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Marjon offers support and guidance on a range of Academic skills topics to help you to reach your full potential whilst studying here. This includes information on how to write academically, how to think critically, how to evaluate information and how to reference effectively.
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Writing an academic essay can be a daunting task. You might feel confused about what is expected of you or you may never have written anything quite like it before.
In an essay you are expected to:
- provide an answer to the question
- present an informed opinion that shows evidence of your reading
- structure ideas and present a coherent argument
- quote and/or refer to relevant authors to support your argument
How do I begin?
- Read the question carefully and identify exactly what you are being asked to do
- Ask your tutor for clarification if you are not sure what he or she wants
- Think about possible approaches to the question –identify the main issues and decide which you want to focus on and why
- Find the relevant literature – look at reading lists, the course handbook and lecture notes for guidance
- Spend some time sifting through resources – you don’t want to waste time reading things which are not relevant
- Start reading
- Make careful note of any references – that means interesting ideas/theories as well as direct quotes – it will save you a lot of time and energy (and possible accusations of plagiarism) later on – you will need the author/s’ names and initials, the title of the book/article/journal, date of publication, publisher and page number of any quotes.
How do I structure it?
Your essay is like a journey, it has a beginning, middle and an end and you need to plan your route carefully. There needs to be a coherent central argument that runs through the middle of your work which is supported on either side by your reading.
What should go in the introduction?
- The introduction should provide an overview of the issues relating to the question but not repeat the question
- You may want to define the main terms
- Identify the focus of your answer – you won’t be able to cover everything that is relevant
- You might want to map out the key stages of your essay and outline what is going to be discussed
- Your introduction should make up no more than 10% of your word count
What about the main body?
This is where you have to develop your key arguments and support your ideas with evidence from your reading
If you refer to someone else’s ideas, whether directly or indirectly, you must provide a complete reference
Each paragraph needs an opening statement which signposts the area you are going to address
Each point must consistently address the question
What should go in the conclusion?
- Draw together the main strands of your argument and highlight the key points
- Try and provide an answer to the question – even if that means recognising that it is a question to which there is no clear answer
- Your conclusion should make up no more than 10-15% of your word count
What goes in the reference list?
You need to include the full publishing details of every author/source you have mentioned in your essay so that anyone who reads your work can discover where you got your ideas/information from. This is not just so they can check up on you, referencing is how people share knowledge in higher education.
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