When studying abroad, you may be surprised to find that there is a great focus on essay writing. Writing an essay is often used alongside, or even in place of, examinations -- as a means to test students on what they know. Essay writing may seem daunting at first, but once you've practiced a few times, you'll find that you will be able to put your point on paper in a more nuanced and meaningful way. Here are some tips that will help you improve on your essays throughout your student career.
1. Read and write outside of your assignments
If you only write when you have an assignment due, you're going to find it difficult to write when you need to arrange your thoughts on paper. Practice reading and writing when you're not writing essays in order to learn more about putting across an argument in written format. You can read newspapers or news sites, or try keeping a reflective diary, or simply read academic texts of your interests from your college library. In the end, the more you write, the easier it will be.
2. Plan ahead for your assignments
There's nothing worse than a rapidly approaching deadline when you're trying to finish an essay. It may be fine to rush together an argument in an exam, but when you are given a few weeks to write your piece, your teachers are expecting a more thought out response. Start reading on the topic you are planning to write as early as when you are handed the assignment. Brainstorm your ideas before you commit them to your essay. You'll find it easier to find links and create a cohesive argument.
3. Use a basic structure for your essays
Most of the essays you'll be expected to hand in will need to follow a very basic structure. If you use what I am suggesting down below, you will find that it'll be easy to start slotting in your theories and arguments in order to create a well-crafted essay.
- Introduction: This is where you'll be introducing the topic of your essay. You can use a relevant fact or statistic to reel in your readers, e.g. 'Three out of four doctors claim that...', and then you can go into your thesis statement.
- Body: This is the main meat of your essay. Now you've outlined what you're going to talk about in your essay (with your thesis), now's the time to say it. Outline your ideas plainly, and provide plenty of evidence to back up all of your points. Doing so will show that you can take in the ideas of those who came before you, as well as describe your own thoughts on the material to further the argument. Keep in mind the body of your essay is composed of multiple paragraphs.
- Conclusion: This is the ending of your essay, and at this point you don't want to introduce any more new ideas. Instead, you need to sum up your entire essay succinctly, telling the reader what you were trying to say in your work.
The easiest way to remember this structure is: the introduction is you telling the reader what you're going to say, the body is you saying it, and the conclusion is you telling the reader what they just read.
4. Know what each section of your essay is trying to do
As mentioned above, you need to know what each section serves in purpose for your essay. When you finish the first draft, read through your work. Is there anything in here that isn't relevant to the question, or doesn't really help you put across what you're trying to say? If so, remove it. A shorter, more concise essay is better than an overlong, rambling one. On the other hand, look for what's missing. Should you have included a theory or theorist in a section, but have you forgotten to mention them (citation)? Now's the time to write them in, before you forget them again.
5. Use tools to help your writing
There are plenty of tools online that can help you put the perfect essay together. Look for sites that offer clear advice in easy to manage sections, so you can get the most out of them. Try these out for yourself:
- Assignment Help: This educational portal provides grammar guides, information on citation styles and plagiarism that will help you with English writing.
- About Education: This site has a large wealth of information, tips, and tricks for you, if you're writing in English as a second language. It'll help you navigate the vagaries of the language, and practice your English skills in the process.
- Boom Essay Help: This site is staffed by highly qualified writers who can read over, proofread, edit, and help with your work. They're well experienced in the academic field, so they can help you write the perfect essay.
- The Purdue Online Writing Lab: If you need assistance with the technicalities of writing, this site is for you. They offer a huge amount of free resources, such as style guides, grammar help, and ESL assistance.
- EssayRoo: For ESL students, this site is great for developing your writing skills. You can work with expert writers and to learn how the best essays are constructed, researched, and written.
- The Aardvark English Forum: This is a great collection of online resources. Try out some online language exercises, browse through their college guide, and even connect with other international students.
- UK Writings: This service will help you plan out an essay to showcase your skills and talents. They can also help with other writing tasks, such as writing for job applications or resumes.
6. Think about your audience
When writing, think about who the audience will be for your essay. Nine times out of ten, it's going to be the teachers who assigned you the essay. If that's the case, remember that they won't need you to explain very basic concepts, as they already know them. Instead, they want to read about how these concepts connect together with everything you've learned in class, and what you've deduced by studying them.
7. You don't have to write the essay in the order it'll be read in
Remember, you don't have to write your essay from beginning to end. If you know exactly what you're going to write about the theory of relativity, get that section written first and write the rest of your essay around it. Many students find that it's easier to write their introductions last, as their essays often change shape as they're writing them (same goes for essay titles as well).
8. Don't forget to proofread
When you've finished writing your essay, make sure you take the time to read back through what you've written. Sometimes this can take more than one read through. It's easy to make mistakes while you're busy getting your main points down, and you don't want to hand in your essay while it's still in such a raw state. A good tip is to read the essay out loud, allowing you to hear errors that you may not spot on paper. This way, you'll hand in a truly polished essay that shows exactly what you can do.
9. Don't overwork yourself
Finally, but most importantly, remember to take regular breaks while you're writing your piece. Working straight through on an essay means that you'll probably rush through it trying to get it done. This means you could very likely make careless mistakes and hand in something that isn't your best work. Instead, stop every so often to walk away from your assignment and think about something else. You'll come back feeling refreshed, and ready to tackle the essay again.
Now you have these tips under your belt, try them out when writing your essays. You'll soon find that it's easy to create well crafted, meaningful essays that showcase exactly what you've learned in class. Next time when you have an essay assignment due, think back to this article, and you will notice an improvement in your essay writing!