The Learning Centre • http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au
What does a good essay need?
An academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence. An academic essay should answer a question or task.
It should have a thesis statement (answer to the question) and an argument.
It should try to present or discuss something: to develop a thesis via a set of closely related points by reasoning and evidence. •
An academic essay should include relevant examples, supporting evidence and information from academic texts or credible
1. Starting the essay
Although there are some basic steps to writing an
assignment, essay writing is not a linear process. You might work through the different stages a number of times in the
course of writing an essay.
Start work early
You can’t write a successful essay unless you give yourself enough time to read, research, think and write. Don’t procrastinate or leave it until the last minute; start as early as possible.
Define the question and analyse the task
Writing down everything you know about a topic is not enough to make a good academic essay. Analysing, then answering the essay’s question or task is central.
Basic steps in writing an essay
In no strict order . . .
Analyse the question and define key terms
Establish a possible thesis/ point of view
Research the topic. Use credible academic
sources for support and evidence.
Take notes from your readings.
Write an essay plan and organise your
Write your first draft to include your
introduction, body and conclusion
Set the draft aside for a day or two, then
read it through and make changes
Edit and redraft your essay
Have a friend/parent/colleague read it
Complete or check your
references and bibliography
Final draft completed - hand it in
Be sure that you understand exactly what the question requires you to do. •
Identify the key words (like discuss or...
References: Cuba, I 1998, A Short Guide to Writing About Social Science, Harper Collins.
Emmerson, L (ed.) 2005, Writing Guidelines for Social Science Students, 2nd edn, Dunmore Press, Southbank, Victoria.
Oshima, A & Hogue, A 1991, Writing Academic English, Addison-Wesley.
University of Toronto Writing Centre, Some General Advice on Academic Essay Writing, Online resource accessed 1999.
Prepared by The Learning Centre, The University of New South Wales © 2012. This guide may be distributed for educational
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