How to write academic essays

How to write academic essays

Academic Essays- What you need to know

Most students struggle with writing their academic essays. They often wonder what it takes to write a god essay. Here are some guidelines on how to go about it.


Knowledge and understanding

A good essay will exhibit a comprehensive and accurate knowledge and understanding of relevant material, including concepts.

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Academic essays should be reasoned argument(s). They are critical evaluations of information presented. We will be looking for your ability to critically analyse information to reach a clear and logical conclusion based on valid argument(s).




You essay should be focused on the question set. It should be coherent; it should have a logical flow to it. In short, fluency and focus are the hallmarks of a well-presented essay. Put yourself in the position of your reader – have you said all that is necessary? And have you done so in a way that is easily understood? By carving the question into separate components, and dealing with each, one-by-one, you will be able to construct a coherent essay.


You essay should have a Beginning, Middle, and an End


Beginning: Explain how you are going to answer the question. State your argument(s). State how you are going to prove your case.


Middle: Then, you make the case; marshal the argument(s) for and against the issue raised in the question.


End: Lastly, after you have evaluated your argument(s), you should come to a conclusion based upon the middle section, and which answers the question.


You must state and discuss your argument(s). And it is important to show us that you understand the complexity of the question and appreciate the variety of responses that could be given.

You must always provide a bibliography.


Effective examination technique – Questions that you should ask yourself:


  1. Have I answered the question? Have I analyzed the question? What is the examiner looking for? What is the question asking me?
  2. Have I produced a genuine argument(s) or have I simply put down a number of disconnected points in the hope that the examiners can work it out for themselves?
  3. Have I been relevant in arguing my case or have I included ideas and facts that have no relation to the question? Do not simply write down all you know about the subject – you have to be selective, you have to show judgement, evaluation, analysis etc.
  4. Have I included a bibliography?


Examiners want: reasons, facts, examples, evidence, and argument


Further guidance on essay writing


  • You must stick to the question set. Students sometimes lose marks by drifting away from the specific subject of the essay. If you are not sure what is relevant to a particular question, you should ask the tutor for clarification.
  • Don’t be afraid to express your own opinions. The essay is a chance for you to set out your own views on the question. Ideally, you should introduce your opinions at the beginning of the essay, and use the rest of your text to develop your argument.
  • Support your opinions with evidence. This can be taken from the books that you look at when you prepare your work. Without evidence to support them, the claims that you make will be unconvincing.
  • Never refer to non-academic websites in your work. This includes all personal websites and Wikipedia.
  • Provide references for all sources of specific information, not only direct quotations. Make sure that your direct quotations include page numbers.
  • Always proofread your work before submission. This can help you to weed out avoidable errors in grammar and factual information.



Why reference?


  • Display intellectual honesty about the information you have borrowed
  • Distinguish between material from other sources and original ideas
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of a topic
  • Enable readers to locate the sources you have used
  • Meet academic standards



Dangers of not referencing well:


  • You could give an impression of intellectual dishonesty if you do not acknowledge material you have borrowed from another source
  • You risk plagiarizing, which means presenting someone else’s work as your own. The penalty for proven plagiarism is a mark of zero in the relevant module. The maximum penalty is exclusion from the University
  • Your writing may not be authoritative
  • Your arguments may lack clear evidence
  • You risk not meeting academic standards

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