If you're a student who has trouble planning and writing essays and feels frazzled by a 1500-word thesis then read on, as this article will help you master your academic essays.
Practicing essay-writing in high school will help you when you get to university and have to write academic essays at a tertiary level.
Although university essays are often a lot longer than a high school essay, remember that the principles stay the same. It is just bigger and more focused.
Rules to Writing a Great Essay
An integral thing to keep in mind when tackling an essay is that planning a perfect essay is near impossible.
Even though the structure and body of each essay should be similar, there is no hard and fast rule around the amount of points or arguments to be made, nor are there fixed things that an English tutor in Melbourne use to judge an essay across every subject.
This is because every essay is unique and distinct – essays allow ideas to be explored freely and should evoke the writer’s thoughts and personality.
Don't try too hard to match your essay to another student's essay that you consider perfect. This often leads to crafting an essay that is too derivative.
Allow your creativity to flow, and vanquish the notion that you have to write in a particular way.
Just start writing.
We might make this all sound really easy, but it's not hard to understand why students feel stressed about constructing the perfect essay, as they are often given lofty goals to meet.
Educational articles online overwhelm students with ramblings about perfect marks and university applications and needless to say, how to write a flawless essay.
If a perfect essay does in fact exist, it is due to how you have handled your chosen topic, the strength of your argument and how you have made connections to craft your final conclusion.
Tutors and teachers would find it extremely difficult to pick out just one perfect essay from everything they've ever marked because each student has specific experiences that determine their individual analysis of texts and topics that are naturally different to the next student.
Moreover, the emotions contained within essays are what teachers are really drawn to, and there is no one way to emotionally respond to a book when writing an essay.
There are many challenges when writing an essay, but don’t worry. The tips below should help you stay clear of some of the most typical mistakes…
- Have a sound understanding of the topic question. Highlight core points or words. Is it wanting you to contrast, discuss, evaluate or define? Address the question that’s really on the page, not the question you are imagining is there.
- Take time to research. Keep thorough notes from your materials (articles, books, movies). Ensure that you write down where you have found all of your ideas and quotes. Be cautious when searching for sources on the internet. Wikipedia, while being an amazing resource, should never be quoted in an academic essay.
- Consider your structure. Begin with arranging your ideas through a mind map or a colour-coded list. The next step is to order your research into a clearer structure, determining what you will include in your introduction, your main points and topics for your paragraphs and how you will tie it all together in your conclusion.
- As a general rule, employ the active voice. The active voice is when the sentence's subject is the ‘doer’: ie. ‘Captain Cook arrived in Austalia is 1788’ rather than ‘In 1788 Australia saw Captain Cook arrive." You'll perceive that the first sentence is a lot stronger and punchier— the passive voice most often sounds weak and confusing.
- Avoid broad generalisations. This can sound like: “Lots of people believe that [insert belief]”. Specificity is key— if you can’t cite which people, and point to the context in which they've said it, then it’s best to re-consider what you're wanting to write.
- Be mindful about the way you convey opinions and ideas that aren't your own Always reference and cite ideas included in your essay that don't belong to you. If you don't do this, this is considered plagiarism. Always include ‘[Dr X] wrote in her book on [Y] that it’s likely that [Z]’.
It's most important to remember that your essay is an opportunity to express what you believe and feel about a topic.
If you can heed the advice above, and put your own voice into your essay, then you’re making great tracks.
Discover a VCE or HSC English tutor here.
Steps to Writing an Essay Plan
It's likely that as an English student you'll know that an essay begins with an introductory paragraph, followed by a number of points arranged into paragraphs or sub-headings.
It will then coalesce in a summary of the arguments made as well as the end conclusion.
Many students are already strong writers and can construct a sound essay without much planning, but it's wise to at least write with a plan or draft at hand.
You might like to use a mind map, flow chart or just keep bullet points throughout the planning stage. Attempt to visualise where your paragraphs will sit on the page, and have a basic sense of the way the piece will assemble.
Learn some best-kept secrets to writing with this complete writing guide!
While experimenting with theories and ideas to explore, you should illuminate the order in which you will outline your points.
Strong essays generally offer nuanced links from paragraph to paragraph, so it's helpful to reflect on how each point can flow smoothly into the next.
Essay research is for the most part conducted in the planning stage. It's where you will essentially be sketching out a plan of your essay.
You might go over topics or chapters of your textbooks, read back over notes taken in class, look into resources offered by your state's exam board (this could be VCAA, NESA, SACE, TASC, SCSA) or trawl through the Internet to identify intriguing evaluations or critiques to incorporate into your essay somehow.
Spending quality time planning your essay and establishing the outline of your piece can ease your stress levels once you've found a solid direction for your piece.
You will then have the time and space to deepen and interrogate your ideas for the essay.
Research and planning are in actual fact, the bulk of writing an essay as it is so time-consuming. So rest assured that it gets easier after this is behind you.
Need extra assistance with your essay? Find a HSC English tutor in Sydney.
Structuring your Essay
Writing an essay in the order that it will be read will most likely lead to problems.
You may have planned what you are going to inquire into, but it's vital that you give yourself some freedom while embarking on the writing process, or else your essay ends up sounding monotonous and predictable, too clinical to engage the reader.
How To Best Structure Your Essay
It's best to begin by filling in the body of text, which involves fleshing out your essay plan's points and imbuing it with relevant detail, quotes and other pieces of evidence to support your arguments.
At this stage, if any new ideas come to mind–which they most likely will—follow your gut and see where this line of thought takes you.
As long as don't become too distracted from the topic of the thesis, you will still be able to get your essay back on track.
It's often those moments of inspiration that transforms your essay from good to great.
Don't worry about how much time it will take to complete an essay.
If you are a speedy writer, then pumping out a 1500-word essay could just take a few hours. You could also be someone who needs to spend a handful of hours nightly for a week to chip away at an essay you wish to perfect.
Try not to compare yourself to your fellow students or friends' progress on their essay.
Remind yourself that just because they might have spent a certain number of hours more or less on their essay than you have, it doesn't mean that your work is any better or worse. Read about how writing daily can boost your concentration!
If you're just starting out on the essay-writing journey or learning English, take a look at our guide to building your writing skills.
Writing a Great Essay Introduction
A valuable tip when forming an essay is to always wait till the end to write your introduction and conclusion, even though this might feel counter-intuitive.
The introduction of an essay, by character, lets the reader know what you intend to examine in the thesis topic and gives them a sense of the essay's direction.
Introductions shouldn't go into detail about everything that's to come.
Keep in mind that that you have not yet gone into depth about any of your points yet, and it's important to leave these aspects for your final paragraph
. Introductions do not need to be flashy, as they are just the first stepping stones towards an eventual statement or revelation.
How to Finish an Essay
An Essay's conclusion should sum up the key points delivered in the body of your text, fuelled by the many sources of information you have found to bolster these.
The final paragraph should essentially answer the questions posited at the beginning of the piece and leave the readers with an enduring impact.
It is at this point that you need to be clever, and be clear about where your research has come from, and why you have come to this precise finding.
Don't forget that your essay’s introduction and conclusion are strongly connected, henceforth, you should be able to read them side by side and ascertain how the latter solves the query that lies in the former.
A strong through-line, evidence of critical thinking and easy to understand explanations are vital here.
If your conclusion does not compliment your introduction, you may need to re-write your introduction to ensure the transition from start to finish appears completely harmonious.
Here's an awesome article that gives you 30 tips to make writing easier.
Extra Tips for Writing Your Essay
English teachers, tutors and examiners would all agree that the strongest essays are a culmination of a series of things.
Some key things they look for are: a sharp introductory paragraph, an engaging interpretation of the topic, a discovery or conclusion to summarise the points explored, and, of course, a sound demonstration of grammar, spelling, punctuation and vocabulary.
If you're an English student looking to improve your spelling, check out this article.
Avoid casting your essay to one side after you finish the first draft. Although it's natural to want to move on from it as soon as it's over, the final touches can play a significant role in the reading of your final piece.
This involves proofreading the text several times, at first to spellcheck for typos and mistakes, and then at least once again to clarify the flow.
It's a great idea to also ask a friend or parent to give it a read through and equip you with helpful feedback. You'll be amazed at what another set of eyes can pick up!
Something else to be aware of when editing your piece is the point of view and tone (i.e. if your writing is in the first person, as is most likely in academic work, double-check that you are employing the pronoun ‘I’ when expressing your perspective).
Want to become a legendary essay writer? Find a VCE English tutor.
Finally, we recommend regularly consulting a dictionary and thesaurus when crafting your essay, in order to spruce up your vocabulary.
A thesaurus can be used to play with new words that compliment your voice and writing style, which will also expand your archive of words and the strength of your lexicon.
If your essay is an original piece of work, or a research piece for work, school or university, it's protocol to use citations, quotations and a bibliography to follow academic policy around plagiarism.