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Athabasca University

Essays, Reports and Reviews

Because the field of human geography is so diverse, students need to be prepared to communicate in a wide variety of formats. In terms of academic writing, some of the most common forms of assignments you are likely to encounter are essays, reports, and critical reviews. These types of academic writing are often confused with each other. For example, essays are quite different from reports even though they share the following characteristics: formal writing style; careful and accurate presentation; the inclusion of maps, tables, and figures as appropriate; and academic referencing. Below you will find a short description of each along with some good sites that can help you to prepare essays, reports, and reviews.


An essay is a piece of writing in which the student discusses, describes, and analyzes a particular subject. In this way, the purpose of the essay is to answer a certain question or a few closely related questions by developing and presenting an argument. The student answers the research question and supports his or her arguments by providing evidence, by citing other academic sources, and by challenging differing arguments or points of view. Also, it is important in geography to include pertinent maps, tables, and figures that support your arguments. Click on the following links for help in writing essays.

Advice on Academic Essay Writing (U of T)

Write On: Learn to Love your Term Paper (Julia Neilsen, AU Counselling Services)


Reports are descriptive and informational and do not contain arguments. Instead, a report is a written document that describes the findings or results about a specific question or investigation. Additionally, a report may offer solutions or recommendations to the reader based on an analysis of the results of the investigation. Reports are organized into sections. As well, the inclusion of appropriate maps, tables, and figures are valuable sources of information and analysis within reports. Click on the following links for help in learning how to write reports.

Guide to Writing Short Reports (U of T)

Book and Article Reviews

Here are a couple of sites that provide useful information on how to write critical book reviews and general instructions that can be used in critically assessing academic books and journal articles.

Writing a Critical Book Review (U of A)

Writing a Book/Article Review (Yukon College )

Updated November 14 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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