The first and most important aspect of writing a good essay is to examine the question.
The importance of close analysis of the question as the basis of a good essay cannot be overestimated.Look carefully at the key words which the question contains, as these will give you the pointers you need to begin to think carefully about how to proceed with your essay. Examples of key words might be: examine, develop, analyse, compare. All these words offer a way into discussion of the topic in hand and give you a good idea of the way your essay should be written.
Having thought carefully about what you are being asked to do, the next stage is to gather your evidence. You should jot down the details of all and any resources to which you refer (either directly or indirectly) because plagiarism is a major concern and it is easy to plagiarise without meaning to.
It is a good idea to begin to compile an alphabetical list of all sources used at this stage as this will save you time with your referencing and bibliography later, as well as helping you to keep track of where you sourced your evidence. Remember to present this research in the Harvard style. Try to strike a balance between the evidence that supports your own ideas and those which appear to contradict you. Remember, a good essay presents a balanced case and displays an awareness of all points of view (within reason), not just those that agree with your own!
Thorough planning saves time although it might seem to be wasting it at this point when you just want to start writing. However, a plan is essential to complete a structured, reasoned and researched response on any given topic.Begin by looking back over the question and those ‘key words’ that you selected. Next, consider the evidence you have collected and consider how the two complement each other.
It is useful to make a rough plan or diagram of your essay at this stage where you write down paragraph headings and which evidence you will use where. Later, when you are actually writing your essay, you will be able to look back at this to remind you of how your thoughts actually progressed and why you made the choices that you did. Structuring your essay in this way will also help with coherence as your argument will be more clearly developed and concise, with paragraphs flowing naturally to your conclusion. Doing this will also reveal any gaps in your evidence or linking which you can sort out before beginning to write
If you have followed through carefully all the stages above, then this should be the easy part, but if your research is your evidence then the written essay is your case. You should present this with as much attention to detail as you paid to your research.Your spelling, grammar and punctuation should be perfect. Don’t rely on your computer’s ‘spell and grammar check’ as it is not by any means infallible. Carefully proof read your work. Better still, get someone else to do this as another pair of eyes will often spot mistakes you may have overlooked. A ‘study buddy’ can be really helpful.
A good introduction sets out clearly your response to the topic and how you are going to present that response. Remember to keep your introduction short and to the point ending with a ‘feed’ into the opening paragraph of the main body of your essay.
In the main body of your essay, each paragraph should be based on a separate but related aspect of the main topic of the essay. Following the plan you made earlier, write each paragraph almost as though it were under a sub-heading to the main title and supplement each of your points with the evidence you have collected.Try to end each paragraph in the main body of the essay with a ‘hook’ to the next i.e. an idea that introduces the topic of the subsequent paragraph.
This will help your essay to flow better and seem to be establishing a pattern which will ultimately lead to your conclusion.
The conclusion should be a summation of your argument. By now, your reader should have been given such a strong sense of your central argument. The conclusion brings closure to the reader, summing up your points or providing a final perspective on your topic.
When your essay is completed, read it through to check for errors. As mentioned above, it can be useful to ask someone who has not seen your work to proof-read it for you. Ensure that you have correctly referenced all quotations and completed a bibliography according to the Harvard system. Your bibliography is very important, as evidence of your research and wider reading and to demonstrate that you recognise the importance of acknowledging sources.
A bibliography should never be a rushed, last-minute task but rather should evolve naturally, as your research does.