Coming up with a system for how to write a university essay can be a daunting enterprise, especially if it is your first assignment, if you haven’t done anything like that before or if you come from outside the British higher education culture. Here are some steps for writing an essay:
- If you have been staring at a blank Word Document for one hour without so much as writing ‘Introduction’, it might be because you’ve chosen a topic too wide. Try to focus it. Academic essay writing is not about quantity. Writing about the 19th century German philosophy would drive you crazy – writing about an thread in one philosopher’s thought is probably the way to go.
- Once you’ve come up with a topic that you feel confident can be tackled in sufficient depth in 3000 words (or whichever number of words you have to write), try to break it down into a couple of components.
- Head off to the library. Use your research skills to shortlist materials you have to read for every component.
- For every book, chapter or article that you read, take notes. It is recommended that you rephrase whatever you find interesting in your own words, but whatever system you choose (rephrasing or copying), make sure to put down the page number and author. It will make the referencing task easier, and referencing is a key component of academic essay writing.
- When you finished reading (a recommended timeline would be at least 4 days before your deadline), it is very important to remember THAT YOU FINISHED READING! If you enjoy the subject, you might feel tempted to stay at the reading phase for a while longer, which can jeopardize the actual writing up phase.
- Read your notes two or three times and come up with an essay plan, loosely connected with the break-down of the question you did at the beginning. If you can’t do without organization, you can push this further and come up with a coding system (author A, B, C, etc…; author A: idea 1, 2, 3, etc….), and then cross-reference with your essay plan, so you know exactly where to look when you start writing every section.
- All that’s left now is writing, and with a bit of inspiration, some coffee or energy drinks, it shouldn’t be hard to hand in a good essay before the deadline.
I hope you find these steps for academic essay writing helpful. You can give a different answer to the question how to write a university essay, and if you do, I would be more than happy if you shared it with me via the comments below.