Getting Started Essay

Getting Started Essay
The first and most important aspect of writing a good essay is to examine the essay question. The importance of close analysis of the question as the basis of a good essay cannot be overestimated. Despite this, it is surprising how many students simply write down everything they know about a subject without reference to what the question is actually asking you to do.
Whether you have chosen the topic yourself or it has been assigned to you, look carefully at the key words which the question contains, as these will give you the pointers you need to begin to think carefully about how to proceed with your essay. Examples of key words might be: ‘examine’, ‘develop’, ‘analyse’, ‘influence’, ‘compare’. All these words offer a way into discussion of the topic in hand and give you a good idea of the way your essay should be written.

For example, if you were asked to compare how two poets address a similar theme, you would know that the reader was expecting to see close analysis of the words used and how theme and structure differ in each. However, if you were asked to examine the causes of the outbreak of a war, you would adopt quite a different approach, balancing fact and opinion.

Add to this an awareness of whether the question is asking you to give your own opinion in isolation or whether it requires you to assess the previous and current thinking on a subject and follow this up with a conclusion summarising your own thoughts (the latter of these is more usual).

As you develop your argument, ensure that you continue to check back to see that you are answering the question and not just reeling of everything you know about a given topic.

If you have been assigned a topic, then things such as choice of texts, word count and style will have been outlined for you but if you are ‘starting from scratch’ then you will need to make these decisions for yourself and this is when you should make your choices, only altering them later if your research suggests that other areas than what you originally planned need to be covered. Whether you have selected the topic or not, you will need to research critical opinion on it before you begin to write.

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