Essays. Whether you are continuing straight from high school or a diploma or picking up where you left off a few years ago, you’ve probably 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.
Effective communication is one of the most sought-after transferrable skills across industries, and no matter where you land, being able to express your ideas clearly will be key to your success. Van Thompson of Demand Media says essays teach you:
Whether it is a report, a sales pitch, or a building plan, having a solid understanding of the skills essay writing teaches you can make the difference between being just another cog in the machine and being the one pulling the levers. This leaves us with one dilemma – how do you 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.
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 task or question and lining it up with the marking criteria will help you figure out what exactly you need to say/achieve within your word limit. Think carefully about how the task at hand relates specifically to both the subject you are doing and your overall course – this will help make sure your arguments remain relevant.
From writing to referencing, detail is key.
The State Library of Victoria says planning your essay starts with knowing the task. Then there are three key elements.
Once you fully understand what it is you have to do in your essay, it’s time to actually form an argument/opinion/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 about).
With your hypothesis in the bag, you can use it to figure out the key statements and facts needed to create a compelling essay. Having a plan from the beginning lets you better structure your essay.
You have an argument and you have your talking points, which means you have all that you need to create your essay structure. You need to figure out the order in which to present your arguments to really hammer home your overall point.
The Oxford Royale Academy reminds us of some essentials of language that you should keep in mind when writing:
Use a variety of logical sentence structures to keep your writing flowing; long or short. Just be sure to never ramble.
Effectively used, punctuation keeps your arguments focused and concise.
You need to balance the formality of academia with a tone and energy that is engaging. You need to keep your reader (aka your teacher or tutor) entertained and informed.
Take your time when writing (unless speed works for you). Just make sure it is work that is smart and distinctly you.
The experts at Oxford Royale Academy also remind 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. This may be APA, Harvard or another system altogether. If you need help, just ask.
Drafting, re-reading, editing and proof reading 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 you return start by reading your work out loud. This 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 just to be safe. Then you're ready to submit.
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. Feel free to reach out to our library staff, student support officers, or your teachers for any help you may need.