Learning Skills: How to Write an Essay

Topics: Essay, Academia, Writing Pages: 14 (4476 words) Published: April 30, 2013
Writing an essay
Learning Skills

Essays are not just exercises in research; they are also exercises in communication. Essays give you a chance to show what you can do: that you understand the question asked; that you understand the issues involved; and that you have done the appropriate amount of reading. Essays also allow you to demonstrate your analytical thinking and force a deep and powerful type of learning to take place. For these reasons, they are a common form of assessment at university. This form of assessment is frequently used for session assignments and exams. Most students, some more than others, will be required to demonstrate their learning through this genre during their degree.

An essay writing process to follow
There are a number of steps students need to work through:

Each step is important. However some students do not pay sufficient attention to the steps of question analysis, planning and editing. Perhaps this reflects insufficient time being allocated to the assignment task as a whole. Poor question analysis may result in a well-written essay but one that doesn’t address the question asked or goes off on tangents. A lack of planning often results in a poorly structured essay, which is hard for the reader to follow. Failure to edit an essay results in poorly presented work containing unnecessary errors in spelling, grammar and punctuation.

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Learning Skills @ CSU

The basic essay structure

Each section, the introduction, body and conclusion, has a specific purpose, which means the reader will be looking for expected features. A traditional essay does not include headings. As such it will appear as a series of paragraphs, with each paragraph having a place and purpose which the writer needs to make clear in topic sentences at the beginning of each paragraph. However, lecturers are becoming more flexible in their expectations and in some cases are allowing students to use headings in their essays. This has sometimes been referred to as a ‘report style essay’. Always confirm with your lecturer if headings are allowed if you are not sure. Many students find using headings helps them structure their essay. This is true for many DE students as headings are commonly used in workplace writing. If this is true for you and headings are not allowed, use headings in your draft, then convert them to topic sentences, before you submit your essay.

Referencing in an essay
You will be required to reference both within your essay and at the end of your essay in a list of references. You are required to reference every time you use the work of someone else, whether you have changed their words (paraphrased) or used their exact words (direct quoted). If you are not sure what this means refer to the referencing site for further explanation and examples or to the referencing section in the online essay writing tutorial.

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Learning Skills @ CSU

How should I present my work?
Some students mistakenly think that presentation of an essay refers to fancy headings, clever shading and elaborate fonts. It isn’t – and the extra time spent won’t result in extra marks – in some cases quite the opposite. Professionally presented, clear, easy to read text is the key. Always refer to your subject outline for specific instructions from your lecturer. If you are still unclear, post a message on your subject forum or ask your marker. It is likely that other students may have the same questions or perhaps the question has already been answered on your forum. In the absence of any specific directions, the following points are a general guide for presenting assignments. Assignments should be typed Use 1 1/2 spacing. (Some lecturers may ask for double spacing.) Use 2.5 cm margins both sides or a 5 cm left margin. Markers need space to be able to include their comments. Use Times New Roman font 12pt Include a separate title page with your name, student number, subject code...
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