A standard essay will have a title, introduction, body, and conclusion.
When writing an essay, you will also need to include references in the text to say where you found the material you have used, and a bibliography at the end, which is a list of all the publications you read or referred to when writing your essay. Note that a bibliography is not the same as a reference list – a reference list includes ONLY the materials you have directly referred to in your essay. A bibliography can include books you have read but not directly referred to (but that are relevant to what you have studied/written).
1. Choosing a title for your essay
For most undergraduate essay assignments your university or learning institution will give you a title or question to write about.
If you have to choose your own, you need to remember that your title is a concise synopsis (summary) of what the essay is about. For example:
“The Growth of Business as a Result of Mobile Phone Technology 1998-2008”
Sometimes you may want to phrase your title as a question. For example:
“How does Article 25 of the CISG compare with English law relating to Fundamental breach of contract?”
The absolute golden rule to remember when choosing your essay title is to answer the question!
2. Writing out your essay structure
You may find that you do not stick to your draft structure, but, deciding on your essay structure in advance will help you keep on the right track when you are writing. It may help to create sub-headings for different sections (which you can take out later if you like).
How does Article 25 of the CISG compare with English law relating to fundamental breach of contract? Discuss.
Points to cover:
Area of law – international sales – increasingly important because of growth in international trade
What is the CISG – when does it apply / when does English law apply?
What is a fundamental breach?
What will this essay do – compare fundamental breach under CISG to English Law
Points to cover:
Provisions of CISG relating to fundamental breach – Arts 25, 46, 49, 51, 64, 70, 72, 73 and key cases
English law on fundamental breach – key cases
Comparison of CISG and English Law re fundamental breach
Points to cover:
Main similarities between CISG and English Law dealing with fundamental breach
Any conclusions or recommendations – which is better?
The structure you draft is just a rough outline and, as you write your essay, you may find you don’t follow it exactly, but it will help you stay focused on the question.
3. Deciding on your conclusion – first!
You might find it a little strange to start by thinking about your conclusion but, if you have an idea of what point or points you are trying to prove before you start, you will find it easier to write your essay. As you carry out research, you will be able to select material to support your argument. Of course, you must always remember to discuss material that does not support your argument – and then explain why you feel your argument is better. You may also change your mind as you read more about your subject!
4. Your essay introduction
Your introduction will tell the reader what the essay is about. It will also identify any particular issues you intend to deal with in the essay. You should try and show why the essay is relevant in your introduction, otherwise why would people read it? How is the subject important? Try and make the introduction interesting so that the reader wants to find out more.
5. The body of your essay
The body of your essay is based on the research and analysis you have carried out. In other words, your main arguments, findings and information about the title go in the body.
If you have been given an essay title, such as “Discuss this…” or “Analyse this…” you need to make sure you actually do what you are being asked to do. For example, to “discuss”, you need to present two or more sides of an issue (and you will say which is the strongest in your conclusion). To make sure that you fully understand what is being asked of you, it is a good idea to look up the word in the dictionary (e.g. discuss, analyse, critically analyse, consider, etc).
As you write your essay, make sure everything you include relates to the question. You should try and say why any material you include is important for answering the question as much as possible.
6. Writing your conclusion
Your conclusion will draw on the main points in the body of your essay. If an essay question was set for you, you will answer it here. It should not repeat what has been said already, instead, it should summarise concisely the main points relating to what you have found.
Above all, remember – you must answer your essay question or make sure you have dealt with all of the issues that your essay title raises.
7. Top essay writing tips
Use relevant examples – these show that you have understood the ideas that you are talking about, and can apply them
Only use relevant material – ‘prune’ out anything that does not directly relate to the question
Check the word count – go through and see what you can reword, using less words
State the obvious – you might know what you mean to say, but does your reader? Spell out the points you are trying to make
Reference any ideas or materials that are not your own – either put material in your own words and reference it, or put it in “inverted commas” and reference it.
Be concise and write what you mean – get straight to the point, you won’t get any extra marks for waffle!
Don’t use long unnecessary words just to impress – they are easy to spot and will have the opposite effect.