Top Tips for Essay Writing
Posted on: 22/10/2019 | Written by: Harry Clueit, Student Ambassador from University of Liverpool
During term time, it can feel like you’re drowning in essays. Endless hours are spent trying to squeeze your work into word count limits, making sure references are complete and proof-reading pages upon pages. University and essays co-exist like students and Super Noodles – for many of us, they’re inescapable! So, I thought I’d offer some advice on how to approach essays effectively.
- Get to grips with the question – It is really important to get a clear understanding of what is being asked. Examiners can look for a variety of skills when setting essay questions, whether that’s comparing, analysing or evaluating information. When you’re up to your neck in books, it is easy to lose focus on what the task at hand actually consists of, but regularly reflecting on whether you are answering the question will ensure you stick to the marking criteria and help provide your essay with a clear structure.
- Read, read, read! – To be able to analyse and evaluate the question, you need to do extensive research into the subject area. A good place to start is using lecture notes and checking if you have been given a list of essential reading. To score the best marks, wider reading outside the scope of your course could provide you with a different outlook on the question. It can be difficult to sift through vast amounts of reading and it is important to be critical and select sections which are suited to the essay question. MindTap is very useful for condensing information into manageable content which is easy to understand. The search function also enables you to quickly use key terms to find the information that you need.
- Structure – To maintain a focus on the essay question, a logical structure is essential. Having a core introduction, a main body covering all aspects and a powerful conclusion makes it easy for an examiner to follow and therefore easier for you to pick up marks. The way content in digital solutions such as Cengage’s MindTap is structured is helpful in compartmentalising areas that need to be included in essays. For example, I found it helped to use one chapter of MindTap’s textbook as a foundation for one paragraph within my essay. Whereas, the summary section in the eBook was an excellent resource to check that I had included all the key elements of the topic.
- Flow – This might sound really basic but making sure your essay reads well and flows smoothly really helps examiners to identify the points that you are trying to make. Using topic sentences to begin paragraphs is a useful tool for linking your argument from the previous paragraph. You should also make sure the whole piece is cohesive and that you finish with a strong conclusion that links back to the question and ties the essay neatly together at the end.
- Language – The tutor marking your essay will be an expert in their field, so it is appropriate to use specialist and academic language. A key skill I have developed during university is adaptability and tailoring your language to your audience. If asked to work in groups with fellow students, more informal language could be used, but when presenting work to a lecturer, sophisticated vocabulary will receive better marks. MindTap has a key terms flash card feature which I often use to ensure I have included an appropriate variety of specialist vocabulary.
- Reference – It can feel like a long, arduous process, but referencing properly is a vital skill required for essay writing at university. For an essay to be effective, you have to draw on secondary research and specialist opinions. To avoid the dreaded plagiarism, a credible citation is needed to provide evidence of the source. Both direct quotations and para-phrasing need to be referenced. I would also advise checking which style of referencing the university requires, whether that’s Oxford or Harvard etc. eBooks, such as those within MindTap, often offer a citation facility.
As you can see above, one of my top tips is to provide a strong and cohesive conclusion. So here goes…
I hope my advice will be useful when approaching essays in the future. With any luck, it’ll make essay writing a more efficient process, leaving you with more time to sleep, hang out with friends, or to perfect, of course, those Super Noodle recipes.
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