Essays can feel like huge inconvenient hurdles that need to be overcome in order to pass a subject. Everyone dreads them and they often turn out badly due to fast approaching deadlines. Yet a few sneaky tips can help an essay go from fail to high distinction.
1. Decide on your argument or contention before you start writing
A lot of essays I edit have absolutely no direction. I know that you have to write the essay to pass the class but what actually do you want to say in the essay?
Is it an essay exploring the ideologies of Marxism? Then your contention might be to provide an overview of the many aspects of Marxism.
Ask yourself what you want to write about, how and why, and your contention should come easily.
This is the most important step for getting a high mark, because it will make you stand out from other essays that waffle on about nothing.
2. An hour of research
My rule of thumb is one hour of research – minimum – for each 1000 words required. 2000 words will equal two hours research minimum. Two hours really isn’t that long.
3. Make it interesting
Most students presume that all essays have to be formal and strictly formatted. It wasn’t until I was doing my masters that my professor told me the exact opposite. He said readability is the only thing that is important.
He asked us to personalise our essay in a professional way, which adds to readability. Active voice, personal language and short paragraphs keep readers interested, which is exactly what you want to do, if you want great grades.
4. Write the conclusion first
This is a trick I have told many friends and they all come back with huge thanks. It really makes writing a decent essay so much easier.
A good conclusion does not introduce anything new it just reminds us of what we have discussed and why it is important.
By writing a short paragraph on what you have said and how you have proven it, you have provided yourself with an outline of the essay. This makes the rest easy; just add more detail and information.
5. Read it aloud
When you have finished your essay make sure you read it aloud to yourself. Awkward phrases and sentences that drag on are easily caught this way. This tip is so simple but not that many people actually do it. Reading in your head doesn’t count either. Your eyes are used to seeing the words and will skip simple mistakes.
6. Get someone to proof your work
Before you print your essay and hand it in, or submit it to Turnitin, make sure you get someone else to have a look. Fresh eyes always find things that are overlooked when a writer is invested in their work. Ask mum or dad, your boyfriend, or better yet a classmate that understands what you are writing about.
There are many ways to take your essay from a pass to a distinction. These six tips are ones that I find are the most helpful for my students and have great returns for their marks. The most important thing to think about when writing is about readability. If it is difficult to read, then make it simpler. Something that is easier to read makes an argument stand out more, which makes a professor’s job easier and makes them smile more.