The following are things to consider when you are writing when you are writing essays. Read your draft with these in mind, or swap essays with a fellow student and critique each other’s work using the following points:

1. Crux/problem/issue/thesis

What issue are you talking about? Do you have a clear issue to work on or a problem to explore? Summarise for yourself what your essay seems to be about and what points you are trying to make about it. If any of it seems to be obvious or silly then you need to rethink.

2. The first paragraph

This should set up a good context for discussion of the topic. Does it make you want to read the essay? Compare the first and last paragraphs. Does the train appear to have arrived at the anticipated station? Is the destination interesting, stimulating?

3. Clarity

Can you understand the essay without referring to your copy of the text(s) being discussed? Are quotations smoothly integrated into sentences and paragraphs?

4. Organisation

Is the arrangement of the essay helpful, clear and effective for exploring the issue and accomplishing the goals of the essay? Make a quick outline of the essay as it stands, noting key words and transitions. Does the essay flow logically or are sections out of place? Do some sections follow others for no logical reason? Do some parts of the essay contribute little or nothing to an understanding of the issue at hand?

5. Evidence and argument

Are the ideas adequately developed? Can you think of any additional, and possibly better ones? Are the examples good and helpful? Is the argument convincing? Think of a counter-argument or objection someone might make against one or more of the points raised and see if this helps you strengthen your argument.

6. Language/style

Does the essay make your ideas sound interesting? Think about figurative language, choice of verbs, liveliness of diction, etc. Can you identify sentences that could be stronger and think about how they could be improved? Alternatively, identify sentences which you think work well and think about what makes them successful.

7. Tone

What is the attitude of the essay toward the subject and the reader? Is it appropriate? Should this tone be more pronounced or should it be changed?

Last modified: Wednesday, 3 October 2012, 9:09 PM