Essay writing is a skill in itself and despite having great knowledge on a subject and feeling confident you know the answer to an essay, actually writing the essay and getting good marks can feel like a different task all of its own. Here we help you to learn how to write better essays, helping you to bump those marks up and give your tutor what they actually want to see.
An easy starting point is to structure your essay from the outset. The structure of an essay should generally have 5 sections – an introduction, 3 paragraphs for the main body of text and a conclusion. These middle paragraphs make take on the form of a methodology, a literature review, critical analysis, findings or data presentation. It is up to you to work out what is most relevant in answering the essay question.
An important factor often overlooked by students when writing their essays (but not by their tutors!) is supporting reading material – the references. You need to be selective in your reading material – recommended readings and compulsory/required readings are two different things.
You can spend weeks going through a recommended reading list and your tutor likely does not intend you to read entire shelves worth of books. Read the introduction of the book, and then skim the chapters for the most relevant sections; don’t spend 3 days reading a book of which 80% is irrelevant, that is not a constructive use of your time.
You will be rewarded for wider reading and using the required readings. A top tip is to use the sources from your compulsory and recommended reading, pop them into your online library and read the abstracts of the search results to see if they are worth having a read for you to use yourself. You can also use this to find related papers, papers that have used them as a source of reference also.
Remember that the quality of your references is more important than the quantity of references in almost all cases; if your lecturer has asked for 1 reference per hundred words, shoving any reference you find on Google Scholar which seems vaguely related into your reference list is not going to cut it. And believe us when we say they check! Your references all need to be relevant and contribute to your understanding and the reader of your paper’s understanding.
Data Prep and Storage
In the weeks leading up to your essay, you will come across relevant and useful data, perhaps papers, lecture material, quotes, discussions, or frameworks. It is useful to find a way to collate and store this information to refer back to. If you have it all in one place to call upon when the time comes to write, you are better prepared, and it saves you time and frustration in trying to recall what was beneficial and when.
Constructing the introduction last seems to be recommended throughout academia and yet rarely engaged with. It can help when starting your essay to get ideas out of your head and on to a screen, and in this way, writing an introduction first can be helpful. But you should be prepared to go back and rework it thoroughly. Your thought pattern and direction will change as your essay develops, particularly if research and a literature review is involved. Once you have written your essay, particularly your conclusion, think about what you have discussed and go back to the beginning and ensure this is presented. You need to present the reader with an overview of what you are going to say and why, present theorists you may use to help support this point and what you are hoping to achieve over the course of the essay. Key to remember is to keep it brief, don’t waste words here, they are better used elsewhere. Try to keep it at under 10% of your overall word count.
Engaging critically throughout your essay is a must – far too in depth to be covered in this blog alone, you can find more additional information. Remembering to think deeply and pull apart others’ ideas rather than simply re-presenting them is essentially what critical engagement is about and is your golden ticket to achieving those top grades.
A final really important step in writing better essays is proofreading your work. It can be really difficult to take an outsiders perspective on your work but there is software out there available such as Ginger or Grammarly which will help you to correct places that don’t read quite right. Ensure you haven’t repeated points throughout your work and that every sentence and paragraph contributes to answering your question effectively.
Once you are in the habit of working in these kind of ways, writing better essays will come easily to you. You do not have to follow all of these tips and tricks but just a few points will help you to improve your work now and in future assignments.