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?

Blogging 101: How to Write a Blog Post

It’s been a little while since I posted anything. Partly because I’ve been on holiday, and partly because I’ve been busy with other projects (like PR Stack).

So,  to get back into the swing of things I thought I’d take it back to basics and remind myself of how to actually write a blog.

What’s Your Angle?

Although my blog is PR related, I mostly write about being a mature student and how my experiences as a parent help or hinder my studies.

There are lots of blogs about PR campaigns,  crisis management and PR issues,  so what is it that makes your writing stand out? What is your unique selling point and how are you going to position yourself to stand out against the white noise of PR blogs?

As you can probably tell by my earlier posts,  it took me a little time to figure out who I was as a blog writer. After a bit of experience,  and lots of abandoned drafts, I’ve found my niche.

Make It Personal 

Nobody wants to read a regurgitated textbook, we get enough of that in class. Make your posts personal, relevant to you and engaging to your readers by drawing on your own opinions and experiences.  After all, what’s the point in rewording someone else’s content? Create something original by being yourself, which brings me to my next point…

Hone Your Writing Style

Now I’m not going to say my spelling and grammar is perfect, but one thing that really turns me off reading is lots of errors.

As well as checking your work thoroughly, blogs should be written informally, almost like you’re telling a story to a friend.  This makes your writing more accessible and engaging to the reader. Personally, I think my blend of quasi-lists and self depricating humour reflects my personality and using this makes it easier to write my content.

Sharing Is Caring

Don’t forget about social media. After all, what’s the point in posting content if no one can find it? Use any and all social media sites to promote your writing and find new followers. I use Facebook for my friends, Twitter for my colleagues and blogging networks and LinkedIn to reach out to potential employers and clients.

Now that I’m back in the swing of things and getting settled into my final year of study, you can look forward to many a blog post about how stressed I am and find out about the progress of my McDonald’s job application. So until next time remember that sharing is caring and I’ll see you round the Twitterverse.

Double the Honours, Half the Benefits

This week I feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of things.  As we’re coming up to Easter there’s been loads going on, from Professional Speed Dating events to CIPR competitions.  Somehow, despite my hectic schedule I still think I’m not getting the full benefits of studying Public Relations.

My main focus this week has been preparing my entry for the Douglas Smith Student Award, run by the CIPR. I really wanted to create a campaign, however, I was disappointed when I found out that I might not be able to enter due to the combined nature of my degree.

It took several emails back and forth and some checking and double checking before Eva Maclaine confirmed that I could take part.  My point is that if I hadn’t pushed and emailed and checked, then I might have missed out on the experience of creating my own campaign (a highly fulfilling one I might add).  Although I don’t want to reveal the entry just yet (in case anyone else is entering!) I found the whole experience highly rewarding and would recommend entering to any student who is considering it, but it is an opportunity I wouldn’t have ordinarily been granted for being a joint honours student.

Secondly, there was a professional speed dating event this week for Stage 2 and 3 students.  It involved coming along with a portfolio and meeting some of the key industry players in the North East with a view to setting up placement or work experience opportunities.  Even though I was really keen to take part, I wasn’t able to attend as I had no childcare.

I was really disheartened by this as so far all of the connections I’ve made have been via social media, and I feel like it’s important to show people my face and other work besides my blog and (limited) tweets.  From the sound of Hannah’s blog everyone had a great time, and I hope that I’m able to attend next year. In the meantime I’ll keep plugging away online and keep a look out for other events in my area.

Finally, I’ve been focussing a lot on my Public Relations work at the moment.  Between setting up our own agency, completing the Douglas Smith Award and my assessed campaigns I’ve been neglecting the English side of my degree.  Although, with post-Easter deadlines looming this is something I need to get back on top of. Even though I’m enjoying PR a lot more, I need to remember that my short term goal is to actually pass my degree!

So even though this is just a quick post this week, here are the lessons I’ve learned.

1. Fight for what you want.

2. Find other ways of making connections.

3. Remember your short term goals and not just your long term vision.

Hopefully after the Easter Break I’ll be more focussed, prioritised and back in control.

Why Study Public Relations?

This week has been non-stop.  Not only have we had regular meetings for our university group projects and essays to complete, but organising our Comic Relief campaigns for our agency by this weekend has been challenging to say the least.

After a very hectic schedule, an abundance of coffee and a mountain of housework that keeps piling up I started thinking to myself, why PR?  Why have I chosen to do this to myself?  I like to think that I have good organisation and time management skills but at the moment there seems to be no end in sight.

Then I remembered why.

I remembered the dread at getting up in the morning to answer a phone for 10 hours a day.

I remembered being shouted at down the phone line for things that were out of my control, all day every day.

And I remembered the sinking feeling before bed, knowing that I had to repeat it all again in the morning.

3933f19db6e3d0015e27bd144d73d849

I wanted to enjoy work, to come home feeling like I’d accomplished something and have a career, not just a job.

That’s when I started looking at going back to university.  I’d already been once, but picked the wrong course for me and ended up leaving (turns out I’m not that interested in microbiology).

I decided that I wanted to rekindle my love of reading and study English, but for the academic year I wanted I would need to apply through clearing, and because English is such a popular course I would need to complete a combined subjects degree to go back straight away.

“So, why didn’t you just wait until the next academic year and study a single honours degree?” I hear you ask.

To which I’ll answer with another question, “You’ve never worked in a call centre, have you?”

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a perfectly acceptable job for some people, and some even manage to turn into a career, but you have to possess certain qualities to do this successfully. Which I don’t.

So that’s why I started looking at doing a BA(Hons) in Combined Studies.

I’m going to be honest here. I had no idea what Public Relations was when I applied. After reading the course specifications for Journalism, Creative Writing and Language and Linguistics, I was left feeling un-seduced by the options, none of them seemed like the right fit.  That’s when I read into what Public Relations could offer me and decided it was the way to go.

At first it was the presentation skills, business elements and communication theory that I thought would be useful.  After all, an English degree can apply to varied job roles and I needed something else to set me apart from other applicants, which is why I chose PR as an option.

However, once I started studying it I was intrigued by how many aspects there were and how it was a constantly evolving discipline. I found that I liked it more than my English modules, and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment when a campaign was finished. I loved being busy and the feeling of actually wanting to do my uni work.

I’ll admit now that the course is getting more intense and everyone has more extra-curricular work going on outside of uni, there are times that it feels like the workload is never going to end. But taking time to reflect on what got me here and why I stayed has made me realise a few things:

I come home feeling pleased with the work I’ve accomplished.

I’m happy when I’m outside of work and uni, making my home life more fulfilling.

I love being busy and seeing results.

It’s great learning new things and gaining new skills.

I feel challenged and not just like a worker robot.

I can make a career out of this…

…and that’s why PR.