Essay Writing

Essay Writing Tips

Essay Writing

Some general advice…

10 Top Tips for Essay Writing (1)

  • Topic-Body-Wrap (‘5 paragraph essay’)
  • Writing order
  • Avoiding   crappy” sources
  • No claim without a reference (common-sense?)
  • Quoting vs summarising vs paraphrasing

10 Top Tips for Essay Writing (2)

  • Use biblio software (Zotero)
  • Use the style book
  • Avoid   cherry-picking” your info/data
  • Literally!
  • Avoid generalisations

1. Topic Body Wrap (‘5 paragraph essay’)

  1. Introduction (TOPIC - explain what you are going to do)
  2. (BODY - do what you said you were going to do)
    1. First body para
    2. Second body para
    3. Third body para
  3. Summary (WRAP - explain to your reader what you told them)

⚠️ Same structure can be for each paragraph.

2. Writing order (Intro last!)

  • Writing is hardly ever a  “linear” process
  • Rewriting is normal
  • Discarding material that becomes irrelevant is inevitable
  • When you know what you’ve written, then you can (re)write the introduction
  • Writing’ is actually mostly reading!

3. Avoiding  ‘crappy’ sources

  • Not all sources are equal
  • GOOD: Academic books and journals
    • why are these  ‘good’?
  • GREY AREA: lots of online stuff (discretion required)
  • BAD: essay mill’ sites, other undergrad essays, AI-generated texts


  • books in the university library
  • articles published in reliable academic journals
  • online sources where the authorship can be verified as appropriate

News sources: Journalism is different to academic work, thus we have to treat its products differently. News articles are useful for some things but nor for other, we have to use information in the appropriate manner.

Remember, a newspaper might contain an accurate report of a lie.

4. Literally!

  • Academic writing aims for clarity
  • Try to say exactly what you mean

This assumption means that academics take things literally; for instance, if you write,  “Everyone these days has a smartphone” then literal-minded academics might assume that you think that  ‘everyone’ (100% of all human beings!) has such a phone.

This is obviously wrong.

5. No claim without a reference

Following on from the previous point; if you want to make a claim about reality…

  • Lots of people think X’
  • Culture Y is unique’

Then you have to present some evidence for that claim.

Common sense’: as a rule of thumb, if you can find 5 independent sources that make the same claim without evidence then you can argue that a piece of information is common sense’.

6. Generalisations and ‘value judgments’

  • All sweeping statements are wrong’ … 🤔
  • It’s rare for something to be simply good or bad
  • Avoid using simplistic evaluations.
  • Always present reliable, relevant, nuanced evidence.

Sometimes we just don’t know!

7. Quoting - summarising - paraphrasing

  • Quotation the exact words of the original
  • Paraphrase eg. condenses a paragraph or two of original material into a single sentence (in your words)
  • Summary overview of main ideas of a work in your own words

Attributions in the form of a citation are always required!

8. Use biblio software (Zotero)

Get used to using some kind of bibliographic software, eg. Zotero or Mendeley

  • short term investment in time/effort for long term gain
  • make bibliographies easily/quickly
  • don’t worry about formatting
  • integrate with web browser and writing software (Word etc)

9. Use the style book

Questions you have about how to format things, how to write certain things (people’s names, numbers, titles of films etc) will be answered in an academic style book, eg. APA (https://apastyle.apa.org/style-grammar-guidelines)

It is very likely that over the past 100 years someone else has had the same questions as you and a solution/convention has been agreed on.

Get used to how things work’ and concentrate on your ideas.

10. Avoid  ‘cherry-picking’ your info/data

If you write write an essay that only presents information that supports your argument, you are doing ‘advertising’.

A good essay acknowledges and/or deals with the weaknesses of an argument as well as its strengths.

If we ignore, don’t mention or don’t account for data/facts that seem to undermine support for an argument, we weaken our position (make ourselves seem less trustworthy 😈)

That’s all folks!
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