The process of essay planning and writing does not need to be a linear process, where each stage is done only once. It is often an iterative process i. A possible iterative process is:. This section heading is in quotes as it is also the heading of chapter 8, pages , in Barass Barass p80 makes the simple but valid statement, that:. The tutors reading and marking your essays deserve your consideration.
They will be reading and marking many, many student essays. If you make your argument hard to follow, so that they need to re-read a paragraph or more to try to make sense of what you have written, you will cause irritation, and make their job slower. Realistically, it is possible that they may even decide not to make that effort. Your tutors will not necessarily be looking for the perfect, revolutionary, unique, special essay; they would be very happy to read a reasonably well-planned, well-argued and well-written essay.
They will not want to pull your essay to pieces. They would much rather enjoy reading it, and be satisfied by the thread of your argument.
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In the words of a tutor:. A powerful introduction is invaluable. It can engage your readers, and can give them confidence that you have thought carefully about the title, and about how you are going to address it. A useful generic structure is to:. It may be possible to use only one paragraph for your introduction, but it may fall more easily into two or more. You will need to adapt and extend this basic structure to fit with your own discipline and the precise task set.
How to write a paragraph
Here is an example of an introduction for an essay entitled:. Although the introduction appears at the beginning of your essay, you may prefer to write it towards the end of the drafting process:. Questions to ask of your introduction and conclusion may be useful.
The middle part of the essay must fulfil the promises made in your introduction , and must support your final conclusions. Failure to meet either or both of these requirements will irritate your reader, and will demonstrate a lack of self-critique and of editing. The central part of your essay is where the structure needs to do its work, however explicit or implicit your chosen structure may be.
The structure you choose needs to be one that will be most helpful to you in addressing the essay title. The content of this central part will probably contain: ideas; explanations; evidence; relevant referencing; and relevant examples. It will be characterised by:. Questions to ask of your essay content may be useful. A powerful conclusion is a valuable tool.
The aim is to leave your reader feeling that you have done a good job. A generic structure that you may find useful is:. The study guide What is critical writing? With critical writing, you are doing work with the evidence you are using, by adding a level of examination and evaluation. Questions to ask about your level of critical writing may be useful.
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Another useful tool to support critical writing is the paragraph! Aim to present one idea per paragraph. Within the paragraph you could:. Finally, you need to take a break from your essay so that you can return to it with fresh eyes for the final editing. They are absolutely crucial because it is only at this stage that the student can see that the argument hangs together, has a sequence and is well-expressed.
Writing essays — University of Leicester
Editing is both difficult and important. Yes, editing is important, but no it does not need to be difficult. Also, criticising your writing tends to be easier than creating it in the first place. The study guide: The art of editing and the sheet: Questions to ask when editing may be useful.
A tutor can learn a worrying amount about the quality of your essay simply from how it looks on the page. The lengths of paragraphs; the lengths of sentences; the neatness of the reference list; the balance of length between different sections; all offer insight into the kind of essay they are about to read. Shorter words are often preferable to longer words, unless there is some specific vocabulary that you need to include to demonstrate your skill.
Short to middle length sentences are almost always preferable to longer ones.
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And over-long paragraphs tend to demonstrate that you are not clear about the specific points you are making. Of course, these are general points, and there may be some occasions, or some subject areas, where long paragraphs are appropriate. Accurate grammar and spelling are important. Consistently poor grammar or spelling can give the impression of lack of care, and lack of clarity of thought. Careless use of commas can actually change the meaning of a sentence. And inaccurate spelling and poor grammar can make for very irritating reading for the person marking it.
This practice is now widely accepted where it makes good sense. It is however possible that some tutors may still prefer not to see it. The title is the most important guidance you have. The task ahead is nothing more and nothing less than is stated in the title. When in doubt about any aspect of your reading for the essay, or about your writing, the first step is to go back and consult the essay title. This can be surprisingly helpful. It informs directly: the choice of reading; the structure you choose for the essay; which material to include and exclude; what to do with the material you use; and how to introduce and conclude.
A relevant and useful structure to support the presentation of your response to the title is vital. Expect to undertake an iterative process of planning, reading, drafting, reviewing, planning, reading, re-drafting, and editing. Barass R, Students must write: a guide to better writing in coursework and examinations.
London: Methuen. Buckingham: Open University Press. Stott R, The essay writing process. Chapter 3 pp In Making your case: a practical guide to essay writing. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited. Email: studyhelp if you are a University of Leicester student please use your University email address Keep in touch via:. Personal tools Web Editor Log in.
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Search Site only in current section. I began my English teaching career in China 14 years ago. OU associate lecturer and materials writer. I have written materials on business communication, Academic English and Italian. The Open University OU is the largest academic institution in the UK and a world leader in flexible distance learning, with a mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas. This is a premium course. These courses are designed for professionals from specific industries looking to learn with a smaller group of like-minded individuals. You can use the hashtag FLacademicessay to talk about this course on social media.
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