Writing an Essay
See also: Super Tips – Differences between Essays, Reports and Journals Super Tips – Writing in an Appropriate Style
Essays are usually written: • to inform your reader about your position in relation to a particular issue • to argue for change or recommend action • to analyse problems and present solutions • to present and evaluate research findings Writing an essay is an opportunity for you to develop new ideas and apply concepts and theories from your course. You’ll develop a thesis (or position) and use reasoning and evidence to support your point of view. A tertiary essay is similar to essays you’ve written at secondary school, particularly those written in your last couple of years at school. However, there are some differences you need to be aware of: • Citing all the sources you use is extremely important. If you don’t, you’ll be guilty of plagiarism, which is taken very seriously by the University. You can find out how to cite your sources and write reference lists in the Learning Links – Referencing leaflet. Most essays will be longer than you’ve written at secondary school (most are between 1500 and 2500 words) and will be worth a large percentage of your semester’s marks. You’ll usually be expected to analyse issues at a deeper level than you did at secondary school.
This resource has some useful hints on how to analyse your essay topic, plan and write your essay.
Steps in the essay writing process
Although no two writers work in the same way, there is a general system that many good writers follow. This system involves following the step-by-step process outlined below. Skim through the main points now, and when you need to write an essay, check out the extra information about each point.
Analyse the question - underline key words - put question into own words - look for hints on structure ‘Brainstorm’ the question - to take stock of what you already know
Super Tips/writing an essay
February 2005 1
- to give you a focus for your reading - to give you the beginnings of a plan 3. Start your research - begin with general reading - look for potential ways to structure your essay - remember to record bibliographical details and page numbers of references as you go Plan the essay - write down the main points/arguments, preferably using a mind map - write any secondary points and their relationship to the main points Continue your research - this is focused research, where you seek further information about each of the main points/arguments Write! • most people find it easier to concentrate on the body first, then the conclusion, followed by the introduction • decide on a logical order for your points/arguments • remember that each paragraph should contain one idea, which is stated in the topic • sentence. Other sentences in the paragraph should explain, give evidence for and possibly give examples. • concentrate on one point at a time, but in your final editing, make sure each paragraph is linked to the next • expect to write several drafts • don’t worry about spelling, grammar, sentence structure or finding the ‘right’ word until you’ve finalised the content of the essay.
Analysing the question
Once you’ve selected your topic, you need to be sure you understand what it means before you begin any researching or reading. A common problem is to make a quick assumption that you know what it means and what’s expected of you. However, if you’re wrong, even if you write a great essay, you won’t get very high marks if it doesn’t do what the topic says it will do. Here are some strategies: • Underline or highlight the key content words or phrases and direction words (such as discuss, evaluate, analyse, etc.) and make sure you understand them. It’s easy to overlook the direction words, but if you just describe something when you’ve been asked to analyse it, your essay is likely to get few marks. Check here to...
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