Essay Writing Tips
Following on from my previous blog- ‘The Art of Writing an Essay’- I wanted to share some specific essay writing tips. Every essay is different and has differing requirements. So, it’s important that you carefully read the assessment criteria and speak to your tutor to clarify the expectations for the essay.
Here are some tips:
Colour-coordinating (through highlighting) your essay is a great way to visually identify the key components of your essay sections. This immensely supports the cutting down process, if you go over the word-count.
Tip: Have different colours for different components e.g. your point, scholars’ arguments, evidence, analysis, evaluation etc.
It’s important to ensure that your essay flows. Are your points relevant? Have you clearly analysed arguments and used appropriate evidence?
Tip: Signpost your work. Add sentence starters, such as ‘additionally’, ‘furthermore’, ‘conversely’ etc to develop your section.
Linking your sections and points will allow you to maintain a focus in your essay. The best essays will clearly and closely develop arguments.
Tip: Have an introduction that clearly states the points that you will cover in the essay, which includes your argument. In your conclusion, summarise the points you have made and the relevant evidence that supports this, which justifies your argument.
Have you evaluated the scholar’s argument? Have you considered other arguments or perspectives that rival your own? If so, do these other arguments seem valid?
Tip: Consider alternative arguments that you can instrumentally use to develop your own and make it seem as being the most accurate.
4) Independent thought
The best essays will demonstrate a degree of independent thought, rather than just reciting what scholars are arguing. This invites you to weigh in on debates, take a position and support your evaluation/argument. Is a scholar’s view outdated with the current context? What is someone with an alternative view arguing and is this more convincing? These are a few questions, out of many, that you can use to critically analyse points.
5) Answer the Question!
It can be easy to get carried away with a topic and not address what it demands. Also, it’s common to misinterpret what the essay is asking you to consider, especially if there are multiple components. If you have written your essay, read through it again with the essay question at the forefront of your mind. Is each sentence adding value in working towards answering the question?
Tip: A way to ensure you are answering the question is to summarise the points you made in that section and how that answers the question in a few sentences at the end of that section. This is particularly important in the conclusion, where the marker will understand how your points have all fitted in for you to end up justifying your argument and how that argument answers that question.
6) Marking criteria
Remember the mark-schemes we used to have at school? Well, at University it’s a bit different as not everyone will necessarily answer the same question and there is no certain indicative content that must be included as you have free reign over how to write your essay. However, many departments offer generic marking criteria that the examiner use. If available, read through the criteria and try to interpret whether your essay would hit those top bands.
7) Proofread and Academic practice
Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar (SPAG). This was important at school. It’s still important at university. In addition, the university essay requires you to use good academic practices e.g. referencing. You could write the best essay, but if there isn’t any referencing, it demonstrates poor scholarship skills.
Tip: If you have many references, creating a bibliography and arranging it might take some time. Use the ‘sort’ icon, in the ‘paragraph’ tab, which automatically puts your references in alphabetical order.
Tip: When referencing, make a note of the source e.g. link or author’s name and text in a footnote or brackets. It can be very frustrating if you found this useful piece of information randomly during your planning process, and then you struggle to find its source afterwards, which becomes time-consuming.
These were a few tips specific tips that I wanted to share. If you have any others that work for you, please feel free to comment below. If you found this blog or any others useful, then share it with your friends!