Writing an essay
What is an essay?
An academic essay is a piece of writing in which you present your position on a topic, and support that position by evidence.
An essay has three main parts: introduction, body, and conclusion.
- In the introduction, you put forward your position (this can take the form of a question or an argument) and its relevance to the chosen topic.
- In the body of an essay, you support your position through logically connected paragraphs supported by evidence and linked through transitions.
- In the conclusion, you tell your reader how the points you have made in the body have addressed the question or supported your argument.
10 tips for an excellent essay View
1. Follow the instructions
Essay requirements differ across units and faculties, so always read your assignment instructions and marking criteria carefully.
2. Make a plan
An outline or a mind map will allow you to organise your thoughts and structure the body of the essay in a clear and logical way. Careful planning will help ensure your argument is presented clearly and convincingly.
3. State your argument
Make sure your essay has an explicit position or an argument, which is presented in the introduction. This tells the reader what position you are taking in relation to the essay question or prompt.
4. Engage with evidence
You must use relevant and reliable evidence (ie. quality academic literature) to support the position or argument you make. You use these to make a set of claims which, together, comprise your argument or position.. This work should be done in the body of the essay.
5. Show critical thinking
Make sure you don’t just summarise what you have read, but also compare, contrast, evaluate, and make observations that support your main point.
6. Create a logical structure to your essay
Ideas need to flow from one to another in a sequence that makes sense to your reader. Follow your plan or adapt it as you go but make sure each paragraph and section flows logically from the one above.
7. Use signposting
It makes your essay flow better and helps your reader anticipate what’s coming up next.
8. Develop clear paragraphs
Each paragraph should develop a single main point, and have a clear topic sentence which makes that point explicit.
9. End with a strong conclusion
Your essay’s conclusion is the last thing that your reader will remember. Make sure you end your essay with a bang - by restating your essay’s overall argument and summarising your main points.
10. Leave time to edit and proofread
Make sure you leave enough time between drafts to rework your language and ideas. All assignments are dramatically improved by editing and proofreading. Having time for this allows you to see your writing with fresh eyes and makes your editing more effective.