One of the most common forms of assessment at university is a written essay. This page focuses on the academic research essay. In research essays, you are expected to present a particular point of view or 'argument' which is: focused on the essay question or topic, and
based on information you have researched.
You are also required to organise your ideas in a logical and coherent way and to express your ideas grammatically using an academic style of writing.
Conceptualising the task
Successful writers generally go through a series of steps conceptualising and planning their assignments before starting to write. Before you begin, re-read the course description and objectives to be clear about what you're expected to do. Make sure you address the subject's key concepts and objectives. The time you take to understand the essay question and brainstorm ideas about your topic will help you plan your literature search, reading, and note-taking. Developing an argument and planning your essay are critical in helping you structure your writing. Editing and proof-reading allow you to present a polished piece of work.
Understanding the essay question and brainstorming
Writing an essay usually involves answering an essay question or responding to a statement proposed for discussion. Your lecturer/tutor may give you: a list of essay questions/topics to choose from. In general, choose an essay topic that interests you and for which you can find resources. the freedom to develop your own essay question. Your chosen question needs to be related to the subject, specific, and to allow for the analysis of an issue, event or concept rather than simply its description. Once you have chosen your essay question/topic, make sure you understand the assessment task. Read the instructions carefully and identify 'content', 'limiting' and 'directional' terms. Content, or Subject: Tells you what the general area is.
Limiting words: Tells you what part of...