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 5 Top Tips For Writing A Great Academic Essay 
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Joined: Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:47 pm
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Post 5 Top Tips For Writing A Great Academic Essay
by: Sam Collyer

Tip # 1

To many students’ essay writing is a chore. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard students’ say “I’m not bothered about my coursework, it’s only worth 25% (or whatever it happens to be) of the final mark-as long as I pass (i.e. get 40%) I’m happy”

This approach is problematic as the student is from risk throwing away marks. Marks that could easily raise their overall grade above the next classification bar, marks which will impact on their ultimate grade.

Tip # 2

Look at the time frame. How long until the submission date? Allow plenty of time; aim to finish a week before the deadline in case something unexpected occurs.

Once a deadline has been set work backwards in order to determine when work should commence.

It is advisable to begin working on an academic essay at least a month before the hand in date. Of course once a couple of assignments have been completed you will have a better idea how long each takes, enabling you to adjust your schedule accordingly. For those who have little research to conduct and who have the ability to work quickly, it is possible to produce a good quality piece of work in a matter of days. Unfortunately this is outside the capabilities of most students’ who if they are to produce a quality piece of work will need plenty of time to research, plan and write.

Tip # 3

Look at the assessment criteria; determine how the marks are allocated. A typical breakdown may look something like this:

Analysis of task -10%

Relevant knowledge & understanding of topic-40%

Structure and content-30%

Use of source materials-10%

Presentation -10%

There should also be a detailed breakdown of what is required to obtain marks in a particular range, study this and work out what you need to do.

Tip # 4

Re-read the assessment criteria in conjunction with the question. Think about how you are going to complete the task whilst simultaneously maximising the available marks in each section.

Analysis of Task

This is absolutely fundamental so you need to get it right as it will impact on the marks obtainable in other areas particularly structure and content/relevant knowledge and understanding.

Examine the keywords; what are you being asked to do? Discuss, evaluate, compare and contrast, analyse, advise, comment on.

Structure and content

Ensure your work has a beginning, middle and end! In others words has an:

Introduction that sets the scene and tells the reader what the problem or issue is and how you are going to resolve or address it.

A main body that does exactly what you said you would do in the introduction.

A conclusion which draws together the points, arguments etc that were discussed in the main body and arrives at an overall conclusion. A conclusion must not introduce any new material but it must link back to the introduction and answer the question.

Relevant knowledge and understanding

Self-explanatory really. This is your opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge and understanding of the topic. The trick here of course is to make sure that you do! How? Read as widely as possible, listen to lectures and avail yourself to as much material as you can. Then use/ apply what is relevant.

Use of source materials

To gain the maximum available marks here you need to show that you have conducted extensive but relevant/focused research and the sources you have used must be correctly cited/referenced and you must include a full bibliography.

Tip # 5

When conducting research use an A4 pad. Across the top of the page write the citation of the text.

As you make notes, jot the relevant page number in left-hand margin. This will make referencing easy and enable you re-visit the text should this be required at a later date.

When taking down notes you can either put the information in your own words or copy it down verbatim. Just be clear about what you have copied (put it in speech marks) as you will have to put this in your own words when it comes to writing up.

How to avoid plagiarism:

1. Reference your work properly when you need to quote or indicate the source of your findings.

2. Purchase the ‘anti-plagiarism trinity’:

? Good quality dictionary

? Thesaurus

? Synonym Finder


Make sure that you adhere to the coursework guidelines. Do they specify that the work needs to be double-spaced? What font and font size are required? What is the word length? Are you allowed to exceed it? Some tutors will allow 10% over limit whilst others will not allow any extension. Ensure that the work is grammatically correct and that all spellings are accurate. Easy marks available here, just by doing what you are asked and checking your spelling, punctuation and grammar.

Make a start!

Get a note pad, have a brain storming session and get your ideas down on paper. Jot down a structure, have a plan of where you’re going. Regularly re-read the question to make sure you are on track.

? Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you have to begin by writing the introduction first. I have wasted hours and hours struggling to make a start. Start anywhere, it doesn’t matter, in fact many students write the introduction lastly as this enables them to accurately explain what they are going to cover, because they’ve already done it!

Don’t think that you have to get it right first time. The wonderful thing about being able to word process is that text can be easily deleted and expanded. You’ll probably edit many times, so just get something down to get you on your way, you can hone your work as you progress.

? Don’t get stuck on a particular word or sentence. Enter a line of Xs’, change the font colour and return to it later.

? Sometimes it’s easier to speak something rather than write it. Get a Dictaphone or use the voice recorder on a mobile and talk about it. Explain what you want to say then listen back and transcribe.

Make sure that your essay flows in a logical sequence, link paragraphs and ensure that your conclusion refers back to the question-in other words answer what has been set.

Once you have completed your work, print it off and forget about it for a couple of days. Then return to it with fresh eyes. Critically evaluate what you have done in light of the assessment criteria. Make any amendments and hand it in.

About The Author
Sam Collyer is a legal graduate, adviser and author of 'The Smart Students Guide To A Great Grade'.

Article Copyright Protected not to be altered in any way.

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This article was posted by permission.

Tue Feb 16, 2010 10:36 am
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