How to Write an Academic Essay

With deadlines fast approaching and the stress of Christmas looming near, I thought I’d do a short post on essay writing. 

It’s been a while since I’ve written an essay and this week I’ve struggled to get back into the swing of things. So this post is to remind myself of what I’m meant to be doing, and if anyone else finds it useful then that’s a bonus (please let me know by commenting). 

So, in my usual listed format (why do I like lists so much?), here are my top 5 tips for writing an academic essay:

1. Don’t leave it until the last minute 

It’s easy to put off doing your work until the last minute, especially coming up to Christmas when there are so many other things going on. But don’t forget, there is a lot of work that goes into an essay, and if you’re anything like me then you’ve probably underestimated how long it’s going to take you. 

2. Do the research, then form your arguement 

The foundation for any good essay is solid research. Once you have a good understanding of your topic you’ll find it much easier to write. You should also remember that you’ll need a central argument or point to relate back to the question. The best essays are those that are founded in solid, relevant research, so read around your topic as much as you can.

3. Use academic language

Writing academically is much different from writing press releases or blog posts. There’s a tendency to write in more complex language, but just remember that you’re writing for your audience and in this case longer words and specific terminology are the most appropriate.

But, don’t make the mistake of using long words just for the sake of it, if you don’t understand what you’re writing then your lecturer won’t either. 

It goes without saying that text speak is an absolute no-no.

4. Reference

Plagiarism is a big deal. You wouldn’t like someone else trying to pass off your work as their own, would you? So make sure you reference any direct quotes or paraphrasing. This will also show your lecturer that you’ve done (or gone beyond) the recommended reading.

The most common type of referencing is Harvard, but different lecturers might prefer different styles of referencing. It’s always best to check with them.

My own experience has taught me that referencing tool kits aren’t always reliable and often lose people marks. It’s much quicker and easier just to write the references yourself, once you’ve done one it’s easy to do the rest.

I’d also recommend doing references as you go to save time and prevent you from missing any out.

5. Proofread

This should be obvious, but it’s surprising how many students don’t proofreading their essays, either through over confidence or bad planning.

It’s not just spelling mistakes you should be looking out for, you need to check and make sure that what you’re writing makes sense and flows in a logical order.

I find it best to come back to my essays a few days later and re-read them, the distance helps you look at them with fresh eyes and see which bits you need to re-word or re-structure.

I hope you’ve found my top tips helpful, it’s been a great reminder (and a bit of procrastination) for me before I get stuck into my next assignment.

I narrowed the list down to 5 but there’s so many more things I could’ve included, what would you put on your list?


My Top Tips For Surviving Assessment Stress

It’s been a while since I posted anything, and for this I apologise.  It seems that I have been struck down by the dreaded viral tonsillitis (dun dun dunnnnn), and have been pretty poorly over Easter.

On top of my illness, work and child related activities, it’s also coming up to deadline time. Which also means that the sun has come out (yey!).  I’ve had to be a bit creative over the last couple of days to make sure I’ve got time to fit everything in.

So as a small, but no less relevant, post; here are my top tips for getting through assessment April.

1.  Prioritise

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Might need to work on my list writing skills
Do I really think that anyone will care if I don’t dust my skirting boards this week? Does my freezer really need to be defrosted and cleaned? Does my make up need organising alphabetically by brand and product?

The answer is probably not.  To stay on track I usually make a list of tasks and then order them from most important to least important.  This way I can remind myself of what I really need to get done, and what can wait until later.

2. Use a study calendar

This study calendar has a fancy built in clock
For me, my study calendar has been invaluable.  As well as marking down all of my deadlines so I know I’m not missing anything, I can plan how much work needs doing and on which days.  By sticking to my study plan I can make sure that I’m giving myself enough time and not leaving everything until the last minute.

3. Choose the right study buddy

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These guys look way too happy to be in the library
It pays to have someone to study with, so that you can keep each other on track and help each other out.  However, choose wisely, not everyone can study together.  I’ve got some great uni friends but I know now who will distract me, and who will actually do work with me. Make sure you know the distinction and feel free to say no to study sessions that you think will turn into beer garden fun (it might be fun now but you’ll regret it closer to the deadline).

4. Give yourself a break

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This is not a good look
Don’t burn yourself out.  You might have 20 essays, 4 exams, 3 projects and a critical evaluation due, but you still deserve some me time.  Give yourself a night off to recharge and refuel, trust me, you’ll feel better for it.

5. Stay positive

I couldn't find a picture for 'positive vibes' that wasn't really cheesy. So here's a cute puppy instead.
I couldn’t find a picture for ‘positive vibes’ that wasn’t really cheesy. So here’s a cute puppy instead.
I know that sometimes it’s hard to stay upbeat when you’ve got 20 other students telling you how stressed they are and how much work they have to do.  It seems mean to say this but that’s their problem (they should have got a study calendar with a fancy built in clock). If you’re doing the best you can then it’s good enough, look on the bright side and remember, only 4 more weeks until summer!