How to Write Good Essays - Learn to Write the Best Material and Get Top Grades

How to Write Good Essays - Learn to Write the Best Material and Get Top Grades
Unlike taking notes, arranging material for an essay and expressing yourself for the benefit of another person or persons requires considerable planning and, often, a process of redrafting and revising content as you go along. An essay is a piece of continuous prose, and should read like an argument, making a case and supporting it with examples and critical comment. Essays should be researched - it's a good idea to attach a bibliography and make use of footnotes to support statements made and source quotations. Different institutions have their own particular preferences regarding how you format these references, but generally a reference should include the title of the volume quoted, the author's name, the date and place of publication and the year in which that edition was produced.
Aside from the technical aspect of citing references, an essay should be distinguished by a clear and consistent line of argument running through the several paragraphs which make it up. It's often a good idea to make reference to the title question at the beginning and end of each paragraph. If the title is not a question, find something in it to argue with or dispute. Bear in mind that an argument need not necessarily disagree with an essay's title, but it is to your benefit to examine any statement from at least two opposing angles.

Unlike a speech, an essay need not deal in sound bites, but there is no reason to sacrifice elegance - on the contrary, a stylish essay is especially persuasive, although style alone can be no substitute for substance. George Orwell advises us to "Never use a long word where a short one will do", and the same principle can be applied to the whole practice of writing essays: be succinct, be clear, avoid verbosity. A good rhetorical style is an asset, but take care not to sacrifice conviction and clarity to too many flourishes or linguistic fireworks.

A good essay is also a balanced essay. Avoid relying too heavily on a single source, and try to arrange the structure such that one paragraph links to the next in as seamless a way as possible. Everyone plans their essays differently, but some form of planning is necessary if the essay is to avoid rambling. It is also important to be clear in your own mind what you are arguing before you begin to lay out your case. Some writers like to use their introductory paragraph to set forth the aims and objectives of their essays. This is fine as far as it goes, but be careful not to waste time and words repeating yourself later on.

Often it is better to follow a brief introduction with a detailed breakdown of your argument - a paragraph or two on each of the salient points. In your conclusion you should repeat the main thrust of your argument, but aim to avoid restating too much of what has already been discussed. Be succinct, be stylish, but above all else be clear. Even if your essay can draw no clear conclusion, the innate ambiguity of the subject at hand may be conclusion enough if properly expressed. Some problems cannot themselves be solved in a single essay, but if you can provide any illumination then the exercise has been worthwhile, and it is upon this that your essay should focus.

Apart from practicing your own writing skills, it is well worth taking the time to read a wide range of scholarly articles and academic essays already published. The more you read, the more familiar you will become with the difference between effective and ineffective modes of expression. You will become able to distinguish between good and bad styles of writing, and adjust your own accordingly. For all its factual and argumentative content, an essay is ultimately a tool for expressing your own original thoughts. The more clearly you express these, the more credit will be accorded to them, and the more you will be able to get out of your studies.

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