24 Oct 2016
Essays. Whether you are continuing straight from high school or a diploma or you’re picking up where you left off a few years back, you’ve had experience with essay writing. And as much as you hate them, they do serve a purpose.
We don’t mean this in the strict academic sense. Essays can genuinely teach you skills that can be applicable to your working life for years to come.
Essay Writing Is About More Than Academia
While not every role out there will require you to write much, if at all, there are more than a few that will demand a hard grasp of structured, stirring prose. Still not convinced? Van Thompson of Demand Media says essays teach you:
- Sentence structure
- Making cohesive arguments
- How to be succinct
- How best to structure essential information
- Communicating effectively
- Sounding clear and credible when conveying a message
Whether it is a report, a pitch, or a plan, each of the above can make the difference between being just another cog in the machine and being the one pulling the levers. This leaves us with one crucial dilemma – how does one craft a cracking essay?
How to Write A Solid Essay
Luckily, we just so happen to be in the education game, which means we’ve seen more than a few essays in our time.
Know the Task
The Australian National University and our friends at Federation University Australia make it clear that the absolute starting point for any essay writing task is analysing and defining the topic or question. As they say, “Understanding how the task is situated within your discipline/field/courses is crucial to developing a comprehensive answer.”
Look carefully at both the basic descriptor of the task or question and line it up with the criteria set to figure out what exactly you need to say and achieve within your word limit. And as suggested above, think carefully about how the task at hand relates specifically to both the unit you are doing and your overall course – this will help ensure your arguments remain relevant.
From planning to referencing, detail is key.
As outlined by the State Library of Victoria, planning your essay involves three key things:
Research – with all this done, you can now carefully research your topic to build up a robust and awe-inspiring argument.
Forming an argument – now that you fully understand what it is you have to do in your essay, it’s time to actually form an argument/hypothesis. Hopefully, the time taken picking apart the task will have given you the eureka moment needed to form a smart and concise point to make (and one you can write to).
Developing an Overall Plan – with your hypothesis in the bag, you can use it to figure out the key statements and facts needed to create a compelling academic narrative (say that three times fast). Having a plan from the outset allows you to better structure your essay.
Creating a Structure – you have an argument and you have your proof points, which means you have all that you need to create your essay structure. This is when you figure out the order in which you use your statements to really hammer home your core argument.
Oxford Royale Academy reminds us of some essentials of language that one must keep in mind when crafting any piece of writing, essays included:
Syntax – use a variety of logical sentence structures to keep your writing flowing; long or short, just be sure to never ramble.
Punctuation – effectively used, punctuation keeps your arguments focused and concise.
Tone of Voice – you need to balance the formality of academia with a tone and energy that is engaging; you need to keep your reader (your teacher) entertained and informed.
Take your time with the writing (unless speed works for you) – make sure it is work that is smart and distinctly you.
A good essay is a bringing together of great ideas.
Referencing and Quoting
Tracking right back to the experts at Oxford Royale Academy, they also reminded us that, your own articulate opinion aside, essay writing is an opportunity to collate and share the ideas and research of others. In short – a good essay always has clear referencing and quotes throughout.
Check the preferred referencing guide of your course to see how it is best done.
We will keep this point brief – re-reading and drafting are a must. Once you finish writing, walk away from the screen for a while to give your brain a break and then come back.
When back at the desk, start by reading your work aloud. Articulating it in this fashion helps you hear for yourself how well your hard work may read for others. With this done, see if you can get someone else to look over your work for you – a second pair of eyes always helps. If you’re happy with it after this, maybe give it another read or two before settling in a final draft.
Feeling prepared? Then get writing! Wow them with your words.
If not, don’t worry – help is available. Whether it is research or writing, there are resources available to you on campus. Feel free to reach to either library staff or the Learning Skills Centre for any help you may need.