How To Write A Great Essay

The combination of being new or unfamiliar to a study environment and having to produce an essay for the first time can present a daunting challenge for many learners. To help you we have put together some top tips for essay writing…

#1 Familiarise yourself with the referencing system used by your education provider

It is important that you fully understand the referencing system used by your education provider (usually Harvard referencing) before writing an essay to prevent plagiarism and having to make big changes at the end.

Our top tip is to do your references as you work through your essay, as if you leave it to the end it is easy to become overwhelmed due to the sheer volume of references that may have been used. Plus you won’t risk missing any out.

#2 Understand the Question

Understanding the question is key to knowing how to answer, as how the question is phrased indicates the expectations. Are you being asked to critically evaluate something? Compare and contrast? Evaluate the usefulness of a particular concept? These are some of the most popular phrases found in essay writing.

If you are asked to critically evaluate a particular theoretical approach you must not only gain an understanding of the theory, but also other relevant approaches. They must all be weighed against each other, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each theory, and you must form a well-justified and confident conclusion.

How To Write A Great Essay

If you are asked to evaluate the usefulness of something, you don’t necessarily need to go into as much critical depth. You should still acknowledge alternative approaches, and still note some strengths and weaknesses – but the majority of the work must emphasise the practical usefulness of the specified concepts. 

If you are asked to compare and contrast, essentially this is a combination of the above. You need to take a critical approach and evaluate the literature, but your focus should solidly be on the theories that you have been asked to compare and contrast. It is important to show that you understand both or all core theories in great depth.

#3 Draw a plan

It’s important that you allocate enough time to complete every stage of essay writing without rushing before the deadline. Draw a plan that gives you enough time to understand the question, develop an essay plan, collect books and articles, read and take notes, write the essay and proof read. Make sure you schedule in breaks, as regularly study breaks can increase productivity.

It’s also important to plan and map the chapters of the essay. This will prevent you from going off on a tangent and writing things not relevant to the question.

How To Write A Great Essay

#4 Read widely

Before you start writing your essay you should conduct a broad search for literature and read widely around the topic and theories. Databases such as Google Scholar are a great tool for finding academic articles and your education provider’s library will stock a range of academic textbooks useful for essays. As you read through your texts take notes on anything relevant, as ultimately what you read will form the base of your essay.

Don’t rely too heavily on one or a couple of texts as this indicates that you haven’t engaged with the literature.

#5 Be critical

Perfect academic approaches and theories are rare – there’s nearly always arguments and ways to pinpoint flaws. For a higher grade you need to not only be descriptive, but also show that you are able to leverage critical reasoning in your dealing with academic materials. You can contrast the theory with alternative theories, discuss the limitations of the theories and critically analyse the methodology used and how other approaches could give additional depth.

It’s also important that you reference academic texts when you present an argument. Bear in mind you don’t need to always use full quotes, you can also paraphrase to save words.

#6 Stick to the word limit

It’s important that you know what the word limit is and you stick to it. If you don’t you could fail. Some education providers allow you to write to 10% above or below the limit – but you must check this with your tutor.

#7 Proof read

Always proof read your essay at least twice before handing it in. A good tip is get someone else to read it too, as we always struggle to spot our own grammar and spelling mistakes.

 

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