Top 10 Essay Tips

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1. Revise

This is one of the most important things you can do before writing your essay. Albeit cliché, it is true; fail to prepare, prepare to fail. The thought of revising can be daunting, at first. Usually your lecturer will offer some advice as to what to expect and maybe some hints as to what to look over. However, should they not, have a look at some past papers as these will give an idea of what questions to expect. Make your own notes, in your own words, also, as this will not only help you to retain the information but understand it better. When looking over articles and/or slides, there are a few questions that you should be asking yourself in order to help you critically analyse the material:

  • - Is the purpose clear (is the study worth conducting)?
    - What is the scope of the main and subsidiary questions (aims and objectives)?
    - What assumptions are made – are they implicit or explicit?
    - What sort of arguments are used and how much evidence is presented with them?
    - Are alternative views presented or is a reason stated for their exclusion?

2. Read/ understand the question

This point is crucial. You could write an outstanding essay and end up failing all because you did not address the question correctly. The majority of your marks are awarded through relevance; ensure everything you are writing ties back to the question.

3. Plan your essay structure

In order to ensure you won’t waste any of your time, plan ahead! Ensure to use a clear structure to warrant clarity in your argument. This is a good time to practice writing your essay under time restricted conditions and ask people to read through it, preferably fellow students on your course or lecturers who would be best to advise on the content. Your institution will have an allocated tutor whose job it is to help advise with essay writing, there may also be essay writing classes available out with school hours.

4. Write your plan on exam sheet

This will help you to stay focused; you can refer back to your plan throughout which will stop you going off topic and help to keep your points relevant.

5. Introduction

Your introduction should be no more than 100 words, it should briefly introduce the topic and clarify key concepts. Remember you are only stating what you are going to discuss, use short, concise sentences to avoid going into too much detail and always include the question.

6. Main body

Every essay should have a main point, a key idea and central argument – this is where your thesis statement comes in. When writing your essay draft, continuously circle back to your thesis statement with 3 questions in mind:

  • - Does each paragraph develop your thesis?
    - Do I have enough supporting evidence?
    - Do I need to adjust my thesis based on my evidence?

Throughout your essay you should provide critical analysis and evaluation for each point while this is important, it is also crucial to provide a critical distance. This is an opportunity to discuss why the basic premise may be wrong or limited. It is an opportunity to show you can think for yourself, rather than just memorize a list of points.

7. Conclusion

It is important to remember that the final impression is just as important as the first and, again, should be no more than 100 words. Whilst new material should not be introduced at this point; avoid simply summarising your essay or re-phrasing your introduction. Your conclusion should refer back to the original question and acknowledge both arguments and state which you feel is strongest thus directly answering the question.

8. Refer back to question

Whilst this is necessary to demonstrate your understanding of the topic and helps to validate your argument it also helps to ensure you are not going off topic.

9. Form conjunction

Make your essay flow smoothly by linking your main points together with transition words and phrases; this makes it easy for your readers to see the relationship between your ideas and how they develop your points. For example, you can use “therefore” “consequently” “thus” or “as a result” to show that the next idea is the logical result of the previous.

Be sure to avoid phrases that are considered as jargon in your field of study, a good report will explain key points in a way that enables anyone to read and understand your essay. Be sure to reference your information and theories, this clarifies any doubts the reader may have about the validity of your points and lets them know that you have done your studying.

10. Manage your time

Although you may be under time pressured conditions, it is important to allocate your time wisely. It is a good idea to try and set at least 10 minutes at the end to review and read over your essay. If you find that you are running out of time, quickly bullet point your next points and then write a conclusion. Whilst this won’t gain you any marks, it will allow the examiner to better understand your conclusion and what you were intending to write about.

There are many writers that inspire. And when it comes academic essay writing, rather surprisingly you may think, writers of fiction can have some great tips.

Roald Dahl day celebrated on 13th September 2016, looks at the work of this inspiring children’s author. For aspiring authors, he has sage advice regarding the discipline of writing.

For example, he advocated that top of the list for any writer, no matter what their assignment, was the correct writing environment. The environment around you inspires you, just as much as it can hamper.

Sitting in a corner, surrounded by junk and clutter may not be the best environment, conducive to completing writing assignments and online creative writing courses.

Essay writing

Dahls’ tips could also extend to those students who have an assignment looming.

Combining both Dahl’s tips with those specific to essay writing, these top 10 ideas for getting an assignment written are all that you need;

#1 Start early and schedule your time

An essay has a deadline and the closer this deadline, the more panic-stricken you will feel.

It may seem like a long way off but with the reading needed to complete the essay, drafting and polishing to give the final product, you may find that time ticks away faster than you think.

An essay written in advance of a deadline gives a far better read than one written hastily the night before.

#2 Understand the question being asked

All too often, students lose valuable marks because, although a well-written essay, it is not answering the question.

Is the question asking you to critically evaluateor discuss what happened during the Night of the Long Knives in Nazi Germany? Is the question asking you to review the products used in a facial for very dry skin or, is the question asking you to compare and contrast the novels of Roald Dahl?

Every assignment question will have key words in it. Pinpoint what they are and, as you write your assignment, keep referring back to the question.

#3 Get organised
You have started your assignment well in advance, you have pinpointed the key words in the question so know you need to get organised.

Before putting pen to paper, get your research done. What text books do you have that cover the topic? What can you find online?

Online creative writing courses can be useful in helping you to order your thoughts and materials too.

#4 Learn by example

Dahl was a great advocate of looking at other people’s work and understanding how they had structured their pieces.

The same is true for assignments although with the digital age, it can be tempting when the going gets tough to copy or plagiarise other people’s work.

All education providers and qualification agencies take a very dim view of passing someone else’s work off as your own. Don’t do it.

#5 Keep track of quotations and citations

When you use someone else’s work in the body of your essay, you must acknowledge their work. However, there is nothing more frustrating than having a really great quote written in your notes but you cannot find who it belonged to or where you found it!

Referencing your reading and other ideas is an important tool in academic writing; thus, be organised with keeping reference materials.

#6 Dash off a quick draft

All too often, when a student starts writing an assignment, they start to labour unnecessarily – starting with the introduction.

A top tip is to dash off a quick draft, not overly worrying about style or grammar. Think of this as an outline narrative of where you want to start and the points that you want to cover.

Creative writers start their novels in different ways; JK Rowling, for example, makes a table of chapters, noting the key points for each. Others dash off a synopsis, similar to the suggestion here. Online creative writing courses can be a minefield of information and tips on getting your writing started.

#7 Keep drafting

Once you have your narrative draft, you can now start to edit. Cut things out, expand on points, back up opinion with references and quotations…

#8 Check the word count You will now be at a point where you have a product not far from being finished. But it is a 1,000 words too long or 200 words too short. Keep polishing!

#9 Presentation

Now you have the more or less finished product, format it so that it meets the requirements of the course, as well as ensuring it looks the part. It should be typed clearly, with 1.5 or double spacing between lines, and easy to read with no spelling errors or glaring grammatical faux paus.

#10 Give it chance to mature…

… before you hand it in or send it off to your tutor.

Sometimes, we are too close to the piece, meaning we cannot see glaring mistakes or obvious omissions. Take a break from it but give it a final read through a few days later.

Roald Dahl Day celebrates the author – why not find out more about this charismatic author?


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