Writing academically

Improving your work

Essay writing is a skill that takes time to master. It is really important to accept this and to allow time to review and revise what you have written and to build on feedback.

Be aware of what is considered ‘weak’ work

  • Fragmentary coverage – this means work that contains unrelated chunks of text, ideas that don’t link up, points that are not fully explored and ideas that are not linked to the answer. 
  • Errors and omissions – your work needs to be accurate and fully address the question. 
  • Poor organisation and presentation – this means your answer should be logical and easy to follow and should not contain spelling mistakes! 
  • Irrelevant information – don’t put it in just because you read it. 
  • Misconceptions – do you understand what you have written?
  • Misinterpretation of instructions – have you done what you were asked to do?

Revise your essay

  • When you have completed your first draft put your essay aside for at least a few hours, better still leave it overnight 
  • Re-read it critically and make sure your essay answers the question 
  • Eliminate any irrelevant content
  • Beware of very short paragraphs – have you explored the point you are making in enough detail? Perhaps this information belongs elsewhere? 
  • Check your spelling, grammar and punctuation – poor presentation costs marks 
  • Make sure you have included a full list of references at the end of your work

Use feedback positively

Reflect on any feedback you have received. Tutors spend a lot of time writing feedback in order to help you improve your work. Try not to just focus on negative comments, look at what you have done well too. Ultimately you are responsible for making sure your written work achieves the required standard, so clarify any issues that arise with your tutor.

Essay Checklist

Have I answered the question?  ✔

Does the introduction address the topic and indicate the direction of the argument?  ✔

Does the conclusion draw together the stages of the argument?  ✔

Does each paragraph focus on one main issue and do the paragraphs connect?  ✔

Does the essay comply with the word limit?  ✔

Are the quotations presented consistently and referenced accurately?  ✔

Are indirect references such as paraphrases referenced accurately?  ✔

Have you provided a full list of references at the end of your work?  ✔

Is the style formal and academic? (Do not use slang, emotive words or contractions.)  ✔

Is the spelling and grammar accurate?   ✔

Is the punctuation accurate?  ✔

Have you numbered the pages?  ✔

Have you checked your departments guidelines regarding layout and formatting?  ✔

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