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Essay Writing in 8 Steps
Step 1:Get to grips with the scale of the task
This is important because it’s much harder to cut down to the required word count if you have written too much than to plan carefully and write the right amount in the first place. Scale is also important because it will dictate the amount of detail you can include.
Think about the word limit (2,000 words, 3,000 words?). How many typed pages will there be (about 500 words per page with single spacing)? Roughly how many sections do you think there will be (e.g. 6 including introduction and conclusion)? For example, each section for a 2,000 word essay would be in the range of 300 – 350 ...view middle of the document...
Step 3: Draft a Plan
First; what do you already know about the subject? Perhaps not a great deal, as you may not have read very much yet. But you may have attended a lecture or course of lectures; you may already have ideas of your own. Before starting your research, get some ideas down on paper or use mind-mapping software. This could be in the form of a mind-map or simply a list of headings – areas that you think need to be covered in the essay.
Second; does the title offer you structure? For example: 1. Describe; 2. Explain; 3. Evaluate - Can the essay be logically divided into sections that have been suggested to you? Third; make a draft plan of the essay structure by putting your headings / topics in the order you think would be best in the essay. Assign numbers to the headings as these can be cross referenced in your notes (see below).
It’s really important to spend some time focusing on the essay before starting your reading, as this preparatory work will give you a ‘scaffolding’ to support your research. It will make your research much more effective.
Step 4: Identify relevant literature
Now that you have some idea what you are going to be writing about you can start to identify the papers / chapters that will provide the information you require. As you make a list of reading material make a note of the section of your essay the text is likely to relate to.
Step 5: Research and take notes
It may seem strange that it is not until Step 5 that the reading for your essay begins. Actually, steps 1-4 need not take very long, but they are extremely important. This is because, if you dive in immediately and wade through a huge pile of journal articles, making copious notes, you are likely to end up wondering what the point of all the reading was, or even to feel a sense of panic that you can’t remember anything from your reading.
Having completed Steps 1 – 4 you are starting your reading with an essay in mind. You will be able to adopt a selective approach to your reading (see Information Sheet on Effective Reading) focusing only on those texts that meet your need. Before reading a text, try making a note of a few points or questions that you expect to be addressed in it (all related to your draft plan); As you make notes, think about where you might use the information from the text in your essay and cross reference to the numbers you have given to the headings in the draft plan. This will make life easier when you come to write your essay; you will see the point of the reading once you have finished it.
Compile your references as you go, as this can be a time consuming exercise if you leave it to do just before submission. Using referencing software such as Endnote or Reference Manager can simplify this task.
Step 6: Finalise your essay plan
At this point the draft plan needs to become the actual plan. You will have new ideas from your reading so you will probably want to tweak the plan. Finalise your headings (in a Word...