Did you read our student advisor’s last post on how to write an effective essay? Well here are some more tips from Jan on writing your assignments to help you get an even better grade. Don’t miss this list before you start!
EXPLORE the question
Make sure you have a full understanding of what you’re being asked to do.
Don’t just read it, EXPLORE it.
Think about the meaning of the words used in the question, including its “instrumental terms’ – (“Explore, discuss, compare and contrast, in the context of…’).
Consider the issues and questions you need to consider in order to answer the question thoroughly. In your planning, try breaking the question down and brainstorming little ideas to get yourself thinking about the question as a whole in a more in-depth way.
Back it up – your opinion counts
It’s very important to include your own opinions and ideas. But remember, your opinion counts for nothing unless you can support it!
Support all your arguments with reasoning and evidence. There is usually no “right answer’, but you must show evidence for your ideas.
Try to use sources that will impress the reader. Sometimes using the work from obscure and original writers can make your paper more interesting. Remember every marker has tons of essays to go through that will all be answering the same question. What a bore! So the way to impress a marker is through originality. Selecting good sources can add strength to your work. Using quotes from reputable sources will add credibility, and using quotes from the lecturer’s own books will add marks!
Always make sure that you present your own ideas and thoughts about the sources of other authors – for example, “It appears that…’ and “This source tells me that…’ followed by “This source is supported by…’. One mistake that many students make is to simply recount the author’s views with no insight of their own.
More often nowadays, students prefer to use the internet for their main research over books. This is understandable – the internet quick, easy, and contains an immense amount of information about pretty much everything! But the hard part is determining which sources are reliable.
When looking at a source, ask yourself:
- Does my essay need this source? Is it essential for my essay, or have I just thrown it in there?
- Does this source add value to my essay? Does it strongly support an argument?
- Is my source reliable? Who wrote it? Avoid using open encyclopaedias such as Wikipedia, where anyone can edit!
Create a good argument
Lecturers love a good, strong argument. But remember to support your argument with evidence. Every opinion counts if it can be backed up. If you can create something original, that’s also well supported, chances are you’ll get a 1st.
Paying attention to detail earns you marks
A vague essay will not get you decent grade. The best essays have depth and a clear understanding of the topic. Always use specific names for things. And remember to pay lots of attention to the little things such as spelling, punctuation, grammar, names, dates, titles and font – things that may seem little but can have a big effect on the overall impression of your essay!
If in doubt – ask
There’s no point starting an essay if you don’t understand what you’re being asked to do. Remember that lecturers get paid to help you – some up to £75 an hour – so why not make them work for it!
Its also worth picking up a copy of the university’s marking scheme, which tells everyone how to get a 1st. Include everything in the scheme, and you’ll get a 1st.
Try not to use too many long, complicated words…
Whilst it is a good idea to use the appropriate terminology, using long complicated words and sentences will just make you sound stupid – especially if you’re unsure how to use them! Its far better to just stick to shorter, safer sentences.
Print out a copy of your essay and let someone else take a look – they’ll be able to tell you if its easy to read, or if you need to make your sentences clearer.
Take plenty of breaks!
Whilst it seems like a good idea to try and get it over and done with in a day, your essay will be much better if you allow yourself more time to do it.
Spending hours at a computer is straining, and bad for your health!
It’s important to take little breaks frequently – grab a drink, relax, walk around a bit and get some fresh hair.