BA English BZ University Multan
Getting Started with Essay Writing
You can't write a successful essay unless you give yourself enough time to read, research, think and write. Don't procrastinate or leave it until the last minute; start as early as possible.
Define the question and analyse the task
Writing down everything you know about a topic won't make a good academic essay. Analysing, then answering the essay's question or task is central.
- Be sure that you understand exactly what the question requires you to do.
- Identify the key words (like discuss or analyse) and clarify the approach you are required to take.
Write a preliminary essay plan
Your starting point for an essay is your initial response to the topic or question. This response is based on what you already know. However, this is only the starting point. You then need to research, question your response and find some answers.
- Work out your initial thoughts and ideas about the topic and to help guide your research.
- An essay plan can help you work out how you will answer the question and which information you will use. Essay plans also help with structuring an essay.
- Remember, your plan at this point is provisional. As you begin to write and research it will probably change.
As soon as you are given an essay question, begin your thinking. If
you don't, you might miss useful information whilst doing other research.
The television and radio often have programmes on topical issues which
could be of use - if you don't already have some ideas for your essay
you could miss their usefulness. It is similar to the process when you
learn a new word: because you have actually looked it up, it then seems
to appear more often. This is because you become more sensitive to it
- the same will happen with your essay subject.
Starting early also gives you the opportunity to draft and redraft your
essay, talk to someone else about it and get it typed up and ready to
hand in on time. If you do your essay the night before it is due in,
Collecting the material
It is important to collect information that is relevant. How? It is
all too easy to dash to the library, collect a huge pile of books and
then browse aimlessly. You might learn something, but you won't get
your essay done.
The best place to start is by quickly jotting down what you already
know about the question: you will probably know more than you realise.
It helps to get you thinking about the topic and may also give you some
ideas to follow up.
You need to adopt a strategic method: in order to read purposefully,
formulate a set of questions before you begin reading. As you read,
more specific questions will arise and you can look for the answers
to these too. It is easy to do too much research and end up getting
confused by the facts and figures. Looking for the answers to predetermined
questions helps to avoid this.
Use varied sources of information
You will usually have a book list which will list the major sources
of information for your subject. Use the bibliographies in these books
to extend your reading. You can refer to your lecture notes, but don't
rely solely on these, as they are often a general overview or could
contain incorrect information if you have misunderstood something. The
most productive sources of information are often subject specific journals,
the "broadsheet" newspapers (e.g. The Guardian, The Independent,
The Observer) and ever increasing on-line resources, such as the Internet.
These publications often have specific days in the week when they focus
on issues such as business, society, law and so on. They will not only
give you solid up to date information on your subject, but they will
give you an indication of the style of writing which is required at
Keep a notebook, record cards or data base
Jot down ideas, discussions, quotations or examples as you come across
them. If you don't write them down, you will inevitably forget them
when it comes to writing up time. This tactic also frees your mind,
because you are not trying to remember small points which can block
creative thinking. As an alternative, try using small record cards which
can be shuffled and sorted out as you plan and write up your essay.
This can also be easily done on a computer - but a computer is harder
to carry around!
Record your sources
Your notebook should also be used to write down exact details of the
sources of information which you use. Failure to do this will result
in wasted time relooking for information, frustration and even information
being wasted because you can't use it, due to not being able to state