How to Write a Post Graduate Essay

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A post-graduate essay is one which goes beyond the level of undergraduate thinking to demonstrate a higher level of independent thought. In other words, you should be able to show your reader that you have mastered the subject.  This is achieved by ensuring your arguments are placed in the right context, that you have considered and reviewed trends, themes, paradigms, and debates within your discipline. To understand how to put all of this into your essay, you should focus your essay on meeting the following criteria.

Criteria for achieving Master’s level essay writing

  • There is evidence of sufficient and relevant background reading in the topic.
  • There is a clear statement of aims and the content is appropriate to the title.
  • The flow is logical and coherent (i.e., well-structured).
  • There is clear evidence of a systematic process of evaluation, critical analysis, and evaluation in the way that arguments are presented.
  • Themes and arguments are presented clearly and without being overly wordy.
  • The work has been clearly proof-read and includes where necessary relevant diagrams, illustrations, tables, and figures to back up arguments.
  • The work shows correct citation conventions and a clear and accurate reference list/bibliography.

Of course, in order to meet all of these criteria, it is vital to pre-plan your essay, and draw up a brief outline before writing.

Planning your Post-graduate Essay

The main steps in planning your post-graduate essay are:

Identify your key sources

Sources can be from logical reasoning, credible works in the field or primary data that you obtain independently.  In each case you need to be sure that the sources are appropriate, have value and credibility and that the sources are trustworthy.  It is good practice to write a list of potential sources during planning, because although you may not use them in the final work, this supports the building up of your own personal database of sources in your field.

Plan your word count

In this section of the plan, you need to determine the approximate word count that cover the various sections.  For example, an essay which ask you to outline the challenges of an area and then discuss potential solutions would naturally require a greater number of words for the discussion section.  Effective post-graduate essays are a balance of information, with key points being given a greater percentage of words than sub-themes.

Plan out your arguments

Post-graduate essays are all about effective delivery of arguments.  Therefore, in the planning stage it is vital to identify potential objections/refutations of your reasoning and how you will counteract these in your essay. This ensures that you are providing the necessary balance and demonstrating critical thinking and evaluation.

Writing your Post-Graduate Essay

As with all essays, a post-graduate essay will consist of an introduction, body text and conclusion /summary.  However, there are some additional elements that should be included to demonstrate your mastery of your topic.


The introduction should begin with a hook that draws in the reader.  This is known as an orientation and will be a general statement on the value of the topic under discussion and should include a brief level of background information and reference to prior works. The orientation should be followed by a justification for your essay which includes identification or indication of a gap or references to questions or problems in the topic area and thus why there is value in your essay and arguments.  The final step in producing a first-class introduction is indicating the aims or thesis statement for your essay, an overview of the structure and approach taken (methods) and the intended outcome of your evaluation.

Body Text

From your plan you will already have the word count and logical structure of the essay.  For this section, there should be a separate paragraph for each argument or counterargument, with key sources cited appropriately.  It is important in the body text to ensure that your argument flows in a logical manner, and not to switch between arguments as this can be confusing for the reader and suggests that you have not effectively planned your essay.  You should also ensure that one-point flows naturally into the text using connective phrases such as “Furthermore”, “In addition”, or “Despite these indications” etc.  Throughout the body text you ensure you should reference appropriately and cite all sources at the end of your essay.  Note: Unless direct quotes are central to your arguments, you should avoid them where possible and paraphrase into your words.

Conclusion / Summary

The conclusion of your postgraduate essay should not include any new information.  The aim of the conclusion is to reaffirm your main arguments, and the rationale / reasoning behind these, in a concise and logical manner.  In closing, ensure you have clearly stated your position and indicate any further action that needs to be taken, for example, additional studies or examination of one particular point.

Some Key Phrases for a good post-graduate essay

To show Reasoning:

“Because of/since/given the fact that…”

“In light of”

“Due to…”

“The implication is.”

For conclusions and consequences

“Therefore/ as a result/Thus…

“For these reasons we can say that…

“This leads to/implies/suggests/provides…

For discussing /refuting counterarguments/criticisms:

“It could be argued, as indicated by… that…

“One objection to this view comes from…

“While this may be true in the case of… it does not apply…

“It is unclear how x was measured/identified.

“… provides an ineffective argument regarding…”


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