Essays/ Assignments

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Essays/ Assignments

  • Structuring

Session Aims

  • To discuss:
  • Planning and structuring essays
  • The writing process/ developing your writing
  • Academic writing
  • Reading, note-taking and referencing

Planning and structuring

  • Answering the ‘question’ (Essay Title)
  • Is the question open-ended or closed?
  • Underline key words
  • Try breaking the question down into sub- questions
  • Top tip:
  • Set the question in context – how does it fit with the key issues, debates and controversies in your module and your subject as a whole? An essay question often asks about a specific angle or aspect of one of these key debates. If you understand the context it makes your understanding of the question clearer.

Planning and structuring

  • Before reading – generate some ideas..
    • -  What do you already know about the topic – from lectures, seminars, general knowledge?
    • -  What things don't you know about the topic, but need to find out in order to answer the question?
    • -  What are your initial responses or answers to the question – what you think your conclusion might possibly be?
  • After reading – summarise your findings..
    • Use 1 A4 page
    • Spider diagram
    • Bring together key points
    • Begin mapping an essay structure

Planning and structuring

  • Introduction: Address the question, show why it's interesting and how you will answer it.
  • Main Body: Build your argument. Put your groups of ideas in a sequence to make a persuasive argument. One main point in each paragraph.
  • Conclusion: Summarise your arguments and evidence, and show how they answer the original question.

Academic writing

  • The style of writing you will be expected to use for academic work is likely to be different to other styles you use every day.
  • Think b4 u rite! :>)
  • Avoid shortened forms:
  • Shouldn't, it's for it is
  • Avoid popular phrases or cliches such as:
  • at the end of the day; in a nutshell; when it comes to the crunch
  • Replace with: finally, in summary, in a crisis
  • Avoid casual everyday words such as really, okay, maybe.

Academic writing

  • Academic essays should be written in a formal style. Avoid:
  • clichés ("the flaws in this argument stand out like a sore thumb")
  • contractions ("don't", "aren't", "it's")
  • phrases that sound like speech ("well, this bit is really fascinating")
  • subjective descriptions ("this beautiful sculpture")
  • where possible use the third person (“it can be argued” rather than “I think”)

Academic writing – including evidence and your own ideas

  • A suggestion on how you can construct a paragraph that includes evidence and your own ideas:
  • Introduce your point (your own words)
  • Add the evidence to support your point (quoted or paraphrased evidence that needs to be referenced)
  • Explain how and why this evidence supports your point and what you think of it (your own interpretation and critical thinking)
  • Explain how the point helps answer the question (your own argument)

The writing process

  • Sometimes it is hard to get started
  • Or, when experiencing a ‘blockage’ – midflow
  • How can you develop your academic ‘voice’?

 Some ways to get more critical analysis into your essays

  • Avoid unnecessary description
  • Interpret your evidence
  • Be specific
  • Use counter-arguments to your advantage

Reading and note-taking

  • Reading critically
  • Who is the author and what is their viewpoint or bias?
  • Who is the audience and how does that influence the way information is presented?
  • What is the main message of the text?
  • What evidence has been used to support this main message?
  • Is the evidence convincing; are there any counter-arguments?
  • Do I agree with the text and why do I agree or disagree?


  • Referencing includes:
  • Citations (direct quotes, paraphrases, reference to other peoples ideas or work)
  • Bibliography/ reference list – alphabetical list of sources
  • Find out which style your subject area uses.. Harvard? Chicago?

Editing and proofreading

  • Are your points in the right order and relevant to the question?
  • Be ruthless – irrelevant? Cut it out!!
  • Are your points clear? Any gaps?
  • Leave at least a day before re-reading
  • Read your essay aloud
  • Check your references are complete and accurate

Your questions answered

  • In pairs or small groups, discuss what you have learned today during this workshop, and talk about what you wish you could ask/ still are unclear about.
  • We can try to help you find the answers!

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