Top Ten Tips for Student Essay Writing

Top Ten Tips for Student Essay Writing

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.