The Art of Writing an Essay
Assignments. Exams. Dissertation. Essay writing is a common form of assessment. Some of you will already be seasoned essay-writers. Others may be writing essays for the first time. In this blog, I share the ‘chronological process’ that I use when I approach essay writing (assignments, not exam essays). In my next blog, I will focus on general essay-writing tips. Yes, this is a 2-part blog, but a timely one as assignment deadlines loom.
What question do you want to answer? Sometimes, you will have a list to choose from and it might be hard to decide. Is there a particular topic that interests you?
Begin by reviewing your pre-existing knowledge on the topic. It might be the case that you need to add to your class/lectures notes, re-watch lectures or speak to your seminar tutor to discuss ideas.
It’s best to be organised, such as through creating a timeframe that allows you to work on the essay. Do you have a strict deadline? When can you begin?
3) Notes and Planning
An important element of the essay writing process is to assemble a working plan. This is a very concise summary of the core points that you want to include in your essay. Having a plan can allow you to organise your thoughts/ideas, which you can refer to as you write your essay. The best essays require extra work that goes beyond the basic lecture material, such as through wider reading from academic journals/books. Most essays require a review of arguments or a discussion. So, doing extensive reading can allow you to identify core arguments in the scholarship. This process is known as a ‘literature review’.
Where do you sit in the debate? Do you agree with one view more than the other?
Showing nuance and independent thought in essays is important to get higher marks.
For example, have you identified something missing from an academic’s argument? Is it still relevant in today’s context? How could you revise their thesis? When forming a plan, it’s better to split the essay into sections- including an introduction and conclusion. It’s important for your essay to have a clear focus with a core argument that comes through clearly.
4) Advice and Feedback
After preparing and planning your ideas, you should seek some feedback from your seminar tutor/module leader. This will reassure you that you are on the right track and fully understand the arguments, concepts and views. In the past, I have misinterpreted certain arguments/interpretations. So, the discussion with my tutor was pivotal in preventing me from doing badly in my essay! Take the advice on-board and amend your plan accordingly.
5) First Draft and Further reading
Similar to the literature review, you may want to conduct extra reading to be able to reinforce your argument. Is there further evidence that you can use to support your argument?
Begin writing! The hardest part of this whole process is beginning to write the essay. You may have many ideas buzzing around or simply don’t know where to begin. Therefore, having a plan is important as the skeleton structure can be used as key starters. I have often found that by just writing, the whole process becomes easier, even if the sentences aren’t necessarily making sense. The good thing is that you can amend the essay afterwards.
Having a first draft that’s written is a real confidence booster.
6) Second Draft
Have you closely followed through with the delivery of your core argument? Do you have relevant evidence to support your argument? Have you analysed and evaluated the scholars’ views? Have you linked back to the question and answered it?
Create a checklist of the criteria that should have been included in your essay to review your progress. If required, restructure your sentences and rewrite your ideas. Make your essay flow. If you’re like me, who waffles a lot and has gone over the word-count, then it’s time to begin cutting out the unnecessary parts.
Tip: Highlight your essay. Use different colours to mark where you have used evidence, made points, used academics, linked back to the question etc. This can help you visually identify the parts that seem too long.
7) Final Draft
After finishing the editing process, it’s important to proofread and make final amendments. If you have some time before the deadline, it might be a good idea to take a break and look at it with fresh eyes a little while later.
You’ve written it. Congratulations! Submit! Get your feedback and then take the advice on board for future essays.
This blog outlined a specific tried and tested process that I use for essay-writing. It is not the only process and please don’t feel as though you need to adopt this step-by-step process. I prefer it because it keeps me organised. However, these steps will generally be used by everyone in some form. Some manage to do all of this in 48 hours. Some spend weeks with their essay writing. It’s really up to you.
Comment below if you found this blog useful or if you have a specific approach to essay-writing. If you found this blog useful, please like and share.