It's time to turn in your first essay, but have you got it exactly right? Often, students will know what they want to say, but sometimes it's harder to articulate it. Is there a formula to achieve perfection? Have a read through these tips and tricks for how to write an essay, and you can be confident that the next one you turn in will make the top grade.
A Simple Definition?
Essay. Definition: "A short piece of writing on a particular subject. An article, piece of writing, composition, study, paper, dissertation, assignment, thesis, discourse, treatise, text, tract, disquisition, monograph." Whew. So at least we know what it entails - a good start.
It may sound obvious, but do be original, and it'll show when it comes down to marking. Not that you're covering uncharted ground, necessarily - many have been here before you, writing about exactly the same subject. But an original train of thought, looking at your subject from perhaps a different angle, should make your work stand out from the crowd.
Understand the Question
This is sometimes harder than you might think. We all tend to stray a little, and a question can be lost in translation from the classroom to the library. But remain focussed, and continue to check whether you've stayed with the original question. After all, whether it's for your English A Level or a Business Studies BTEC, an essay is there to show your knowledge of the subject in hand, and your ability to convey your comprehension. Stick with the facts and don't ramble.
Make it Flow
Start with an essay plan. Write your topic in the centre of some scrap paper and circle it, then write your ideas in bubbles around it. Why? Because you're making a plan of action. Your ideas, your answers and the composition must conform to a logical flow of relevant information. Avoid jumping from one subject to the next. Make it fit together. Also, it goes without saying that you need to make sure that your written English is up to standard. You've got a dictionary and thesaurus - use them.
Go the Extra Mile
Do the background work. Yes, it's tedious. But a strong approach to research in the right areas will show that you are interested in your subject, and are capable of writing an interesting essay. Check out the author in question, other works by them, delve into some background history – but remember the golden rule to keep it all relevant.
Show Both Sides of an Argument
Debate the question. Show your comprehension and knowledge of the subject by debating both sides of the argument. Don't be one-sided. Showing different points of view also shows that you have thought about the question in a logical manner.
A Picture Perfect Essay
If appropriate, use graphs, diagrams, pictures. Images are powerful, and might even make your work more interesting to the marker. Remember: a picture paints a thousand words.
Reference Your Sources
Remember to reference and quote liberally - but don't make the mistake of an essay simply filled with references. A certain amount of relevant quotation will show that you have researched the question properly.
Proofread (at Least Twice)
This really is important. Read your finished work aloud, and ask someone else to read it too. Spell-checking is not enough. (‘Form' when you really mean 'from' will not flag up.) Someone else reading your work aloud to you may encourage you to question your phrasing or even the tone. Embrace criticism.
Set your Alarm
Lastly, do get your essay in on time. It might sound obvious, but deadlines are not made to be broken when it comes to handing in work – ensure that yours is ready in a timely fashion. It might be worth a few extra marks to say no to that midweek night out.