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Four easy steps to write a strong essay

How to level up your essay writing skills
Not sure how to write an academic essay? From planning to formatting, third-year student Dona Sirimanne shares four simple steps to keep in mind when you're writing to help you take your essays to the next level.

1. Preparation makes all the difference

To start, examine your essay question and underline key words so you know exactly what to address. Next, decide your approach to the question as this will form the argument, or thesis, of your work. You can then refine your essay into themes or subtopics that relate to the question. Doing this will create a ‘skeleton’ that you can fill in during the research and writing stages.

If you're feeling lost or need clarification, book a consultation time with your tutor who can help guide you in the right direction. It’s best to do this in advance and not too close to the due date, so you are able to make the most from the advice you receive.

2. Do your research

At the University of Sydney, we are incredibly lucky to have a comprehensive online database of academic papers as well as fantastic physical copy resources. During the research stage you should reflect upon your ‘skeleton’ essay that you drafted during preparation. What academic papers or scholarly opinions address the themes or subtopics of your essay? Gather an assortment of references and place them under the relevant subtopics.

Ensure that you select a variety of references that both agree with the position you're taking in your essay as well as ones that challenge your views. Engaging with different viewpoints will help you to develop a critical perspective.

3. Start writing – you can’t edit a blank page!  

Don’t worry if what you write isn’t perfect yet – it’s a first draft you can polish up during the editing and proofreading stage. Always keep your thesis in mind when you’re writing, and link each point back to your central argument. This will make your essay convincing and easy to follow, which in turn makes it easier for your tutor to award you marks. Make sure that you correctly reference any quotes or citations that aren't your own opinion.

4. Don't forget to edit and proofread

During this stage you should read your essay more than once. This will help you to notice any spelling or grammatical errors. Reading your essay out loud can also be beneficial, as it’s easy to skim past mistakes when you're editing your own work.

Finally, check your references. Referencing can be daunting at times, especially if you have to write pages of references manually. I would recommend using an automatic referencing system such as EndNote free to download for Sydney Uni students. The software can generate references in the style you need and will increase the accuracy of your referencing – but you should always double check these references are correct.

18 October 2019
Student contributor
Dona Sirimanne
Bachelor of Education (Secondary)/Bachelor of Arts

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