How to write an essay in 7 easy steps
We all know the initial feeling of dread when assigned an essay. It may seem overwhelming and almost impossible on top of your current workload. But fear not, our Guest Blogger, Christabel, is one of the Study Skills Support Tutors based in the Learning Zone at Perth College UHI. Many of our students seek advice on how to write an essay, so here are some easy steps to help you get started:
1 - Start with the Question
To write a successful essay it is so important to answer the question, so take your time and break up the question. Pay close attention to the question words, for example: discuss, evaluate or compare. They tell you what you have to do. Then focus on the topic words. These are the words which tell you the subject matter which you must discuss in your essay.
2 - Make a Plan
You could start by brainstorming or mind mapping the knowledge you already have on a topic. Then jot down questions that you feel you need to do further research on to answer.
3 - Research
Focus your research on finding the answers to the questions that you have set. This will make your reading more purposeful and efficient. Start with core texts which have been recommended and then widen you search using the UHI library catalogue. When using books, you can use the index to help you find what you are looking for. With electronic sources, a keyword search can be useful. Always keep a note of where you found your information, so that you can reference it in your essay.
4 - Write up your main arguments
Once you have carried out sufficient research, revise your plan and work out how you are going to answer the question. Narrow down your information into several main points and aim to write a paragraph about each. Use your word limit to help you work out roughly how much you need to write for each point. Each paragraph should clearly state your main point and provide evidence from your research and some analysis of how this point helps to answer the question. Link your paragraphs to help guide your reader through your arguments, using words and phrases such as, furthermore, in addition, however and in conclusion.
5 - Reference
Insert citations as you write up the main body of your essay. This means giving credit to the author of the book, journal, website or other source, where you found the information. Perth College UHI uses the Harvard style of referencing, which requires you to cite the author and date of your source in the main body of your essay, for example: The impact of the legislation on public health was significant (Smith 2016).
The Microsoft Word referencing tool is simple to use and once you have input all your citations, it formats your List of References at the end of your document, at the click of a button. For more information, see the UHI Referencing Guide
6 - Write the Introduction and Conclusion
Many students find it easier to write the introduction and conclusion after they have finished the main body of their essay. The introduction should clearly state how you plan to answer the question and what your main points will be. It can also be useful to define any particular terms, which the essay requires you to discuss. The conclusion should remind the reader of the main points, which have been discussed, and sum up your answer to the question.
7 - Proof Read
Always allow time to proof read your essay to check for any mistakes or repetition. Look at your language and check that you have written the essay in a formal, impersonal style, for example: This essay will discuss is preferable to I will discuss. Finally, check that you have met the word count requirements and then follow the instructions that you have been given to submit it correctly.
If you would like more help or information please contact the Learning Zone.
The Learning Zone is situated on the top floor of the Study Centre and the team are here to support students to develop their study skills. If you would like help with any aspect of your studies, such as essay writing, planning or revising for exams please contact via phone 01738 877 372 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be happy to make you an appointment.