No matter your subject, essay writing is an extremely important tool at university, and the techniques required may differ slightly from what you are used to at Sixth Form level. At university, independent research and thinking is critical to constructing a strong essay. After reading through the page, take the quiz below to test your understanding of essay writing – don’t worry if you get a question wrong, for every answer you click there will be an explanation as to why you weren’t quite there or why you were right!
1 – Choosing the Right Resources
When your tutor asks you to write an essay, they will often give you a reading list of key texts to work through. While it is important to read these, finding wider, relevant readings can help to make your essay even more informed – you may even introduce your tutor to something they don’t know about! Using your note-taking skills, prioritise the texts on the reading list and compile the key arguments. Maybe jot down how you feel about them. Do you agree? Then once you have formed an opinion, find some more texts that support your initial opinion, and use them to create an even stronger argument. Your academic institution will likely have an online library where you can search for relevant topics, but if that does not help, be sure to try out Google Scholar for instant access to helpful resources. Make sure to reference any texts you use in your final essay!
2 – Making a Plan
Once you have done your reading, it is important to make a plan before writing. If you go straight to writing, it can be easy to lose focus and miss answering the actual question. Instead, you should draw up a skeleton essay which includes each paragraph, what the aim of the paragraph is, and your overall conclusion. While your plan should be fairly detailed, it should not be a word for word replica of your essay. It is there to provide structure and clarity, not describe how every sentence will read. It is also helpful to include references by any point you make so that you don’t have to try and find them later. Once you are happy with your plan, it’s time to get writing!
3 – Writing the Essay
Writing an essay can seem daunting, but by taking it step by step and building up a solid plan, actually writing the essay can be the most fun, fulfilling part of the process! Your introduction should lay out what the essay includes, and what your final conclusion is. Then, paragraph by paragraph, your argument should build, weighing up both sides of the argument. When writing the essay it is important to take breaks and reflect on your progress. Some people prefer to edit their writing when they finish a paragraph, and some people wait till the very end. Whatever works for you, be sure to look back on your work and check for mistakes. You don’t have to share your essay with anyone other than your tutor, but once you are finished it can be helpful to get a friend’s opinion. Once you are happy, hand in your essay and enjoy a well earned rest!
Now you have a better understanding of how to write an academic essay, test your knowledge with the quiz below!
This page aims to give you an insight into just some of the study skills needed for working at a university level. You will have acquired many of the necessary skills already, but if you would like to explore this topic further, be sure to check out the Oxford University ‘Study Skills and Training’ page.