Last year universities minister Jo Johnson announced plans to crack down on essay mill websites. With hundreds of pounds changing hands as students feel the pressure to achieve the grades they need, it is clear to see just how daunting the task of essay writing really is for undergraduates.
The good news is that the difference between an average paper and one that achieves a high score rests within a few simple techniques, a selection of which we’re sharing with you in this post.
1. Be a critic
The key objective when writing an essay is to demonstrate your ability to think critically about your subject matter. If you don’t show an affinity to analyse, and instead spend your entire essay simply reciting other people’s arguments, then those top grades are going to elude you.
Tim Squirrell is a teacher and University of Edinburgh PhD student. He recommends ‘poking holes’ in the texts you are exploring, and to fathom out how ‘the authors aren’t perfect’. Whilst that may appear intimidating, Squirrell suggests that unless you take this route, your grades will continue to languish in the 60-something range.
So, unravel the central claim; position the author’s argument in context and make a critical assessment of the statements being made. If your opinion is that the arguments are incorrect, explain why. If you agree with them, explain why. Back up your criticisms with resources and ensure your reasoning is logical.
2. Make it easy for your readers
Always remember that tutors are reading and marking a very large quantity of essays. Make their job easier for them, and you’ll get off on the right foot. So, be sure to make your argument straightforward to follow. If a tutor has to re-read sections of your work to try to understand your thought pattern, it could well cause frustration. In fact, they may even decide not to make the effort to understand your work after all.
Be sure to present your arguments in a way that readers can follow, with your points clearly made. Maintain focus throughout and keep your piece interesting.
3. Craft a gripping introduction
Your essay introduction is the very thing that will grip your reader. It acts to inform as to what can be expected; summarises your essay in a succinct way and compels interest. If you fail to capture imagination and attention in your first paragraph, why should anyone read on?
Writing your introduction last, once your essay is complete, is age-old advice: definitely follow it. Make sure you use your introduction to clearly put forward your main argument, following up with a few elements of how you have reached your conclusions. What will the reader discover from your piece? What are your key points? Include these in your introduction.
Be sure to use your introduction to demonstrate your understanding of the task in hand; show how you are addressing the title and link through into your first point.
Where you can, try to stick to one paragraph of around 100 words to summarise this information.
4. Get your references right
So many students mess up by handing in a well-written essay with a less than perfect reference list.
Unless your sources are 100 per cent cited and in the correct way, your marks are never going to make it past average. So: check your university’s citation style guide and follow it to the letter.
Always be sure to cite the original author rather than someone else who has quoted them. You can save valuable time by using research management tools such as Endnote, Zotero or Mendeley. These allow referencing as you write and make formatting your citations a breeze.
Also be aware that tutors will be on the lookout for initiative and uniqueness. Cite references that others haven’t and you will stand out. How to do this? Extend your reading list!
5. Be proof perfect
Grammatical errors, spelling mistakes and typos are a sure-fire way to lose marks. Even if you have followed all the points above and have presented a critically brilliant piece of work, if it is littered with faults then you will quickly lose ground with your reader’s confidence.
If you are in any way unsure as to the perfectionism of your grammar and spelling, make a wise investment in a professional proof reading and editing service. Your university will support it providing the service you use follows its policy. Why risk missing out on those top grades just because your work isn’t proof perfect?
At Proof Master we offer a range of proof reading and editing services, all of them undertaken by highly experienced editors with minimum Master’s level qualifications. We offer exceptional value for money. It’s simple to get a price for your required service: just submit a sample, or request a custom quote.
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