Your experiences of writing essays could be going one way or the other so far. But, whether you love them or hate them, you’ll be writing a lot of them at university, so it might be time to start listening to a few cheeky tips to help. Don’t worry though, it doesn’t matter if you don’t know a full stop from a full pint, UnCOVered have everything you need to know to win at essay writing.
Mamma always said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.” And she was right when it came to essay writing. At this stage you can’t really just start writing and expect to spout genius ideas from off the top of your head. A solid plan is essential and should include the structure of how you want your essay to unfold, key points you want to make and some sneaky quotations you actually wrote down in a lecture. The more you have planned out, the easier it is to write.
Perhaps the most important part of creating a good essay is making your writing engaging. Sure, your report into phonetics or deforestation might not be hard-hitting, controversial journalism, but your overall style can make a big difference to your grade. A great way to do this is through variety. By adapting the structure and length of your sentences to your points, you can make your writing much more impactful. Try juggling round parts of a sentence, or where you want the pauses to be, for maximum effect. The same goes for the words you are using. The bigger your vocabulary is, the more tools you will have to create a great essay. Find the words that work best and help the flow of your writing, you’ll soon find it’ll be an easier and more enjoyable read.
3) Valuable quotations
An essential part of any essay is the body of quotations you use to support your points. At first you might think it’s best to pick out the largest ones you can find to eat up a good chunk of your word count. However, this won’t help you in the long run. Much like food or relationships, think quality over quantity. Take your time to find a solid, relevant quote that strengthens your argument and gives you more to build off. Believe it or not, a shorter quote that gives you a lot to say will be much more effective at helping you consume that dreaded word count.
Whilst studying at university it’s important to become an explorer of your chosen academic field. You’ll have the chance to look into multiple sides of arguments, various views and theories and gain well-rounded knowledge. Having said that, it’s important that you use your essay as a way of showing all of this. When writing, be sure to highlight every angle of the research or viewpoint, even if it’s not something that you necessarily agree with. Examiners are looking for a broad analysis of the question that has been asked; so don’t waste all that effort you’ve made with your exploring. Show them you’re an open-minded student with a vast knowledge of the subject.
5) Keeping it simple
Over-complicating any situation never helps, and it’s no different when writing an essay. Keep your points concise and straightforward to avoid confusing the reader or waffling on without direction. Sometimes less really is more and condensing the way your points are made can actually have a much bigger effect. Ask yourself: do I need that extra word there? Or, is this additional point really necessary? Don’t forget, if no one can understand what you’re trying to say, you’re really not saying anything at all.
6) Avoid bluffing
Honestly, I know how tempting it is but it just never works. Every little trick you can think of, all those short cuts to try and pad things out, they only give the examiner the wrong impression. Remember the plan you made at the start? It should contain a strong base of facts and opinions that relate to the question, which you can stick to. It’s obvious to any reader when a writer is not comfortable with the material, so don’t try and blag it and hope for the best. Take time to do any background reading that might be necessary to make things clearer for you.
7) Discussing with classmates & tutors
Not only is it perfectly acceptable to discuss the progression of your assignments and plans, but it’s also encouraged. Discussion at university regarding essay content is natural (as long as you’re not plagiarising obviously). And if you are struggling a bit, ask around and check on everyone else’s experiences. Don’t forget there’re plenty of forums and websites online where you can discuss things too. You might find some great tips or think of some new ways to approach the question, so don’t be shy.
8) Know when to work & know when to rest
Planning your work schedule is vital when you’re writing an essay, especially if you’re working on multiple assignments at the same time. Plan when you’re going to get your head down and put in the hard work and when you can chill out and relax. It’s important to take regular breaks when you work, even more so if you’re finding writing frustrating. A five minute break can clear your head a lot better than you’d think. Then, when you’re in relaxation mode, try not to worry about work or deadlines. This is your free time and stressing over your assignments will stop you from enjoying it.
9) Editing & proofreading
It’s very tempting to do a little victory dance as soon as that last word of your essay has been written, and yet, this is not where the work ends. It’s essential that you give yourself time for a few rounds of proofreading and editing. Yes it’s annoying, but you would be surprised at how many little mistakes you may have missed the first time around. If you are really sick of the sight of it though, get a friend to look through it for you. Having an outsider’s perspective can be really useful in finding errors or points that don’t quite work.