Writing essays

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Writing essays

Analysing essay topics

Understand the essay question

Make sure you know the precise meaning of every word in the essay question. Use:

a) your general dictionary for unfamiliar words such as intrinsic, core values

b) a subject-specific dictionary, for example the APA Dictionary of Psychology, for academic words such as proof, random sample, significance level

Think about the different parts of the question

Decide how many parts the question has.

List areas you will probably have to research. It may help to write yourself a brief task description: “First find out what a market niche is, then see what significance this has for marketing. Next…”

Note any direction words

These might include:

discuss, discuss critically, discuss the importance of, assess, justify, evaluate, analyse.

The structure of an essay


About 10% of the total length. May be one paragraph or several, depending on essay length.

  • Introduce the topic.
  • Provide background information.
  • Limit the scope of the discussion.
  • Define or state the topic.
  • Present the plan of coverage including your viewpoint and line of reasoning.

Move from general background information to your specific topic. You can set your own agenda to avoid too broad a focus.


This is a series of linked paragraphs.

  • Each paragraph should have one main point.
  • The topic sentence of each paragraph carries the theme or argument.


Here you are moving from the specifics of your essay to the more general background of the topic.

  • Sum up your argument and information with reference to the essay question.
  • Perhaps mention wider implications or future directions.