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L313 Day School, Study Skills, 10 Golden Rules of essay writing and presenting

1. Plan carefully before you start writing

2. Know what is expected

3. Have a clear focus

4. Make your text easy to follow

5. Less is more

6. More discussion, less description

7. Back up what you say

8. Get your references right


9. Show your independent study skills

10. Quote effectively

Analyse the essay question thoroughly. Think in advance which findings you want to present in your essay and highlight
these properly in your text. Also plan the structure of the essay carefully and make sure all sections follow each other
logically.
Make sure you are familiar with the requirements of the course/for assignments. One way of doing this is to read the
guidance notes on the assignments, the assessment guide and the marking criteria carefully. Also work with the
feedback of your tutor. You can produce a checklist for yourself to indicate points which you need to improve on and try
to address specific aspects of these in the next essay.
Never lose the focus of the essay question and keep reminding the reader of this focus, too. Always think how specific
points relate to the question and express this in your text. Part of this is to write in a clear and logical fashion. Make sure
you do not introduce a new point at the end of one sentence without coming back to it in the next one.
Signpost thematic/structural connections throughout the text with sub-headings, specific paragraph intros like From this
we can deduct/ However, this statement does not indicate/ Although said that, other critics have stated / In contrast
to this/ Keep your sentences easy to read, dont make them too long and complex. Do not use too much jargon,
unless it is needed to prove your subject knowledge of the course.
Select aspects carefully do not try to incorporate too many aspects rather discuss fewer aspects in detail. Select some
good quotes you want to incorporate in advance and think about which ideas you can illuminate best with these. Do not
use too many examples but find some meaningful and persuasive ones instead.
Have an appropriate balance of description and discussion. On level 3, discussion is paramount. Descriptive elements
need to be short and only serve as an illustration of your argument. Do not recount the plot of a book always assume
your reader know the book too. Do not recount what a critic wrote in an essay. You can give a VERY brief summary if
this helps your argument but avoid retelling.
Always make sure you substantiate your claims by using other critical voices, facts and figures, examples. Prove points
you are making with information from the course materials. Say where the information comes from and why it is
important in the context.
Stick to ONE system of referencing throughout. Think about which aspects need a reference and which dont. Make sure
you list all texts you referred to in your essay in the bibliography. Do not quote from or reference the Study Guide.
Develop your own critical voice and present your own findings well. You can also criticise the critics! You can further
improve your skills of independent study by going beyond the course materials and finding further information on
particular aspects, i.e. online. Try not to quote from Wikipedia. It is not considered an academic and reliable tool. You
can start your searches there but then have to move on to more trustworthy sites.
Use quotes for more than illustration purposes. Do not let quotes speak for themselves but always comment on them
and make sure the reader knows why you selected a certain quote for your argument. Quotes are useful tools to
highlight certain points and to start a critical discussion of an issue.