Essay:General points

Essay:General points
The importance of following the required referencing style has already been stated. However, there are other stylistic features which should be adhered to and these will normally be set out in the instructions you are given when an essay is set. As a general rule, do not write in the first person unless specifically asked to do so i.e. avoid the use of phrases such as ‘I think’ or ‘in this essay I am going to’. Rather, allow your essay to reflect a personal perception whilst being presented in an objective manner.
It is useful to look at how professional writers construct essays to gain style tips (though remember, do not plagiarise under any circumstances as this is sure to be detected, is unfair on the writer whose ideas you are stealing and ultimately self-defeating). Most essays are required to be typed and double-spaced using size 12 font in ‘Times New Roman’ but it is advisable to check on this as requirements vary. Do not use colloquial expressions, stick to Standard English throughout. Lists are not a good idea unless the essay specifically requires them, as they can appear to be rushed, a truncated way of presenting a lot of information without sufficient explanation.

Final checks

When your essay is completed, read it through to check for errors. As mentioned above, it can be useful to ask someone who has not seen your work to proof-read it for you, maybe even reading it aloud, as we tend to see what we expect to see and typographical errors can easily be overlooked. Correct any errors before handing in your work otherwise you are throwing marks away.

Ensure that you have correctly referenced all quotations and completed a bibliography according to the stylistic requirements to which you have been asked to adhere. Your bibliography is very important, as evidence of your research and wider reading and to demonstrate that you recognise the importance of acknowledging sources. A bibliography should never be a rushed, last-minute task but rather should evolve naturally, as your research does. As previously stated, noting full publication details of every book you consult at the time will help enormously with this.

And finally...

Remember that your essay is essentially a response to a suggested idea. Different academic disciplines will, of course, require different content but no matter what you are writing about your argument should be clear, coherent, well-referenced and appropriately structured. You need to follow any instructions carefully, especially those relating to style and word count.

Bear in mind that although you are answering a question, you are also writing to engage your reader’s interest so try to combine thorough, factual research with an engaging, interesting style; it is your aim to compile an essay that will both inform and entertain. Think of the engagement of your reader’s interest as a challenge which your essay will meet; remember, your essay will be one of many to be read by your tutor/teacher/examiner and making your work stand out as impressive is quite an obstacle to overcome!

The ability to write a good essay is a skill that is difficult to acquire but not impossible and, once acquired, can even be enjoyable: ‘good luck’!

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