Tip 1: Answer the Question.
- Keep the question in mind as you write, and be sure to clarify how each point you make relates to it.
- Do not introduce irrelevant information: however interesting you may think it is, if it does not help you to answer the question, you will not get credit for it.
Tip 2. Make focused notes.
- A proper understanding the question set should guide not only what you write, but also what you read.
- You cannot write notes on everything, so only include what may be relevant to answering the question.
Tip 3. Set an early deadline.
- Begin by outlining what you are going to say, how you will structure your arguments, and what evidence you will draw upon in order to substantiate your claims.
- This means setting an early deadline for your first draft, leaving ample time for later revisions and improvements.
Tip 4. Provide a clear structure.
- Use the introductory paragraph to clarify your understanding of the question and to outline what you will cover.
- Ensure that each step in the argument is clearly signposted so that the reader is never left wondering why a particular point is being made.
Tip 5. Use plain language.
- Avoid verbiage and convoluted sentences. Long words and sentences are more likely to obscure your key arguments and annoy your examiner than gain you extra credit.
- If you are not sure how a word should be used or what it means, leave it out and use another instead.
Tip 6. Get straight to the point.
- Do not ramble or beat around the bush. Nothing should appear in your essay that does not contribute to the overall argument.
- If you cannot summarise the argument of your essay in a few sentences, you probably need to gain more clarity about what you want to say.
Tip 7. Provide critical analysis and elaboration.
- Showing that you have correctly understood the course material is important but only a starting point.
- Summarising without providing critical analysis and argumentation will not earn you a high grade.
Tip 8. Anticipate objections.
- A good academic essay not only provides arguments and evidence for its claims, but also attempts to demonstrate why opposing views are flawed.
- Spend some time, then, thinking about possible counter-arguments. If you can refute them, do so; if you can’t, you may need to revise your argument.
Tip 9. Summarise your argument.
- Use the conclusion to provide a succinct summary of your essay, to draw your themes together, and to clearly demonstrate that and how you have answered the question.
- Try to push your argument through to some kind of resolution, and avoid just sitting on the fence.
Tip 10. Proofread, revise and format.
- Carefully proofread your work (and/or have somebody else do it for you) in order to ensure correct spelling, grammar and punctuation.
- Make revisions and amendments, tightening up sentences, sharpening your prose, and deleting redundant words and phrases.
- Format and reference your essay in accordance with your department’s preferred specifications.