Tips to Writing a Good Essay
Considered as a student's greatest nemesis, essays are time-consuming and emotionally exasperating. These pieces of composition have, and still remain a haunting experience for most of us. As with many things in life, quality over quantity is key to writing a good essay.
Having a lengthy essay does not equate to in-depth analysis – it could simply be a characteristic of a purely organised structure. In general, good essays are succinct, comprehensive, critical and informative. While these may be difficult to achieve, they are not impossible. Here are some tips to writing a good essay:
Do not leave your essay till the last minute
Yes, diamonds are made under pressure, but not everyone has a mental capacity strong enough to race with time and produce a solid critical piece of work, especially if you are not used to writing essays. Essays aren’t just about writing, they require meticulous planning and researching. Allow yourself at least a good two weeks before the deadline to consolidate your research and write.
2. Understand your essay question
Given the more complex subject matter at the university level, understanding the assignment remit is key. Every essay question has keywords that are subject to individual definitions. Define them to your own understanding first. These keywords are also conceptual frameworks of the essay, which require further understanding.
Turn to credible sources like online books, journal and encyclopaedia articles. As NUS students, our accessibility to online materials awards us with convenience in finding resources, so utilise it while it lasts!
3. Construct your thesis statement.
After the long and tedious process of research, you are finally ready to make some progress - constructing your thesis statement. Your thesis statement carries the heart of your essay. It directs your essay so be sure to construct a thesis that is preferably straight-forward to show your ideas' relevance to the essay question. Do not be pressured to sound sophisticated, as it may hinder the readers’ comprehension.
4. Plan your essay
A step that should never be compromised is essay planning. Planning is not simply about listing down the order of your arguments, it is about connecting them. Construct your topic sentences and conclusive statements for each point. Organise them in a logical fashion to ensure that they can be well-developed to secure the overall integrity and rationality of the essay.
5. Start writing!
Finally, you can start writing your essay! You can choose to either begin writing the introduction or the body first. To write a good introduction, try to open up the topic of discussion as naturally as possible. Use background information of the topic of discussion and link it to your essay question. Then, end off with your thesis statement. This method of writing helps to ease the readers into your essay smoothly.
As for your body, the main idea is to simply communicate your arguments well. While writing, avoid complex vocabulary as it compromises the readability of your essay. Remember, while flowery language may surprise the readers, good grammar and coherent sentence structures st ill hold more importance in ensuring comprehension.
6. Concluding your essay
The conclusion is not simply argument reinforcements or summaries to bring your readers full-circle. It is also about leaving an impression. A good conclusion is one that grabs attention; suggesting further areas of studies, offering more than what your essay has already offered. Concluding with the larger implications of your arguments, you are probing your reader to think about deeper issues that have yet to be addressed or properly addressed, leaving with the reader wanting for more. This will also prove to the reader how much you have delved into the topic/concept and the depth of our critical thinking skills.
7. Proof-read your essay
No matter how confident you are with your essay, there will always be mistakes that you’ve missed out during the course of writing. You would want to ensure that your arguments are tight, coherent, and free from language errors. Grammar and spelling mistakes are often the most triggering for your readers especially for professors. Do not give them the chance to mark you down.
These tips are both generic and personalised, so it is fine if you decide to not follow it through. But do remember, just as it is with many other skills in life, producing good quality essays requires time, patience and practice. Give yourself the time and chance to write and you will find yourself progressing.
“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.”
― Louis L'Amour