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Tips to help you master essay writing

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Knowing how to write a good essay is not only a requirement in your academic studies, but they are a way to help you develop your communication skills, something that is an essential skill in every industry. Essays teach you how to make a structured and cohesive argument that is well researched, presented clearly and sounds credible.

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If you haven’t written an essay in a while, or are just in need of a refresher course, this step by step guide will teach you how to best approach and structure your essays.

  1. Know the task

When sitting down to begin working on your essay, the first thing you need to do is analyse the topic or question that has been assigned to you. Understanding this is essential in being able to develop a comprehensive answer. Look at the topic or question and line it up with the marking criteria, as this will help you figure out what you need to say or include within your word count.

  1. Planning

There are three key elements that go into planning an essay:

Forming an argument

Your argument is the message you want your reader to remember when they finish reading, so this needs to be clearly established in your introduction and developed in the body of your essay.

A good argument is objective and avoids biased language, can be summed up in one sentence, and communicates why you think your argument is right.

Developing a plan

Once you have chosen the direction you want to take with your essay, you can use this to help decide on the key statements and facts that you need to prove your argument.

  1. Begin by writing your argument in one sentence at the top of a page, you will later flesh this out to be your introduction.
  2. Next, write out three to four points that you believe will support your argument. Try writing each point in one sentence as these will help form your topic sentences. Under each of these points, write down one or two examples from your research that support your point.
  3. Finally, write the main point you want to leave in your reader’s mind, this will form your conclusion.

Creating a structure

Depending on the question and subject, essays can be structured in different ways however the most common elements are:

  • The Introduction, which tells the reader the point you are going to prove
  • The Body, where you discuss your argument and provide examples to support your key points
  • The Conclusion, which summarises how you have proven your argument
  1. Writing

Now you need to actually write the essay!

Using a variety of sentence structures, long and short, will help you to keep your writing flowing and ensure that you don’t ramble. Need some help with this? The Library offers an online study skills course to help improve your sentence writing.

When it comes to the tone of voice that you take with your essay, you need to find the balance between the formality of academic writing with a tone and energy that is going to be engaging and entertaining for your reader.

  1. Referencing

A good essay always has clear referencing and quotes throughout it to support the author’s argument. Check your marking criteria what style of referencing is required for your essay and ensure you have a thorough understanding of how it should be applied.

If you need additional help, check out the Library’s ‘Better Referencing’ online study skills course.

  1. Editing

Drafting your essay, re-reading, editing and proofreading are all absolutely essential steps that you must take before submitting your essay.

Once you have finished your first draft, take some time away from looking at it before returning to edit with fresh eyes. Reading your work out loud can also be a surprising way to learn if your writing will make sense for other readers. Also having someone else look over your work can offer a fresh perspective.

Good luck with your essay writing!