5 Essay Writing Tips
1) Use quality ingredients/sources
2) Have something to say
You're academic voice; commentary, analysis, insights, with reasoning and examples, and expressed in formal, discipline-specific language
Critically evaluate a range of perspectives, perform your own analysis and make a judgement
Figure out what you want to say; shape the argument before you plan and write
3) Hone your structure
Introduction: 5-10; broad overview and key themes, and signpost how you will answer the question
Main body: chain of paragraphs, one main topic per paragraph, referring to literature throughout and linking between paragraphs for flow
Conclusion: 10-15%; summarise key points and offer final answer to the question (thesis)
Its easier to achieve a well structured review if you plan by mapping out your topic, fleshing it out with quotes and covert it into a bullet-point draft
4) Draft then redraft
Draft, review, edit
editing content: answering the brief, using theory throughout, depth over breadth; structure: logical flow of points/topics, paragraphs well formed, coherent intro and conclusion; clarity: being specific, giving detail where needed, concise clear sentences
paragraph structure: point, evidence (expand, refer to literature through quotes/paraphrase), explain (offer commentary and critique, contextualise within your discussion, link last sentence to overall discussion and bridge to the next one)
5) Polish your tone
Tackle your tone in the second draft when you edit
Build a list of key vocabulary from the lectures
Avoid the use of first and second person
Aim for the style you see in readings
Use the Academic Phrasebank
You must reference whenever you directly quote from a source, paraphrase from a source and refer to a visual source. After the main body (images embedded, labelled with creator, year and title), comes the reference list (text-based sources, alphabetical by surname), and then image list (references for images used).
In-Text Reference or Citation
Inserted into the main body of the essay
Signposts reader to the End-Text reference
(Mayra, 2008, p.76)
Surname only or organisation if no author; include page number for quotes from books; either before or after the citation
Taking the idea of an author and re-phrasing it in your own words, demonstrating an understanding and interpretation of the concepts
Directs the reader to the image using the notation (Fig. xx) or (Illus. xx)
Images should have a caption/citation e.g. Fig 1 Diane Arbus (1974) Xmas tree in a living room [Photograph]
Every cited source plus additional reading
Listed alphabetically by surname or organisation
No numbers, no lists by source type
Books: Cobley, P. (2014) Narrative. 2nd End, London: Routledge.
Edited books: Danesi, M. (2010) 'Semiotics of media and culture' in Cobley, P. (ed.) The Routledge Companion to Semiotics. London: Routledge. pp.xx-xx.
Journal articles: Conway, S. and Elphinstone, B. (2013) 'Towards game world studies', Journal of Gaming and Virtual Worlds, 11 (3), pp.547-560.
Websites: Grinnell College (2020), Subcultures and Sociology. Available at https:// (Accessed: 4 May 2021)
Images from a website: Fig. 1 Arbus, D. (1974) Xmas tree in a living room [Photograph] Available at: http:// (Accessed: 14 October 2018)
Images from a book: Fig. 1 Arbus, D. (1974) Xmas tree in a living room [Photograph] in San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (2003) Diane Arbus: revelations. London: Jonathon Cape p.43
My essay writing skills are currently quite rough due to the fact I haven't had to write one in about five years. My initial thoughts as to my writing process is to do the reading, take down notes and quotations, write a brief essay plan, use point, evidence, explain to write my paragraphs and then read it over and make improvements as many times as necessary.
Aspects of academic writing I would like to improve is my understanding and use of proper language which I will try and develop using any vocabulary used in the lectures as well as the Academic Phrasebank suggested.
I think that writing this essay will help me to develop the skills needed for next years dissertation because it is sort of like a practice run and I can hopefully get to grips with not only using the special language and referencing properly but also sourcing the relevant academic material and actually understanding it enough to paraphrase it.