How to Write an Essay

Write an Essay

Tips on writing that all-important A-grade college essay

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Know your essay subject

You must learn to write essays from an excess of knowledge. Go to lectures, read up on the subject in the library, look up the latest academic papers and thoroughly immerse yourself in the essay subject before writing. Without this work to find out the information, you cannot write an essay with authority and command of your essay subject matter. Here are some tips to help you when you gather this information.

Collect more information than you will use
Although your research will give you a mass of information, you must use only the information that answers the question set. You will probably collect a hundred facts, read a dozen opinions and review three or four of the most recent academic discussions of the subject. However, to answer the question set, you must cut this information down to the key facts, most pertinent opinions and perhaps refer to only the most relevant discussion papers.

Read primary sources first
If you were writing an essay on the Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet, you could not write a good one without first reading the play. Too often, students ignore the primary source of material. If you are writing an essay on Rousseaus philosophy, theres no excuse for not reading the original source contract rather than a critique of Rousseaus writings. Studying the primary sources of information let you assess other information written on the subject.

Use a systematic way of taking notes
You need to have a method of note-taking. No matter how you record the information, cards, notebook or in a computer database, bear the following in mind.

  1. Use a one-word or two-word key to each note. This lets you sort them later and group related information together.
  2. Distinguish between primary and secondary sources. An example of a primary source would by Karl Marxs Das Kapital. A secondary source would be a critique of Das Kapital by another author.
  3. Distinguish between facts and opinions. You must base your essay around facts. Without key facts you cannot present your arguments or assess other peoples opinions.
  4. Look out for the ten key facts that are the backbone to your essay. What information documents the subject and develops the ideas and arguments you are going to use?
  5. Look for quotable quotes. Too often, lazy students quote chunks of text from documents, rather than selecting the most important thought or view in fewer words.
  6. Dont write out extracts word for word. Your notes are notes not a copy of the words in the reference books.
  7. Keep a record of all information sources. A record of each information source:
    • Lets you find your source research material quickly.
    • Helps you write up footnotes and reference lists.

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Essay Know your Essay Subject
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Use quotations in your writing
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