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?

The Best and Worst Things About Being a Mature Student

Being a mature student has its ups and downs.  The past 2 years have been a roller coaster, and had someone told me what university was really like for mature students I might have looked into it more thoroughly before deciding to take the plunge.

So for anyone over the age of 21, about to jump into a Public Relations course I’d like to offer up my pros and cons list of being a mature student.

Cons

1. If you have your own house it will never be clean again.  

Hoarding
My house isn’t quite this bad…yet…

Most students have to clean a single room, it’s a lot more time-consuming to make sure you have a clean house.  Sacrifices have to be made, especially during deadline week, and the first thing to go out of the window is the housework.

2. You start to lose touch with your friends outside uni.  

lonely-person-thumb-300x240-27530
Maybe my friends don’t like me because all I want to do is sit in backlit corridors?

When you’re a bit older and have a family it’s always hard to make time for a social life.  When you add independent study to the list it’s almost impossible to arrange time to go out with friends.  I’m really lucky that my group of friends outside uni understand my situation, but I’ve lost touch with a couple of people over not having the time to see each other.

3. 3 months is a long time without a regular wage.

download (2)
This should be enough for 5 weeks worth of food shopping

If you’re lucky enough to juggle uni, home and work then this won’t apply to you.  3 months is a really long time to go between income.  I always strive to be efficient and careful but somehow I always run out of my loan before loan day.  This wouldn’t really matter if I didn’t have another mouth to feed, which makes it all the more stressful.

4. Group work.

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I think this actually happened.

I don’t particularly like group work. I love sharing ideas with people and watching a project come together, but there’s always one person that spoils it.  I’ve found a sense of entitlement in some students that will give them a sharp shock when they actually enter the workplace, although this doesn’t help when its the day before the deadline and they still haven’t sent the rest of the group their work.

5. The amount of paperwork you have to complete.

It's not quite this much, but you get the idea...
It’s not quite this much, but you get the idea…

If you’re a mature student with a child and your own house you can look forward to filling out a LOT of forms.  You need to complete an in-depth student finance application (stage 2 and 3 applications aren’t so bad), a childcare form at least once a term, Housing Benefit and Child Tax Credit applications and renewals, Council Tax exemptions, and many more….

Pros

1. It’s challenging

Legend....wait for it....dary
Legend….wait for it….dary

If you thrive under pressure and like to be challenged then it’s probably the best thing you’ll ever do.  I enjoy coming to uni and learning new things, and feel more satisfied at home knowing I’m doing something I love.

2. You’ll make friends for life

I'm not quite this mature.
I’m not quite this mature.

Even though you might lose touch with some of your other friends, at uni you’ll meet loads of people who share your interests and could even become your BFFs. As intimidating as it might be to speak to new people at first, sometimes the age gap doesn’t really matter when you find people you get along with.

3. The future

Sometimes I get paid a whole 50p for my work.
Sometimes I get paid a whole 50p for my work.

Although you might be a bit worse off now, it will all pay off when you’ve finished your degree.  Hopefully, if you’ve put the work in then you should be in a better place financially when you re-enter the workplace.

4. Group Work

Look how happy these students are.
Look how happy these students are.

Despite the stresses, group work is really beneficial.  Generally, younger students want to do well and will put the work in.  It’s not only a good way to talk to new people who you might not have met before, but it’s a great way to share ideas and find out how other people in the industry work.

5. There’s loads of help available if you know where to look.

...aside from robbery and drug trafficking.
…bank robbery isn’t always the answer

Sometimes it can be daunting to work out your bills and if you’ll have enough money to live on if A,B, and C happen.  However, each university has a great financial team that will be able to talk you through exactly what you are entitled to and how to get it.

When I weighed up the pros and cons, going back into education was definitely the right decision for me.  However, it’s always worth knowing where you stand before taking such a life changing step.  If your own list is in favour of going to university I would always recommend making appointments with people like faculty leaders and financial advisers to find out exactly where you stand first.

You never know, it might be the best thing you ever do…