How to write an essay Author Posted January, At university level, it's more important than ever to approach your work in the right way. Discover how to plan, write and evaluate your essay in order to achieve top marks Taking the time to properly plan an essay can lead to higher grades, with examiners welcoming a logical structure that clearly communicates your understanding of the subject.
However, knowing where to begin and how to go about completing the assignment is not always easy - especially if you've not had to write at undergraduate level before and are still adjusting to university life. Learning how to write an essay early on will help you prepare for writing your dissertation in your final year. We've asked two academic experts how they would recommend planning and writing a first-class essay. Planning your essay will make the writing process quicker and easier Adopt a strategy Planning your essay will make the writing process quicker and easier.
All essays should include the following structure Essay paragraphs A paragraph is a related group of sentences that develops one main idea. Most of the time, your point should be supported by some form of evidence from your reading, or by an example drawn from the subject area. See The Learning Centre guide Paraphrasing, summarising and quoting Tips for effective writing Start writing early - the earlier the better. Starting cuts down on anxiety, beats procrastination, and gives you time to develop your ideas.
Keep the essay question in mind. Keep a copy in front of you as you draft and edit and work out your argument.
Begin with what you are ready to write - a plan, a few sentences or bullet points. It is the most common focus for study consultations among students using Learning Development. These lists suggest questions to ask of your writing when you are reviewing it. Why essays? To produce a high quality essay you need to demonstrate your ability: to understand the precise task set by the title; to identify, appropriate material to read; to understand and evaluate that material; to select the most relevant material to refer to in your essay; to construct an effective argument; and to arrive at a well-supported conclusion.
The need to use such a wide range of academic skills is probably the main reason why the essay format is so popular with tutors as an assignment.
The word limit adds to the challenge by requiring that all of these skills be demonstrated within a relatively small number of words. Producing incisive and clear written work within a word limit is an important skill in itself, which will be useful in many aspects of life beyond university. Feedback Good, constructively critical feedback can give you excellent guidance on how to improve your essay writing. It is worth attending to all of the suggestions and comments you receive, and trying to act on them.
Common criticism given to students is that their essay: does not keep to the title that was set; has a poor structure; does not have enough critical writing.
These criticisms highlight the three basic elements of good essay writing: attending closely to the title; establishing a relevant structure that will help you show the development of your argument; and using critical writing as much as possible; with descriptive writing being used where necessary, but kept to a minimum.
These elements will be used to give a broad overall structure to this Study Guide. Attending closely to the title The most important starting point is to listen carefully to what the essay title is telling you. You need to read every single word of it, and to squeeze out as much guidance you can from the title.
Then you need to plan how you will respond to every single element of the title. The guidance given to you by the title is freely available, and is your best clue to what is required in your essay. One, answer the question. Two, answer the question. Three, answer the question. The Mini Guide: Essay terms explained , and Questions to ask about interpreting essay titles may be useful.
It can be a way of making a lot of progress quite quickly. It can be stressful and very difficult trying to work out solely in your mind how to tackle an essay title; asking yourself questions such as: What structure should I use? What are my main points? What reading do I need to do? Have I got enough evidence? It can be much less stressful to throw all your thoughts down on paper, before you start trying to find answers to these questions.
In these early stages of your thinking you may not be sure which of your ideas you want to follow up and which you will be discarding. Instead, you can catch all of your ideas, in no particular order, on a sheet or two of A4. Once they are down there it will be easier for you to start to review them critically and to see where you need to focus your reading and note taking. Breaking it down then building it up Essentially, this is what you are doing within the essay process: breaking ideas down, then building them up again.
You need to: break down the essay title into its component parts, and consider possible ways of addressing them; work with these component parts, as you select your reading and make relevant notes; build up the essay using the material you have collected; ordering it; presenting and discussing it; and forming it into a coherent argument.
Throughout this process, the essay title is the single immovable feature. You begin there; you end there; and everything in between needs to be placed in relation to that title. Efficient reading All three of the processes described above will inform your decisions about what you need to read for a particular essay. If left unplanned, the reading stage can swallow up huge amounts of time. While a certain level of efficiency is desirable, it is also important to remain flexible enough to identify relevant and interesting ideas that you had not anticipated.
As with teaching, it is often not until you try to communicate an argument and its evidence that you find where the gaps are in your knowledge or argument. Writing is an active and constructive process; it is not merely a neutral recording of your thoughts. It is therefore useful to go into the writing process expecting to make revisions. The first words you write do not have to be part of the final version. Editing your writing as you develop your ideas is a positive not a negative process: the more you cross out, re-write, and re-order, the better your essay should become.
Establishing a relevant structure to support your argument All essays need structure. The structure may be strong and clear, or it may be unobtrusive and minimal but, in a good essay, it will be there.
You should be particularly careful in using course books i. Signs of Trouble A common structural flaw in college essays is the "walk-through" also labeled "summary" or "description". Realistically, it is possible that they may even decide not to make that effort. They are absolutely crucial because it is only at this stage that the student can see that the argument hangs together, has a sequence and is well-expressed.