASE STUDY: written in order to gain an understanding of professional practice through the analysis of a single exemplar, eg:

  • Business start-up
  • Company report
  • Investigation report
  • Patient case notes
  • Patient report
  • Tourism report

EXPLANATION: demonstrates understanding of object of study and/or its significance, eg:

  • Methodology review
  • Organism / disease overview
  • Product development overview
  • Species / breed overview
  • Substance / phenomenon overview
  • System / process overview

EXERCISE: provides practice in key skills, and consolidates knowledge in key concepts, eg:

  • Calculations
  • Data analysis
  • Stats exercise
  • Short answers

LITERATURE SURVEY: demonstrates familiarity with literature relevant to the focus of study, eg:

  • Literature review
  • Notes taken from multiple sources
  • Summary of book chapter / articles

RESEARCH PAPER: complete piece of research including research design and illustration of its significance in the field, eg:

  • Research paper
  • Journal article

PROBLEM QUESTION: practice applying specific methods in response to simulated professional problems or scenarios, eg:

  • Law problem question
  • Logistics simulation
  • Medical problem question


Cambridge University Press