Tips on writing a summative essay: – OurWarwick

Tips on writing a summative essay:

We are now coming to the end of term one which means essay titles will have been released for modules that are assessed using this method. You may not know what to do or where even to start. I though I’d share my way of writing my essay, so you have a starting point. Feel free to mix the steps up and do what suits you the best.

Figure out which essay question you want to do:

This might sound straightforward, but I think it is a step that is often neglected. Most people look at the questions and pick one because it seems the easiest or because everyone else is doing it too. I would say think hard behind what your lecturer expects for that specific question. Is it a comparison question? Is it a question which requires a historical analysis? Once you’ve figured this out you will have to think about where your skills lie. Which one of these question types are you better at?

Look at the material that fits in with your question:

Once you’ve figured out which question you want to do, you should go over the lectures and the lecture notes for that particular topic. This is a nice refresher on what the foundations of your essay may be. If you have had a seminar on the topic you could flick through that as it will allow you to look at some of the more complicated issues in the topic.

Do the reading around the topic:

Usually, your convener will create your essay topic on something that is debatable or up in the air. This means there will probably be a lot of literature surrounding the issue. Some of this might have been your lecture/seminar reading and some if may have been wider reading. This is usually my starting point on trying to understand the issues. From these articles, if an interesting point is made, I look at the references and find new articles from there.

Create a plan:

Whilst you are reading the literature, keep your essay question in mind. Take notes on any arguments/examples that you think can support your essay title. I usually make a for and against list. Once I’ve done this, I am able to pick which side I agree with and I can argue the best. You can then begin to flesh out your argument. I use the PEEL structure. Point – Evidence – Explanation – Link. This allows me to incorporate all the parts of the mark scheme in a structured fashion.

Write your essay:

I usually spend around 300 words on my introduction and 250 on my conclusion. I then split my essay into 2/3 themes which I can discuss and argue in detail. In your introduction outline what your thesis is and the steps you will take to prove your argument. Then in the last sentence outline what you would conclude with.

A nice statement I life to follow is: Say what you’re going to say. Say it. Say what you’ve just said.


Don’t just submit your first draft. Go through – fix your spelling mistakes. Change your sentence structure, if necessary. Make your work concise. After all, there is a word limit and you want every word to mean something.

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