As a student, one of the things that will be absolutely necessary is the ability to write a good essay. I have found that following certain steps can make this, if not easy, then at least fairly straightforward.

Step One: Preparation

It is vital that your working area is to your specifications before you even start. This may seem unnecessary, but it has been my experience that nothing is more satisfying than sitting down to write an essay when you have your pens of various colours, highlighters and notebooks easily available. I would recommend having your drink of choice nearby as well (mine, of course, being tea).

From there you should write out a basic plan of what you want your essay to look like. Something simple like: Intro, Two Paragraphs For (including 4 references and 2 quotes), Two Paragraphs Against (including 4 references for and 2 quotes), Conclusion. Of course, the structure will change dependent on your essay and word limit, but that should give you a basic idea of what you’re aiming for.

Step Two: Research

I know there are others who do it differently, but I have always found that doing extensive research first, rather than while actually writing the essay, means that the writing part is a completely smooth process.

What I mean is that I won’t even open a word document before I’ve found everything I need. In terms of what I need for research, I’ve found the best place to start is with the lecturers’ notes. Find the lecture that relates to the topic you wish to write about, then see if the lecturers themselves have included any articles or references in their notes.

This can make your life incredibly easy, as from there you can do what I personally call ‘article hopping’. Locate the actual study/article your lecturer has referenced, often there will be online versions available either at your university or on the internet.

Then read through the article and note any references that may apply to your particular essay. I usually try to find 5 studies/quotes to argue for, and 5 against. From there, it’s a simple matter of going to the reference section and then locating that particular study online. Rince, repeat.

Doing this you will not only build up a number of relevant studies quickly, but if you have been highlighting potential quotes along the way then the structure of your essay is already being formed.

Step Three: Write

Now all you have to do is write. I know that some really struggle with this, but hopefully by doing your research first you should already have a fairly good idea of what you’re going to say, all you have to do is get those words down on paper.

The hardest part I’ve found, and I know I’m not alone in this, is the introduction paragraph. Sometimes setting up the introduction for the essay seems really difficult, because we haven’t gotten into the swing of things yet. In order to get around this, don’t aim for a perfect intro right now. Instead write a sentence that repeats the question, and if possible, something about how you’re going to argue for and against it. This will hopefully break the ice and let you start on the main body without problems.

From there refer to the plan you made at the beginning and start writing. If you’ve done your research well, then this should be the easiest part as all you have to do is write around the references and quotes you have collected, building your argument and then arguing against it.

Once you have done this, I recommend going back to the intro and fleshing it out a bit based upon what you have written in the body of your essay.

Finally, the conclusion. This should also be fairly straightforward, as all you have to do is round out what you have already argued within your essay, saying that your research either proves or disproves what you were arguing for.

Step Four: Review

The final step is pretty simple but also very important. Make sure to read through your essay a couple of times to check for spelling, punctuation and reference errors. If you’ve given yourself enough time, maybe leave it for a day or two before coming back to it with fresh eyes.

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