This time of year is all about assignments. Amy has shared the Skills for Learning 6 steps to essay success!
It’s that time of year again when deadlines are looming so we thought we’d share with you our 6 steps to essay success.
- Step 1: Analyse and Plan
- Step 2: Search and Evaluate
- Step 3: Read and Make Notes
- Step 4: Write your Essay
- Step 5: Review and Submit
- Step 6: Reflect
Read on to learn more about each step!
Step 1: Analyse and Plan
When you are given a question or task to complete you need to make sure that you understand what you are being asked to do and then plan how you will approach it. If you don’t answer the question being set you are more likely to get a low mark. With this in mind, the first step to essay success is to ANALYSE and PLAN. This involves analysing your task, making a plan and identifying useful words that describe your topic. You need to make sure that you pay attention to the instructions you have been given, be clear about the topic you have been asked to explore and any restrictions to the scope of your answer.
Step 2: Search and Evaluate
Next you need to search for information and evaluate the usefulness of what you find. You need to think about what you already know and where you could search for information. A useful way of evaluating sources is to ask yourself these questions:
1. How up-to-date is the information? Is it still CURRENT?
2. Is this information source going to help me write my essay? Is it RELEVANTto my topic?
3. Is this “the right sort” of information – is it suitable for academic purposes? Is the author an expert in this subject area? Is the information reliable and ACCURATE?
4. Why has this information been written? What is its PURPOSE? Is there any bias I need to take account of?
Step 3: Read and Make Notes
Now you have your materials together, it’s time to start getting the information that you need from them. There are different ways to approach this task depending on what you are reading. If it is books then you might want to start by looking at the chapter headings to decide which will be most useful. If it is a journal article then it is a good idea to read the abstract first as this help you decide whether it is worth reading in detail. Next you need to read the introduction as this will tell you about the main argument of the article. Read the conclusion next for a summary of the main ideas and finally if you still think it is relevant you may want to read the rest in detail. Make sure you annotate and summarise as you read.
Step 4: Write your Essay
By now you should have a good idea about how you are going to answer the question. It is a good idea to re-visit your plan as it may have changed as a result of all the research and reading you have done! Give some thought to how you will structure your essay – it will need an introduction, a main body and a conclusion. The introduction tells the reader how you will answer the question. The main body is the ideas and analysis to support your argument, it is your opportunity to critically analyse the topic. Finally, the conclusion tells the reader how you have answered the question. Don’t forget to paraphrase, summarise and reference correctly as you write.
Step 5: Review and submit
Leave plenty of time to proofread your work paying particular attention to spelling, grammar, the question, word count and references and citations. When you are happy with your essay and confident that you have done your best to answer the question you can submit it.
Step 6: Reflect
So that you can improve and develop your skills, it is important that you reflect on how you did. This means thinking about how you approached the assignment – what went well, what would you do differently next time? You also need to read, understand and learn from the feedback you are given by your tutor so that you can carry on doing the things you did well and improve on the areas that lost you marks.
- Have a look at our 6 Steps to Essay Success online resource for more detail about each step.
- Read our study guides:
– Writing your assignment
– Reading and note making
– Spelling and apostrophes
– Proof Reading
Tags: essay writing, note taking
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Planning an essay
Planning starts with understanding your task, how much time you have, the number of words you have to write and what direction you're going to take.
Before you embark on research, give yourself realistic goals for the amount of material you need by sketching out a plan for length. Download an essay plan template
Check the title, idea or plan with your tutor. He or she might have expectations you haven't realised and may spot a problem with the basic idea. (Luke Martell, Professor of Political Sociology at the University of Sussex).
As soon as you have done some reading and thinking, you can begin planning the content of your essay.
Allow yourself to change your plan but remember it gives you a structure for your argument, so if you change the plan you will have to check your line of reasoning and the evidence you use.
Your tutor may give you specific guidance about the structure of your written assignment.
Making a tabular plan can help visualise your argument and is useful for a comparative essay - see the example below (click on the image to enlarge).
Is globalisation a new phenomenon? [pdf 22kb]
A linear plan helps you think about structure. Your tutors may ask to see an essay plan but even if you do not need to hand it in, it is essential to your essay.
Here is a linear plan: (click on the image to enlarge).
Second year student: Molecular Cell Biology essay outline:
What are peroxisomes? What do they do? And, how are proteins targeted to them? [pdf 65KB]
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