Lecturers prescribe essays to allow you to demonstrate your academic skills. A skilfully written essay is one that:
Thus, when they are marking, lecturers will ask various questions of your essay; before you submit your paper you need to ask the same questions. These questions are elaborated in this LibGuide and its links.
Taking notes from sources is the next step of the essay writing process. This step will allow you to make sense of the information you encounter, to make it your own.
Reading techniques - experiment with the techniques summarised below
Always familiarise yourself with the reading material by gaining an overview and / or skimming before reading in detail.
For example, a book:
For example, a journal article or book chapter:
Before you start researching or writing, you need to spend some time brainstorming, because this is when you define what the essay question asks you to do. You brainstorm to generate ideas and to add to your understanding and analysis of the question.
There are some general questions about your assessment that it might pay to ask before you start writing:
Once you have addressed these questions, you will need to deconstruct the topic. Look at the essay title carefully - word by word. You need a clear understanding of each word or phrase in the question. Use a specialist subject dictionary, not a general one, or a glossary, to check unfamiliar technical or non-technical words or phrases.
Ask further questions of your topic:
This stage is the most intellectually demanding of the entire essay writing process. You need to analyse your notes. Analysis means breaking down a large complex topic into smaller, simpler categories. For example, imagine you have to write a 2000 word essay. If you take off 500 words for the introduction and conclusion, you then have 1500 words for the main body of the essay. By dividing that into three, four or five sections, you end up having to write just 300 to 500 words on each. That’s only a few paragraphs per section.
Your essay needs to adhere to the following structure: