Answering the question

1. Make sure you have understood and answered the question fully. Don’t substitute the essay you want to write for the one you are asked to write. If the essay question provides you with pointers make sure you consider them carefully – they are there for a reason.

2. Write out the question clearly and accurately at the start of your essay. Make sure that you transcribe any key terms or proper names correctly.

The nitty-gritty

3. Check that you have spelt the title of the work and the name of the author correctly throughout your essay. The same goes for the names of any characters. Failure to do this makes a very bad impression.

4. Keep to the word length. See the Handbook for penalties for over-length work. Students who are noticeably under the word limit tend not to produce effective work.

5. Use a dictionary, not just for spelling but to make sure you check the meanings of particular words and use them appropriately, in the correct grammatical form. Use resources provided to ensure that your spelling and grammar are correct throughout your essay.

6. Read your draft aloud, either to yourself or to someone else, to detect awkward sentences. If you have trouble with long, over-involved sentences, write short ones.

Constructing your argument and selecting your points

7. Don’t waste time and space retelling the story or action of the novel, play or performance – your tutor already knows this. Brief reference to crucial events, scenes or moments is all you need.

8. Organise your notes and be selective. You can’t use everything, so choose the ideas and examples which make the most effective argument. Tell your reader in the first paragraphs what you will be concentrating on.

9. Back up your argument with well-chosen examples from the text. Make sure that the quotation you select to back your point actually does do the job you want it to do.

10. Don’t use critical quotation without giving some sense of your own evaluation of it. Don’t assume something must be right just because a critic says so. Use your own judgement. There are some very bad critical books. Remember you can also quote critics in order to disagree with them. Make it evident when you draw on the critical opinions of other people by acknowledging your sources. Failure to do this constitutes plagiarism.

Last modified: Thursday, 8 November 2018, 11:06 AM