The Dos and Don’ts of University Essay Writing

For many students writing essays is the most daunting aspect of their studies, yet rarely do they receive any tuition on how to go about it. Rather, they're expected to simply pick it up as they go. Learning how to write a good essay is not only about knowing what to do, but also about what to avoid doing.

The Dos and Don'ts of Student Essay Writing

An excellent way to find out what you need to do in order to attain the grade you're aiming for is to consult your department's evaluation criteria or marking scheme. This is what your tutors and lecturers will constantly refer to when deciding what mark to award your written work. If you're aiming to get a Upper Second or a First class grade, you need to make sure that your work fulfils each of the criteria listed on the marking scheme for this class of grade. If you haven't yet got hold of your department's marking scheme, we recommend that you visit your departmental office and get hold of it right away.

Marking schemes are helpful for informing you about what you need to do to get your desired grade. However, learning how to write a good essay is not only about knowing what to do, but equally about what toavoid doing.



Below we have compiled a simple list of crucial ‘dos' and ‘don'ts' for student essay writing:


  • Answer the question set
  • Make everything you write relevant to answering the question
  • Get right to the point, avoid fluff
  • Spend time developing a clear, logical structure for your essay
  • Clearly explain your premises and assumptions
  • Outline the structure of your argument in advance
  • Develop the stages of your argument logically
  • Ensure that your conclusions follow logically from your premises
  • Be consistent
  • Use adequate signposting to make the structure clear to the reader
  • Cover just one key point in each paragraph
  • Use transitional phrases between paragraphs
  • Use plain language to make your points, and omit needless words
  • Avoid confusing switches of tense
  • Avoid convoluted sentences and verbiage
  • Illustrate your arguments with examples
  • Demonstrate why a particular quotation or example is significant
  • Carefully distinguish between fact and opinion
  • Read widely, including recent academic journal articles relevant to the topic
  • Properly cite all your sources
  • Address alternatives and pre-empt objections
  • Revise, rewrite and polish
  • Remove repetition and redundancy
  • Carefully proofread your work, or have a professional do it for you
  • Reference your work in accordance with your department's structures



  • Fail to adequately address and answer the question
  • Answer a different question to the one set
  • Deviate from the topic
  • Introduce information that is not relevant to answering the question
  • Start writing before you have a clear thesis or argument
  • Start writing before you have developed a clear essay outline
  • Try to squeeze in everything you can remember from class
  • Regurgitate what others have said without critical discussion
  • Describe without analysis and evaluation
  • Summarise without elaboration
  • Introduce ideas without explanation or context
  • Use quotations without explaining their relevance
  • Make grandiose claims or unsupported generalisations
  • State conclusions that do not follow logically from your premises
  • Include more than one substantive point per paragraph
  • Write convoluted, waffling or rambling sentences
  • Use words if you are not entirely sure what they mean
  • Use long words when small ones will do
  • Rely on too much on your main textbook or too few sources
  • Fail to properly cite any of your sources
  • Paraphrase too closely and risk being failed for plagiarism
  • Ignore alternative views, explanations and arguments
  • Use information from the internet that lacks scientific or academic credibility 


For free subject-specific advice on writing essays in different faculties and disciplines, check out our Areas of Expertise page. To find out how Essay Writing Service UK can help you with your university essay, take a look at our essay writing page. If you are looking for help with a dissertation, we have a variety of solutions available to assist you, from a dissertation proposal to the conclusion 

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