How to write an essay

A brief Guide to writing an essay for college or school!

“the pen is mightier than the sword” – is yours?

First rule of thumb is to not worry, however this is easier said than done for many.

Essay writing and worrying or exam nerves are very closely related therefore for those who tend to be a worry wart, coming up with a good preparation or plan is part of writing a good essay.

Second rule of thumb is plagiarism. Never copy another’s work as this is just downright negative and entirely unacceptable. If for any reason you are copying another’s work then make sure you offer the credits to the author of the work you are copying.

Good preparation and self belief along with determination in knowing that you can achieve your essay is essential. Whether you’re writing for a college course or a school exam, you need to follow the same rules.

1. Read the essay question carefully with logic in mind. Answer the question has to question is asking and try not to allow yourself to veer off into other interpretations. Answer the essay question logically by approaching the question logically.

Highlight certain keywords and ask yourself if you understand those words. If you are in any doubt look them up in a dictionary first and write down your notes. By doing this you are building a sound foundation for your essay. It should not take you too long but if you don’t do it your essay will be a struggle or be poorly written with typographical errors or incorrect layout.

2. Undertake proper and adequate research and ensure the information you’re writing about is current and up to date.

3. When copying or taking notes make sure you take those notes in your own writing, in your own interpretation of those words and don’t copy – just don’t copy direct.

4. And again if you are quoting anything or copying anything, ensure you apply the source or the credits to the work you are referring to.

5. Ask others for advice or engage in brainstorming.

6. Don’t be scared to challenge or argue the case. If you disagree with the subject in hand and you believe there are other views to be taken into account then raise the arguments and present more than one side of the subject. The key here is to be balanced in this.

7. Start your essay with an introduction.

8. Add the contents list if required keeping everything brief and straight to the point so it is clear and easy on the reader’s eye.

9. Start the main body of the essay with an appropriate and applicable title.

10. Make sure you have each new paragraph in order.

11. Make sure each paragraph flows into the next one ensuring certain keywords and especially phrases are included so that they relate to the previous paragraph.

12. Ensure you write a conclusion to your essay including final comments about your overall work demonstrating how you have arrived at your interpretations, your arguments and proof to back up your content.

13. Ensure you use a spellchecker and triple check your punctuation and grammatical layout and structure. Triple check your vocabulary and improve on the way you’ve expressed your words and meanings.

14. Most importantly to allow for absorption and detachment. In other words leave your work alone now for a period of time and come back to it completely fresh later.

15. Allow others to read it, proofread and test it for you. Ideally choose someone who is willing to look for faults and criticise it, obviously in a constructive and respectful manner.

16. Although it may not be required, try wherever possible to include references and bibliography, footnotes and any clear identification marks, sentences or statements, anything to make it look good. Remember presentation, effort with your layout gets good marks. There will always be someone else who will present lazy work.

17. Try to understand what Shakespeare said when judging and evaluating your own work. “the pen is mightier than the sword” – is yours?

18. Checklist. Did you include the following?

Your argument or thesis.
Body 1.
Body 2.
Body 3.
Credits where needed.

Make sure your first paragraph is your best and it hits the spot to bring the reader closer into your work.

Copyright Open College UK Ltd.
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