How to Write Essays

Essays are increasingly used as tools to assess students’ analytical skills. They are designed to test many things, but most importantly essays can test the extent of understanding and the competence to conduct independent research, regardless the academic level and the size of essays.

Much has been written on the topic of how to write essays. This is just my attempt to summarise the list of advises available online and what I have been explaining to my students.

First of all, as has been repeatedly said, you should start with an outline, don’t go writing immediately.

Second, be specific on what are you going to write. This is also to say, be original. Don’t choose a topic because on google scholar there are many articles/reports/studies on it. I am not saying that you should not get inspired by things you found online. But you are the one who is writing the essay. What you can do is to choose some distinct points in those articles, etc. and expand on them. Perhaps you can also criticise it, think about the weak points and how can you investigation further.

Third, in connection with my previous point, a good research question is crucial. This question should not be a double-barred one or is easy to answer with yes or no. In order to formulate a good research question, you need to know precisely what do you want to discuss in your essay. Research question is also important because it can tell the reader what kind of arguments you will have in your essay.

Fourth, although it is true that some people can write a nice, interesting and readable essay in, what seems to be, an unclear and chaotic structure, my advice to you is: don’t do that. This means you need to pay attention to the ways your introduction, main arguments and conclusion are written.

Five, and perhaps most importantly, you must have a theoretical/conceptual discussion. In short, an academic essay needs theoretical underpinnings, especially using relevant concepts you learn in class. If you could show that you are able to review other relevant theoretical arguments, which is basically doing more independent research, that is even better.

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