How to write essays

Do your essays tend to be one big rambling mess full of puff and no substance? From researching to referencing, here’s what you need to do to write a first class essay.

Writing the least interesting essay ever.

How do you get your head around an essay question?

Read it and then read it again. Underline the key points that need to be addressed and make sure you cover all of them. If you really don’t understand it, go and see your tutor or teacher – it’s what they’re there for.

How do you research an essay?

Read lots. At the very least, read the core texts your teacher or lecturer suggests. And if you have time, pick up some more obscure stuff – it’ll get you a higher mark. Journal articles are great, too, as they tend to get to the point more quickly – although books are better for detailed information.

Make sure you note down the title of the book, the author, publisher and page number of useful passages, so you don’t have to look for them again when you write your bibliography.

How do you plan an essay?

People plan in different ways, but whether you like sprawling spider diagrams or simple lists, planning is essential to writing a good essay. Scribble down everything you think’s important and relevant to the question then formulate this into a plan. Work out your main points, the best people to quote, and how you’re going to answer the question.

How do you structure an essay?

The introduction: Your first paragraph should restate the question and say how you’re going to answer it.

The middle: In the main body of the essay you need to discuss the main points of your answer in a clear and logical order, backing up your points with research and quotes.

The conclusion: This is where you must draw together all your loose threads and state your answer more concisely.

How do you present an essay?

  • Remember to save the document regularly, both on a USB and your hard drive
  • Make sure you type the title of the essay and your name at the top of the piece of paper in bold (unless your department has special rules about presentation)
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, size 12
  • Don’t use colours, black ink on white paper is best
  • Double space your lines to allow room for the marker’s comments
  • Number your pages and include a word count if required

Do a first draft checklist

Don’t just hand in the first 2000 words you write. Once you’ve done your first draft, print it out and make sure you’ve done the following:

  • Not plagiarised. Make sure you haven’t regurgitated lectures or copied whole chunks from books.
  • Always backed up your opinions with a quote or fact.
  • Ensure the essay makes sense and has a good structure. After you’ve done a first draft, grab the red pen and move whole paragraphs around if you have to. If you’re still worried, get a friend to read it too.
  • Corrected any spelling or grammatical mistakes.
  • Checked your facts and quotes. Mistakes could lose you marks and quoting anyone inaccurately can get you in trouble.
  • Referenced everything.You’ll lose marks if you don’t get this right, so check your department or school guidelines, as styles vary.

What’s a bibliography?

Your bibliography goes at the end of your essay and is a long list of all the books and research papers that you’ve referred to in your essay. Again, your department probably has guidelines on style, but it’s usually alphabetical and looks similar to this:

Smith, J, The Mix is my life (Make believe books, London, 2003)

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Updated on 29-Sep-2015