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8 tips for great essay writing

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❶Academic writing requires a careful balance between novel argument, and drawing on arguments presented by others. Having a similarly ambitious 'study buddy' is often undervalued by students, but the synergy achieved by working together can help both of you achieve considerably higher grades.

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Is the theory good? What are its flaws? How can it be improved? Yes, you should still acknowledge alternative approaches, and yes, you should still note some strengths and weaknesses — but the bulk of the work must emphasise the concepts practical usefulness.

Perhaps the best approach is to find one, or a few, case studies where the theory has been used — what was the outcome of this? Does the application of the theory reveal any particular shortcomings, or strengths? It is important to show that you understand both or all core theories in great depth, both on a theoretical and applied level. In essence, the wording of the essay question will tell you how the essay should be written.

It will indicate where the focus of your essay should lie as you research and write. Understanding the question is the first step, but it is equally important that you make efficient use of the available time. Students often underestimate the amount of work required to write a good essay, which results in two things: If you want to achieve a good mark, you should start planning your essay the moment you receive the essay question. The following table may be a useful aid:.

It is also important that you leave time, ideally a couple of days, between finishing your first draft and proofreading. Perfect theories and academic approaches are rare — the clear majority of theories, arguments, and studies have flaws. Being descriptive is fine if you are looking to scrape a pass, but for a higher grade you need to show that you are able to leverage critical reasoning in your dealing with academic materials. What are the limitations of the theories you are drawing on?

How have these been dealt with in the literature? How do they impact the quality of arguments presented, and to what extent do they limit our understanding of what you are studying? What alternate explanations might offer additional depth? Critical thinking is what will make your essay stand out. It shows the marker that you are not simply repeating the arguments that have been fed to you throughout your studies, but actually engaging with theories in an academic manner.

How you present your argument is nearly as important as the argument itself, which is why it is imperative that your essay follows a logical structure. Each section, paragraph, and sentence should add value to the argument you are presenting.

How does it link to my overarching argument? You should also make sure that all the different parts of your essay fit together as a cohesive and logical whole, and that the transition from one argument to the next is fluid. Students often treat essays as lists of arguments, presenting one after the other with little consideration for how they fit together, which inevitably leads to a lower grade.

Make sure to tell your reader why you are transitioning from one argument to the next, why they are in this particular order, and how each argument helps shed light on a particular aspect of what you are discussing. Writing may be the core task, but reading is equally important.

Before you start writing your essay, you should conduct a broad search for relevant literature. Learning how to sift through a large amount of data is an important academic skill. You should start by searching through databases — Google Scholar is a great tool for this — using key words related to your research topic. If you are still not a hundred percent sure, it is usually a good idea to skip to the conclusion — this usually contains a detailed summary of the study, which will help determine whether you should read the article as a whole.

Once you have identified a few solid articles, you should a go through their bibliographies and take note of who they are citing, as these articles will likely be of value for your own research; and b check on Google Scholar to see who has cited them. To do this, simply input the name of the article in the search bar and hit enter. You should be particularly careful in using course books i. Academic writing requires a careful balance between novel argument, and drawing on arguments presented by others.

As such, it is important that you provide evidence a credible citation when you are making a statement of fact, or drawing on arguments, frameworks, and theories presented by other academics. These, in turn, should support the overarching novel argument that you yourself are making. When drawing on other authors it is important to understand the distinction between quoting and paraphrasing.

The general rule of thumb is that you should paraphrase wherever possible, and quote only when necessary or if it clarifies the point you are making. That said, paraphrasing can be difficult without losing the inherit value of the argument presented.

How did it affect you, and what did you learn from the experience? Reflect on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. What prompted your thinking? What was the outcome? Describe a problem you've solved or a problem you'd like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma-anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale.

Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could be taken to identify a solution. Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others.

Describe a topic, idea, or concept you find so engaging that it makes you lose all track of time. Why does it captivate you? What or who do you turn to when you want to learn more?

Please provide a statement that addresses your reasons for transferring and the objectives you hope to achieve. Describe a time when you made a meaningful contribution to others in which the greater good was your focus. Discuss the challenges and rewards of making your contribution. How did you respond?


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Writing essays Welcome to Writing Essays, the RLF’s online guide to everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about writing undergraduate essays. The guide is a toolbox of essay writing skills and resources that you can choose from to suit your particular needs.

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