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Crucial information on how to write an essay:

How to write an essay

Essays have tended to be a favourite approach to assessing students’ learning, at least until recently. Now we are increasingly seeing the use of reports and portfolios which are often seen to be more industry-relevant. Nonetheless, essays are still widely used as a form of assessment and as such you should familiarise yourself with this form of academic work. Certainly, essay writing might be considered an art and so a bit of advice on how to write an essay should be useful.

Traditionally there are three parts to an essay: introduction, main body and conclusion.

o Often it is said this should be a maximum of 10% of the overall word length of the essay

o Signposting is common in an introduction. This means providing a rough guide to what the essay covers (the key themes and how they link together)

o First impressions count, make sure your introduction is compelling.

o It should generally not introduce new ideas (this is a common mistake to make). It is safer simply to review the key arguments and note the outcome, i.e. conclusion.

o The conclusion sometimes ends with a further question(s)

How do you start to write an essay?

It would be a mistake to start by writing the introduction. If the introduction is to provide an overview of what is to come, unless you know in advance how your essay is going to develop, you will not be able to write a good introduction! The introduction is best left right to the end. Tackle it last.

For obvious reasons, you cannot write the conclusion unless you have written the main body that leads to the conclusion. Therefore, you really need to focus on the main body. This is easier said than done. Initially you will need to read and think about the topic in order to gain a rough overview of key themes you think you might need to cover. You can then start drafting the main body.

Remember, it is important to structure your work. As you continue to read, think and write the structure of the main body might change (it probably will!), but don’t worry. This is a normal part of the writing process.

Pay good attention to the conclusion. It is often disappointing to read a good essay that ends on a whimper with no real consideration of how the arguments in the main body fit together. The whole is more than the sum of the parts. As a rough guide the conclusion may be approximately 10% of the overall word count. A common mistake is not to write enough in the conclusion.

It is advisable to spend more time on the wording/language of the introduction and conclusion. Draft and re-draft.

Finally, the golden rules of writing also apply to essay writing of course. Leave yourself plenty of time, at least enough time to put the essay down for at least a day or better two before re-reading, revising and submitting. Proof read. Nothing is more infuriating than a poorly drafted essay. If your writing is sloppy the reader might (possibly erroneously) infer that the content too is substandard. If the author (you) cannot be bothered to write well, why should the reader bother to spend time reading your essay?