The Six Steps of Writing an Academic Essay

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There are six steps to writing an academic essay. If you follow each of these steps correctly, you will find that you can write university essays that will earn you a distinction (or high distinction) every time. It is simply a matter of understanding what steps to follow, and then completing each of them thoroughly.

This article provides an outline and brief description of each of these steps. It is an introduction to a series of articles that will examine each step in more depth. Reading just this article alone will provide you with assistance in learning how to plan, research and write your essays. However, reading all the articles in the series will allow you to gain a more sophisticated insight into essay writing, and to improve your grades even further.

These are the six steps you need to follow to write high quality university essays:

1. Analyse the Question

There are generally two types of essays: argumentative essays and explanatory essays. In an argumentative essay, you are expected to put forward an academic argument in answer to the essay question and support your argument with academic sources (references). In an explanatory essay, you are expected to explain or describe a process or topic in answer to an essay question and support your argument with academic sources (references). Regardless of the type of essay you are writing, it is very important that you understand what is being asked of you before you begin your research and writing your essay.

You must be sure that you understand all parts of the question and what it is asking you to do. You must be able to recognise the 'task words' in the question, which tell you what you have to do (for example, 'discuss', 'compare', 'analyse' or 'argue') and the 'key words' in the question, which tell you what you are being asked to write about (for example, Critical Thinking, or the roles of registered nurses). (More information on this step will be provided in the article 'How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: Step 1. Analyse the Question.')

2. Draft the Essay Plan

You must write the first draft of your essay plan before you start your research. This will give your research direction and ultimately make it easier for you to write your essay. Having a plan will let you know what you need to research and how much research you need on each topic or subject that you will be writing about.

You will base this first draft of your essay plan on your essay question, and your current knowledge of your subject. It will not happen very often that you are asked to write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, since you will already be studying the subject and will normally have had one or more lectures or tutorials on the topic.

It is acceptable if your essay plan is rough or vague at this point, or if you do not have a great deal of detail. You will develop your essay plan (expanding it and including more detail) and possibly even change it as you go through the research process.

3. Conduct the Research

Part One: Organising your Research using a Research Document

Your research should be organised so that the transition from doing your research to writing your essay is simple. The best way to do this is to organise your research so that it matches the organisation of the essay. In Step 2 of writing an academic essay, you would have written a rough essay plan before you began your research. This essay plan is the guide you need to use to organise your research.

Copy and paste this essay plan into a Word document. All your research for this essay will be recorded in this one document. Use each of the dot points from your essay plan (topics you are planning to discuss) as a heading in your research document. When you do your research, you will organise it in the order that the information will appear in your essay. Doing this means you will be organising your research by theme or topic, not by source.

Part Two: Research Skills and...
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