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?

Strategic Planning for Christmas

After months of research and planning, it’s almost time for the implementation of the ‘Christmas Strategy’.

Planning for Christmas with a toddler is like a military operation, it takes careful planning and timing to execute a successful day.  So I thought I’d share with you my list of reasons why planning for Christmas is like planning a Public Relations campaign.

1. Research is key

This includes speaking to other stakeholders (parents), desktop research (flicking through the Argos catalogue) and speaking to your target publics (asking your child what they would like off Santa).  It also consists of assessing your current situation and asking yourself important questions, such as:

How much space do we have in the toy cupboard?

Will Penny actually use this, or just play with the box?

Creating a situational analysis is essential for any parent wanting to get through the holidays in peace.

2. Planning is essential

Organising a timetable is a requirement for Christmas in our house to run smoothly.  Our family is huge and we have to co-ordinate visits to and from parents, grandparents and extended family.  I usually start planning an itinerary after Halloween so that people know where they stand and I have a clear idea of what I need to achieve and by when.

3. Stick to your budget

I often make the mistake of buying on impulse, especially so close to Christmas.  Don’t be drawn in by additional extras.  The reason that campaigns have budgets is to make them realistic and within the organisation’s means.  There is no point splurging extra on presents if you can’t afford the wrapping paper.

4. Crisis management

Your long lost auntie has just turned up on your doorstep, you don’t have a gift for her, what do you do? I tend to keep an emergency stash of generic presents and spare Christmas cards just in case.

Whether it’s a forgotten gift or burnt turkey, always have a contingency plan.

5. Sit back and evaluate your hard work

Now it’s time to relax, sit back and enjoy the event that you helped to create. If anything goes wrong, then you’ll know exactly what to do for next year….