Date of Publication: 30 August 2017
The essay is a particularly academic form of writing, where importance lies in the ability to demonstrate intellect and understanding of an argument. Therefore developing skills in essay-writing is crucial to success in your studies. We ask Victoria, a recent student helper on our summer courses in Oxford and a graduate from Lady Margaret Hall to provide 5 tips for writing a strong essay.
Essays that start off with a great opening keep the reader interested. Particularly in exam essays where the examiner will be reading hundreds of the same essay. Starting off with a cool fact, quote or a rhetorical question such as ‘did you know…?’can be effective. Another method is to begin the essay with a clear and concise statement outlining the importance and relevance of the essay topic. Both approaches can draw the reader in and make your essay stand out.
The introduction of an essay is one of the most important components. It is a place for background information on the subject you are going to be discussing. Additionally, the introduction should also include a brief outline of the content of the essay and should detail the order in which the key points of the essay will be explored. It is also a place to include any key definitions. The introduction can be thought of as a menu, it outlines the detail of the meal you are going to eat and the order in which the courses will be served.
A good essay structure is quite easy to achieve and is of great importance. Even in some final exams at the University of Oxford marks are awarded for a strong essay structure. The layout of a science essay will generally consist of a clear introduction followed by the main arguments of the essay split up into paragraphs and finally the conclusion. One useful tip for keeping clear sections is to have essay headings throughout, like the headings for each of the tips used here. Planning is vital to achieve a good structure.
Planning is also useful to ensure the essay flows well – to make sure the paragraphs link together. The plan is like making a booking for a meal, it ensures everything is organised such as the number of points and the order in which they are going to be made. A good flow makes an essay easy for the reader to follow. It is also important to make sure the arguments flow in a logical order, for example, in order of discovery.
It can sometimes be tempting to include points from all of the reading you have done when writing an essay. However, despite all of the time it has taken, you should only include relevant information, otherwise the essay loses focus. This is true for both unnecessary breadth and unnecessary depth. Being concise is a useful skill.
The conclusion is the place where the main points of the essay are summarised. It is not a place to introduce new arguments or ideas. The conclusion, along with the introduction, are the most important parts of the essay. Back to the meal analogy, the conclusion is like the desert – it can make or break a meal! If the essay has been strong throughout but there are weak conclusions it can ruin an essay. This is the last part a reader will consider, particularly for examiners as this is the last part they read before giving you a score. So, be sure to go out with a bang!
Victoria Pike was recently a student helper and has just graduated from Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford with a degree in Biological Sciences. She’ll be starting an Oxford Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership later in 2017. Follow her updates on Twitter, @victoriapike95
Find more study tips here: 10 Top Tips for Independent Study Success: The Oxford Summer Courses Way