Essay writing can be a daunting task that many students do not look forward to. Even professional people can find themselves dreading the prospect of writing an essay.
In our experience, once you get to grips with some key principles, essay writing can be an enjoyable experience and something to look forward to.
In this article, we look at five tips to help improve your essay writing skills.
1. Understand the essay question
Try to understand what the question is asking you before you start researching or writing. There are few things more annoying than spending time and effort researching and writing an essay only to realise you missed the point of the question.
Identify from the outset whether the question is asking you to, for example:
• Describe – provide a factual account
• Analyse, discuss, consider – weigh up arguments for and against and take a view on the issue or
• Recommend – propose options for resolving a problem
Understand the question so that you can be sure that you are answering the question you have been asked and scoring valuable points.
2. Research with focus
Depending on the subject you are writing on, you could find that there is so much information available which can result in you feeling overwhelmed and unable to identify what information is relevant.
You should aim to research and focus on using sources that advance the points you wish to make in your essay. Such focus at the start would help you avoid deviating into areas or spend time on sources that only serve to detract from the main points.
3. Plan your essay
When it comes to writing essays, the saying that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail” rings true. You may not initially have a detailed plan of the sources you will use to develop the arguments in your essay or the exact content of your essay.
What you should aim to have, however, is a plan that acts as a guide to what you will write. A good essay plan should usually include:
• An introduction: You could start by explaining why the topic is important or defining terms used in the question
• A thesis statement: Summarise the main points you will be making in your essay.
• The body: This is where you develop your points in answer to the question backed with reasons and evidence from your research.
• A conclusion that draws all the points together.
4. Get the referencing and bibliography right
Score easy marks by making sure that all the resources you used for the essay are properly referenced either as footnotes or endnotes and also set out in the bibliography at the end of the document.
You should also use the required referencing style. The popular referencing styles are Harvard, MLA and Oxford but be sure you are clear on the particular style required for your essay.
5. Develop your voice
Try to engage the reader by developing your voice in your essay. Your voice refers to the way you express yourself in writing. The more the reader engages with your essay, the better the reading experience will be for them, which gives you a better chance at scoring well.