Writing an Essay

8 Steps of Essay Writing

- 1) Understand the Title/Question

-  Read the essay question carefully.

-  Pay special attention to the verbs used in the question, as they require specific approaches when answering the question.

-  If there is more than one part to the question, break the question up and be sure to answer each section accordingly.


2) Get Organised

  Get organised early on!

◦       When is the deadline?

◦       Create a timeline: work backwards from the deadline, allow for editing, revision and unexpected developments.


3) Research

  Gain an overview of the subject matter.

◦       Use your notes as a starting point!

  Do a search for relevant literature to see how much material is available.

◦       Be selective! Students often go overboard on researching and never get around to writing.

  Critically read the information you select, evaluating the relevance and validity.

◦       Remember to keep track of all references and to always note which ideas are your own and which are the author’s.


4) Plan Your Essay

  Using the essay question as a guide, make a skeletal outline or mind-map of your essay.

◦       List the key points you want to address in each section.

  Write one topic sentence per paragraph to sum up the main argument of what you are about to make.

  Always refer to the plan as you write!


5) Start Writing

  Never start with the introduction!

◦       Begin with the first paragraph instead.

  Make approximately three key points; one point per paragraph.

  Create a well-structured and coherent argument by sticking to the ideas outlined in your essay plan.

  Always reference as you write, in order to avoid any problems later!


5.1) Main Body

  Be selective about the material you include.

  Demonstrate that you have:

◦       Conducted research, allowing you to reach an adequate understanding of the topic and then used these sources to develop your insights.

◦       Supported your argument(s) by including evidence and relevant examples.


5.1.1) Make a Strong Argument

  Take a stance and argue for a particular point of view.

◦       Simply reeling off information will not do the trick; support your argument.

Do not:

◦       Include irrelevant information; it will cloud your argument and convince your lecturer that you don’t actually know what you’re talking about!


5.1.2) Be Clear & Structured

The Reader:

-  Wants points explained clearly and simply.

-  Does not want to re-read your work to find the argument; therefore make it obvious and arrange it in a logical and persuasive manner. .

-  Does not want ambiguity, otherwise s/he will assume you don't understand the topic and/or your own argument. Subsequently, the connections between each stage of your argument and the original question should be evident throughout.


5.2) Introduction

A good introductory paragraph identifies the topic, sets a direction and, awakens some interest.

The Purpose of the Introduction

-  To convey the subject matter of the paper

-  To imply the structure and line of reasoning

-  To clearly state your proposed argument


5.3) Conclusion

-  Worded slightly differently to the introduction, the conclusion ‘wraps up’ an essay.

-  Touch upon the key points of the essay.

-  Summarise the argument.

-  Be sure that the conclusion sounds confident.

Do not:

-  Introduce new information.

-  Qualify your conclusion with ‘buts’ or ‘maybes’; these will weaken your argument.


6) Revision of Draft

-  Reread the draft aloud.

-  Cut out any unnecessary words or paragraphs that don’t fit the purpose of the essay.

-  Rearrange your essay so that the writing and argument flows logically.

-  Be critical; look at words and phrases, check grammar and spelling, and avoid ambiguity.

-  Stick to the word limit (Leeway of 10% of the total word limit allowed).

-  Finally, check the presentation of your work.


7) Proof-read

  A percentage of marks are allocated for spelling, punctuation and grammar.

◦       Always use spell check.

◦       If you are unsure of a word, look it up!

◦       If you tend to repeat the same words or phrases, check the thesaurus for synonyms.

◦       If a green line appears under a sentence in Microsoft Word; rephrase it!

◦       Review rules of capitalisation.

  Ask a trusted friend or family member to proofread your work.


 Proof-read Checklist

-  Does the essay answer the question that was set?

-  Does it cover all the main aspects in sufficient depth?

-  Is the content accurate and relevant?

-  Is the material logically arranged?

-  Is each main point well supported by examples and evidence?

-  Is it written plainly and simply, without clumsy or obscure phrasing?

-  Is there any repetition?

-  Are the grammar, punctuation and spelling acceptable?

-  Do you acknowledge all sources and references?

-  How persuasive are your conclusions?


8) Review Feedback

◦       When you get your essay back, make sure you know why you received the mark you did!

◦       Read the comments and ask the lecturer to explain any comments you don’t understand.

◦       Examine how you can improve for your next writing assignment.

◦       Make a list of mistakes you made in this essay and review it before you write your next essay to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes twice!


Academic Writing Skills

Academic Writing Skills

-  Dos & Don’ts of Essay Writing

When Writing Use:

Formal Language

◦       Passive voice

◦       Advanced vocabulary

◦       Linking words such as; consequently, conversely, etc.

◦       Complex sentences


◦       Quotations and paraphrases


◦       First/ly, second/ly, etc. (be consistent)

Topic sentences

◦       Introduce the main idea of each paragraph.

Pay Attention to:


◦       Ideally three main paragraphs (+ introduction & conclusion – both of which to be written at the end).

◦       Separate Paragraphs by a line shift or indent, Not both.


◦       Spell-check

◦       Thesaurus

◦       Proofreading

Do Not Use:

-  Informal/colloquial language

-  Contractions (don’t, won’t isn’t, etc.)

-  Emotional Language (“I absolutely detest…”)

-  Strong language (“I know” - instead use “it feels to me that...”)

-  Clichés (“The writing on the wall…”)

-  Personal examples (When I was young...”)


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