Essay Writing Handbook
Adapted by Bob Greenwood
Part 1: Research Strategies
Getting Started Choose an essay question and make sure you understand exactly what question(s) it is asking you to write about. If you need clarification check with your tutorial leader or course director. The best place to start looking for reading material is the course guide. When deciding on sources you should make sure that they are relevant to your topic. It is best to read more than one author’s opinion of any given topic. This way you can contextualize your question within particular debates. A good habit when taking notes is to write the full bibliographic information of the source on the top of each page. This way you will not have to waste time figuring out where a particular quote or idea came from later.
Brainstorming Once you have read on the various aspects of your essay question, it is time to brainstorm. Brainstorming is simply writing on paper all the ideas that come to mind about a topic. There is no right or wrong way to brainstorm, just put down anything that comes to mind related to your essay question. This can take many forms, for instance a mind map (see below)
Structuring Your Argument Now that you have all your ideas down on paper it is time to make sense of them. This is called an essay plan. Remember that it is good to show a variety of sources. Articles are a good source for critical material and web sources often provide more up to date information than some text books. DO NOT USE WIKIPEDIA or other such Wikis. Therefore it is a good idea to create a hierarchy of sources. This will insure that you end up with the most relevant material being used in your essay. When making an essay plan it is important to have a clear argument. Write out what the question is and how you will approach answering it. QUESTION TO BE ANSWERED ARGUMENT 1 SUPPORTING EVIDENCE ARGUMENT 2 SUPPORTING EVIDENCE ARGUMENT 3 SUPPORTING EVIDENCE
It is important to distinguish between arguments and evidence. An argument is a claim made to support or opposes a proposition. Evidence is something which provides ground for belief or disbelief. Therefore, in order for an argument to have merit evidence must be provided to back up the claim. There are different ways essay questions can be asked. The table below provides you with a guideline to what type of analysis is expected from various manners of phrasing the questions.
Part 2: Essay Writing
Now you can start writing the essay. Remember to follow your essay plan. This will prevent you from getting lost and repeating yourself. It will also help you to stay on point. A well structured essay has three components: Introduction Main Body Conclusion Introduction Tells the reader what question you will answer, what argument (s) and evidence you will use to answer the question and what conclusions you plan to draw. The introduction functions as a map for the reader. It is often helpful to write the introduction last. This way you will know exactly what you have said in the essay, making the introduction fit the main body. Main Body Following your essay plan, discuss each element of the argument(s) in detail and provide supporting evidence. Make sure each paragraph has an introductory sentence and concluding sentence. This helps your essay flow better. Try to avoid jumping from one idea to the next. Build up your argument in steps (following your essay plan) so that you can be analytical and critical throughout. Be Analytical. This element of your essay is very important. It can mean the difference between a 2.2/2.1/First. It is not enough to merely provide a description of the topic, what is expected is that you demonstrate knowledge of the topic. You are required to engage with various view points and comment on how they affect the topic. Look at how the question is...
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