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Tips on Essay Writing

It will probably be much easier for you to succeed in your studies if you try consciously to develop the techniques of study. These are not inborn but can be cultivated. Of course, the techniques vary with the subject studied, but there are some general practices that can be developed and put to use. Below is some guidance that you might find helpful.

Focus on the question

You can’t decide what to answer until you have thought very hard about what you are being asked. Questions are usually quite precise, not an invitation to write something vaguely in that area. Take time to understand what the question is really asking. Answer only the question asked, not what you would like to have been asked.

Develop an essay plan

To begin with you will have a few ideas. It may be helpful to write down some possible paragraph headings and to determine the best order in which to discuss these points. Then see if there are other points you have left out. Once you have a structure mapped out, you can start to fill in the detailed points (usually only two or three) that will go under each paragraph heading. Only when you have the whole plan completely mapped out should you start to write out your answer.

Execute your plan

As you write out your answer, let the reader or examiner know where you are going. Include an introduction sketching the argument you are about to develop and a conclusion summarising what you have just said. Because your plan has already solved the problem of the best order in which to make your points, you will also write more interesting and better-argued essays. It is not good practice simply to give a list of points. If your plan is good, you will start to realise that one point is decisive and must be dealt with first and that points two to four really just expand the first point.

One final word of advice: Unless the question specifically asks you for an unusually large number of facts, don’t allow your essay to become overburdened with too many irrelevant details. Think of your plan as a skeleton, the bones of the logical argument. You flesh out this skeleton with a few well-chosen examples to make it more complete. The examples must not be so numerous that they obscure the skeleton structure of the answer.