Successful Essay Writing
Dr. Elizabeth Adey
Liz studied up to the Ph.D. level in the UK, working across a range of scientific and social science
disciplines. After completing her Ph.D., Liz lectured in higher education on a range of subject
areas and undertook several roles in student support. Liz then moved into the commercial mining
sector travelling extensively and participating in a range of forums for the UK government and in
the private sector. In 2015 Liz founded Uni Direct which she has grown year on year through
offering highly personalised and supportive services to help students at every stage of their
Uni Direct overview
Uni Direct works with students to help them identify and apply for English speaking degree
courses around the world. We help students apply for foundation degrees through to Ph.D. and
MBA programmes. In addition to our core university application support services, we also provide
academic mentoring services to existing university students.
Successful Essay Writing
Developing an essay writing style
As you progress through your time at University, your confidence and skills in essay writing will
improve. A combination of taking on board feedback from your tutors, along with the practice of
producing written work on a regular basis, will help you to grow in confidence and develop your
technique. Essentially, your primary objective is to communicate in a clear and concise way. Keeping
sentences short and to the point will help with this, although thought must be given to the overall
rhythm and readability of the piece as a whole. Varying the length of each sentence can help, along
with the use of effective punctuation to break up sentences into smaller units. The key element is to
enable your reader to navigate their way through the text with as little effort as possible! Make your
Cutting out meaningless words such as ‘actually, basically, literally, etc’ will also help to keep your
work to the point. As will avoiding repetitive phrases such as ‘true facts’ or ‘revert back’. It is easy to
let this kind of language slip into your work, so keeping these points in front of the mind at the proofreading stage is a useful way of editing your work. Don’t use the same words too often.
Engage with the question
The best way to start your essay writing, particularly in an exam, where you will be striving to get the
highest mark possible, is to open it by acknowledging what the question is asking and by looking at
what the question really is and what your interpretation of it may be. Comment on the specific
words within the question, what assumptions do they provide you with? Consider why the question
is particularly interesting or important. The next step is then to explain how you plan on addressing
the question and what your argument is going to be. It is not useful to merely write down everything
you know on a topic. A well-written essay will have a clear direction from the very first sentence.
Choose your language wisely
Being confident with your language and expression will give your work gravitas. Phrases such as ‘In
my opinion’ or ‘I think that’, may make you sound uncertain about what you are saying. Likewise,
long rambling sentences skirting around the topic, dilute the point you are trying to make. Using
short sentences will prevent you from rambling on and keep things succinct. This is not to say that
sophisticated vocabulary does not have a place. If you are confident in the meaning and how to use
the language correctly, it can be very valuable, but the key is to ensure you are clear and concise.
Sometimes that just means keeping it simple.
Get your essay writing structure right
Plan your structure in advance and stick to it. Your introduction will outline the question and discuss
how you will approach it. You will need to break down your argument with each point you intend to
make and clearly set everything out in the order you plan to address it. The main body of the essay
will then make and develop each of these points within their own paragraph and should incorporate
evidence to back it up.
Finish your essay writing with your conclusion. This is your opportunity to pull the essay together
and discuss how you have addressed the question. A good conclusion will be reflective and perhaps
offer some context and broader significance to the initial question. Finishing with a sentence that is
memorable and perhaps uses language that is a little more expensive is a perfect note to finish on.
Referencing in the right way
Referencing practices vary between academic disciplines, but all the written work that you submit
during your time at University will need to have appropriate notes and citations to the resources
that you have used. This acknowledges the background research that has enabled you to support
your opinion or idea and also gives the reader the opportunity to follow up in more detail any facts
that you present.
Two of the most widely used essay writing referencing techniques are the ‘Harvard’ or ‘author, date’
system and the use of footnotes. Both of these are used within a text to enable referencing without
disrupting the flow of the writing. The former method cites, for example, the surname of an author,
the date of publication, and often a page number in brackets, within the texts itself. Whilst the latter
uses a number system within the body of the work, with further details given alongside the
correlating number, at the foot of the page.
Both systems will need to include details on the publication itself, either within the footnote or by
providing a detailed bibliography at the end of the work.
If you would like to find out more about successful essay writing or you are looking to start your
university journey please do get in touch.
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