Writing Essay

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TIPS FOR WRITING SOCIOLOGY ESSAYS

Essays should engage with the literature on a topic, presenting the key findings of the literature as it relates to the essay question. Essays are not places to express your opinions, at least this is not their main purpose. Why? Because by engaging with the literature you will develop new understanding, beyond what you knew when you started the essay—you will come to learn about a topic from all the research that has already been undertaken on it. Your personality comes into an essay in the way that you engage with the literature, how you structure the essay, what themes you concentrate on, how well you frame your analysis, and so on. Remember, all great writers developed their understanding from engaging with research already undertaken.

The essay introduction should ‘answer’ the question in the first 2 or 3 sentences. Don’t start an essay with a long and roundabout summary—get straight to the point. An introduction should close with a very brief list of the 4, 5, 6 or so main points that the essay covers. You may also want to put in some background in the middle of the introduction, but don’t go overboard—you are answering a specific question, not providing a general overview. The opening ‘answer’ is difficult to do; that’s why a good introduction is impressive. So make a first attempt at it, and then return to it when you’ve finished the essay, once you know the topic well. An introduction is like a brief taster for the essay, so don’t go into any detail.

Then you should have 4, 5, 6 or so main points, which expand upon the ‘answer’ with which you began the introduction. Each point should be developed in one or two clear paragraphs, step by step—take your time explaining that one point. Don’t have any half paragraphs, one-line paragraphs, or anything like that. When you have finished your point, move onto the next in a new paragraph, trying to link the two with one sentence. A good essay is like a rainbow (sorry!),...
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