What is an essay?
An essay is a piece of writing that methodically analyses and evaluates a topic or issue. Fundamentally, an essay is designed to get your academic opinion on a particular matter.
Many students get confused about the word 'opinion' in academic writing, and think that academic writing should just stick to reporting the facts and forget about opinion altogether. However, there are important differences between an academic opinion and a personal opinion, and it's important to grasp these when you're putting together an essay:
Academic opinion OR argument, stance, position, thesis, claim Yes - you can defend or support an academic argument by citing credible evidence and laying out a reasoned argument
Conducting research, examining evidence, even-handedly considering issues
Gut feelings, personal experiences, own worldview
Objectivity - guided by logic and rational thinking
Subjectivity - guided by emotions, personal experiences and individual character
Is it defendable?
Hmmm, it's hard to say that one person's 'gut feeling' or worldview is any more valid than another's, so personal opinions are very hard to defend and validate objectively
Academic opinion OR argument, stance, position, thesis, claim
Yes - you can defend or support an academic argument by citing credible evidence and laying out a reasoned argument
Remember that 'learning' at university does not simply involve memorising new ideas, but forming your own ideas in response to what experts in the field have said.