Guide on How to Write University Essays, Courseworks, Assignments and Dissertations

How to write an Essay
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How to Write a 1st-Class Essay


First of all, essay must be well structured, organised, and presented in a way that the reader finds easy to follow and clear: it must look tidy and not present any obstacles to the reader. It must have a clear readable interesting style. But, above all, it must consist of your ideas about literary texts. This is the centre of it: this, and this only, gets the marks. Not quotes from critics, not generalisations at second hand about literary history, not filling and padding; your thoughts, that you have had while in the act of reading specific bits of literary texts, which can be adduced in the form of quotations to back up your arguments. You must make sure you read the essay task throughout and understand what exactly you need to do. It is good to consult with your classmates and tutor before you start, to make sure you are on the correct path. This will also save you time. When talking to your tutor ask him about his own opinion on the topic: this is THE MOST IMPORTANT PART. Write what he or she has said: this will be your guide. To get the good mark you should say whatever your tutor wants to hear. Make sure you read the LEARNING OUTCOMES before starting to write your work will be assessed against the learning outcomes, so it is in your interests to make sure that you deliver everything you are required to.

Secondly, make sure you do some general read about the topic before you start writing. It is necessary, because it will give you ability to understand what exactly you need to know and do in your essay. You should at least read 2-5 pages from your core book.

Thirdly, you need to collect at least 5-10 good academic articles. You can find those on:,, and other academic article databases. You will need your ATHENS login and password or university login and password (get from your library). Please make sure the journals you select are ACADEMIC - not practitioners: for example you need the Journal of Marketing, not AdMap. Search the articles by keywords, which would be linked to your essay question. You can use AND, OR or NOT tools to find the necessary information. It is also good to look at the references of the suitable article, which you have already found, because there references will lead you to the good sources.

When you have found the articles (try to get as much as you can 20 articles for 2000 words essay will be brilliant) read their abstracts. Dont rush to print them you will not usually need all of them. By reading the abstract you will be able to select 5-8 articles, which are particularly suitable for you these articles you should print and read. Good idea is to use the highlighter to mark the most important and relevant phrases.

It is very important for you to understand the task. Lots of students are failing their assignments because they do not fully understand what they are being asked to do and simply assume something (usually something they already know about :)

It is now the time to start writing. First of all get the main definitions (usually from your core book) written in the new Word Document. These are the basics. Now to need to move from these basics to the more complex things. Give some ground theory on general topic, and then move to details. You would not usually find too detailed information in your core book, so you can either (or better both) refer to some other book and use academic articles. You now need to ANALYSE the information. For example, if your essay question is: how do marketing communications affect branding, you would need to find several opinions of different critics about that. One might say there is no immediate effect, other may say that effect is huge, third will say that effect is positive and etc. you need to give the opinions and analyse them, compare them, critique them. Do not presume that everything you read is correct look at it from different point of view.

Enrich your essay with examples: one company did that and the outcome was like that, but the second company, replicating the experience of the first one did the same, but the outcome was different. The reason for that was .

Use proper referencing! Do not use somebody elses ideas! In UK Universities nowadays mainly Harvard Referencing is used. However the system of Harvard referencing is slightly different in every University (in terms of layout and presentation), therefore refer to your university guidelines. If you try to cheat and plagiarise tutor can through you out of University therefore it does not worth it!!! If you use somebodys words paraphrase them (giving the source at the end of paraphrase) of simply quote. Practice shows it is generally better if your essay on 80% consists of quotations then if you plagiarise.

When you have finished print your essay (best font will be Times New Roman, 12 font, 1.5 space paragraph), get your pencil and read it out loud it will help you to find the grammatical and stylistically errors, weak arguments and room for improvement. It is also good to show your essay to your friend to have a look you may not see some obvious mistakes.

Ask your tutors to check your essay. In some cases they will refuse however you can and should persuade them. Tell them that you do not understand, that you are not sure whatever you can imagine. Some girls cry to get their essays checked J. Whatever your tutor said is wrong change.

Lastly, before you submit it, make sure your essay is formatted correctly and presented in the solid form. The simplest thing is to copy your whole essay (Ctrl+A) to the Notepad and then copy it from there to the new document. You would then make headings, subheadings, format it and make at least 1.5 spacing between the lines. Good presentation often counts to 10% of the mark you do not want to loose it!

Print your essay on the nice paper and try to hand it in at least 1 day before the deadline I know several students, which did not get their 1st on the degree simply because of the late submissions! Everything might happen on the way so give you some time.


 Here are several general tips on essay-writing from Liverpool Hope University College

  1. Identify what the essay question/ title is asking you to write about; check with friends or your tutor that you really understand the question.
  2. Divide the task into sub-tasks e.g. library search, planning, making notes, and draw up a timescale for completing these tasks.
  3. Brainstorm ideas and make an initial plan for your essay.
  4. Search for and select appropriate information; read and make notes.
  5. Make first draft of essay. Remember to include an introduction, a well sequenced middle and a conclusion. Remember your tutor has to be able to follow your argument, so put it in a logical order.
  6. Read your essay; alter parts you are not happy with; check spelling and grammar; check bibliography.
  7. Write final version, proof read. Complete essay self-evaluation form and submit on time. (

Please also have a look at the "Favorite Links" page for more information on how to write, structure and polish your essays

And here is something else which you may consider useful. The source of the text below is here:






The ‘raw’ information below highlights how an essay should be planned and then implemented. The basic argument should be divided into 2 views.


It has been taken into account that the writer is a beginner. Written assistance has been provided on that basis.


Essay writing requires a substantial investment of time and effort. Time to research each structured stage, and effort to develop each of these stages.




Knowledge of academic essay writing should be passed on through a philosophical understanding. ‘Induction’ is recognised as such. Induction will be used to plan and write the essay. Induction will be used since it allows an argument to be formed.


For further assistance, to make an essay easy to read it should follow a written structure. A written structure provides a universally understandable ‘back-bone’ to the essay. A structure provides a written template and looks at various perspectives. The main point should be each of these structures below, add to the written perspective sought by lecturers.


Examples of an Essay Structure.





A definition of an Introduction should be a means of presenting what will be discussed.


"Say what you are going to do, and how you are going to discuss it."



To define the essay’s findings, these beginning ‘facts and opinions’ should form a grounding for the forthcoming discussion. Recognising that the introduction will have already explained what will be discussed. In other words do not go over old points, but provide a ‘dichotomy’ to allow a discussion to develop. An example of a dichotomy would be the 'theory' and the 'experiences' of the essay. A discussion could be developed on that basis.


1. "Theory – here give the advantages and disadvantages of the subject. Finally when writing a conclusion, the conclusion could take the form of a hypothesis as it confirms the written reality of the subject so far.

2. "Then, to add to this in the opposing structure write about your Experiences in the present tense. This part will form your Field-research. Yet another term for this would be 'empirical findings'. Remember, when writing at degree level do not provide a bias by giving a prejudiced judgement, be impartial and unprejudiced.”



A discussion is where the theory and field-research form further comparisons, through analysis. “Can you now see the discussion building. Here explain the 'depth' of what you found.”


“Recognise that the more steps there are the deeper the discussion. These steps need to directly relate. For instance, provide arguments on what’s new and old, a variety of angles which show how it is forward looking, talk about the divisions caused, the preferences, your  preferences. Give reason and justify everything. The cost on your word count will vastly increase, even when such a small amount of propositions are questioned.”



A summary could be defined as a brief description of each piece of structured information in the document.


”Here bring out the main points within each paragraph and or structure. Present these in a concise form. Even form a short restatement of what all these main points sum up to. When going one stage further, possibly add new definitions from the combination of your findings.”


"Here you will be re-explaining what you have just written about and how you went about it."


“These written calculations will then re-explain how you reached your answer. This short calculation will justify the decision made to be correct; your decision will be validated.”


“There is a chance that a summary may not need to be included in your written work. Recognise it may be omitted, but check and ask a tutor first. Essentially, understand that writing a summary can help form a conclusion. It makes writing a conclusion much more easier.”



A conclusion is a proposition arrived at by logical reasoning, when taking the evidence of the summary into account.

"Bear in mind the point of the conclusion is to simply answer the question."

”Write the conclusion with the use of the summary. Use the summaries' written calculations to justify how you reached your answer. Remember to be precise in the Social Sciences you only need to give the essay’s theme(s).


“Then to make the final comparison, question how the validation of the hypothesis ‘measures-up’ to your concluding answer.”


”At this stage you will then be able to precisely write the Introduction. You see, at this stage of writing you will have used precise knowledge and meaningful terms. Consequently with the use of such information a much more impressive and knowledgeable introduction can be written.”


Bibliography/ List of References

Such a structure should be defined as a chronological list of referenced material.


"Give the references used from literature, such as from books, periodicals, and the Internet. Perhaps even the sources of your personal experiences, which led to information being used. To complete this follow the guidelines set out by the 'Harvard Method'.”



A definition of the essay’s appendix would be:- material that would be too big to include in the writing as it would stop the written flow of the essay.


“In an Appendix include ‘graphical’ and/ or ‘written text’ that would be too big. However, some lecturers like such an interpretation left in and placed directly after the explanation has been made. But bear in mind, others like such information placed in an Appendix. To solve the problem ask and find-out your tutors preference.”


When this structure is used, the essay will be universally recognised. It will aim to prove a point and will eventually form concepts. The Essay will represent the ‘Scientific Method’ and have a scientific meaning, and not simply be a burst of literature.

(Personal Experience. 1988-2001)




When beginning to write


'Write politely and be direct' (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155). Do not bring up points that are not relevant.


The essay needs to be objective (do not distort the essay with your own personal bias, and give your own view).


The structure of your argument should lead "... the reader from the title at the beginning to the conclusion at the end" (Northedge.1990. p.110).


'The argument should be persuasive and written clearly. Don't let sophisticated language dominate the essay if you do not fully understand it' (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).


Recognise the tutor will know precisely the meaning of each term. So make sure you know the meaning for each term just as well. Do not put yourself in an embarrassing situation. Perhaps in the few instances where you have used sophisticated words give a brief example to emphasise your knowledge. These meanings could always be omitted at the end, to save on the word count.


To capitalise on the formation of an argument. 'An essay’s argument should consist of a sequence of points, which have a logical link between each' (Northedge.1990).


For example, when writing the essays findings use ‘Induction’ to form an argument. Here you want to build up your argument by giving a Theory of the subject and so talk about past views. After which, you give an account of your Personal Experiences of the subject. However, on this occasion you will be talking about your ‘present’ experiences. Write as such. Then, when the 2 basic points have been laid-down this will allow an argument to be formed, and later discussed.


At the beginning of the essay you might find it more impressive to begin with the present situation, rather than the past; your Experiences first then the subjects Theory. Alternatively, 'introduce the relevant and most striking point first. Indicate your reason for doing just this' (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).


'To form an argument: introduce the concept, talking about obvious instances first, such as size and style, talk about what they tend to involve, and answer what this provides. Give the positive and negative aspects. Then assess the perfect environment, and contrast this with a good or bad situation' (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).


To then form a different, 'opposing argument give the opposite opinion to what has been discussed' (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).


‘Remind the reader where they started and where they have reached. Do this in a subtle way so as not to heighten the readers emotion. Do this by making the link between the different levels discussed. Doing this the reader will be reminded where they started and where they have reached, and why there has been an increase to the extent the subject has been discussed' (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).

'Near the end, to show an argument has been made, remind the reader of the central question, and the title of the essay. Finally explain how this was answered. Here, highlight how the discussion answered the question' (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).

'In the theoretical structure, create a flow in your argument. Also, give different opinions on the same argument’ (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).


'Be direct when writing to get the point across', but again do this in a balanced way (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155).


Recognise when writing an essay the same point will be brought up time and time again, only to be discussed in a slightly different fashion each time. Remember only one specific subject is to be discussed. Such a form of writing is quite normal.


Just before you conclude the essay you could answer whether the subject discussed has been good or bad (Northedge.1990. pp.110-155). In doing this you will then be giving a bias opinion; your opinion.


There are two ways to form an argument. One way would be through a formal structure, as directed by the first example and the other without such a strong structure. Adapt the structure to your preference. Recognise that the strength of the argument could be changed by you. Please discuss such a question with your tutor and adapt the structure, as you feel fit.

Please ask your tutor for their view on the importance of structure, how to stucture, and how to form an argument. Then compare their view with ours.

Understand that when a structure is followed the information should assist the reader, and be quite simple to follow. However, if further assistance should be required the other section of essay writing should be followed.





Write the essay in a manner best suited to you. Recognise, the best essay would be the one that is the easiest to read and makes the most sense, whilst covering a variety of angles. In essence, if the essay did not have a structure it would not have a ‘back-bone’. A ‘back-bone’ to hold the other written 'limbs' together. A 'back-bone' would allow the structured 'organs' to ‘talk’ in a functioning order.

It has been found that an essay's strong structure resembles that of a report. However, the structure titles differ. Remember, reports give facts, and in comparison essay's form opinions on facts. In essay's, make the paragraphs flow in each structure.





 Northedge, A (1990) The Good Study Guide. Milton Keynes: The Open University.

Personal Experience. 1988-2001"


 All Rights Reserved 2005 Verena Vaneeva

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