Writing essays and assignments
Once you have researched and structured your essay, it'll be time to start writing.
7. A 'well-researched original piece of work'
You will be expected to produce a 'well-researched original piece of work'. Originality doesn't mean that nobody has thought of your idea before. Originality means that you have:
If all your arguments are presented in a concise, well-reasoned way, then the assignment will be on the way to a good mark, whether your ideas reflect your tutor's or not.
Don't be afraid to suggest new ways of looking at ideas - but always support your flashes of insight with reasoned argument.
You must indicate quotations by punctuation marks, and acknowledge the source either in a footnote, at the end of the assignment or at the end of the quote (like this):
'Many have original Minds who do not think it - they are led away by Custom' (John Keats, letter to John Hamilton Reynolds 19 February 1819; in Rollins, H. E. (ed.) (1958) The Letters of John Keats. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press. I-231).
Check your Department's guidelines for the style in which quotations must be referenced.
Using other people's work without acknowledgement constitutes plagiarism, which is a serious offence. It is a form of intellectual dishonesty, and may lead to accusations of cheating.
8. Writing the First Draft
Here are eight tips on writing your first draft. You should already have studied the earlier sections on researching and organising your ideas. We cover:
a. Get writing
a. Get writing
The most important thing to do at this stage is to write. So, get busy writing. Write in your own words except when you are using carefully selected quotations. But the main thing at this stage is to write some words.
On a computer, keep saving to disk at 5-10 minute intervals - and make a back-up at least once a day.
If you have trouble composing your assignment with pen or computer, try dictating it onto a cassette recorder, and copying it out later.
b. The Inner Critic
Writing and editing are different jobs, and need to be kept separate. Each of us has an inner critic who is ready to damn our efforts. Fend off your inner critic for now. She or he will get their turn when the first draft is finished. But if you let them start too soon there won't be a first draft for them to work on.
All sorts of stray thoughts will emerge to try to distract you from writing. List all these 'must-do' tasks on a notepad, to be dealt with later.
You need to take regular breaks. If you're working at a computer, you need to rest your eyes and hands every hour or so.
Try not to take a break when you've just finished a brilliant paragraph or section; write the first sentence of the next paragraph so it's easy to get back into the flow when you return after your well-earned break.
Here are some suggestions in case you get stuck:
f. Two tips for Active Learners
g. Another tip if you find you're blocked
If you still can't get re-started, try this exercise:
h. Overall structure
Base your assignment on the outline, following this rule:
tell your readers what you're going to say in your assignment: a statement of purpose
tell the readers what you have said: summarising and stating your conclusion.
i. Detailed structure
As you write each section of your assignment, and even as you write each paragraph, try to structure it like this:
the key idea of the paragraph
evidence in support of your point
on the evidence and how it proves your point
show how this paragraph fits in the context of your assignment and link it to the next paragraph.
j. End of first draft
When you reach the end of the essay, save your work. Make a back-up
as well. And give yourself a break from it for the rest of the
9. The Second Draft
You are now ready to edit your first draft, so put on your Editor's Hat. Read the question again, and then read your essay through. Look for seven things:
Does it make the points you wanted to make?
Is it clear, or is it too woolly?
Is it interesting? At the same time is it written in suitably academic language?
Do the ideas follow logically, or are they flitting around?
Are you keeping to one topic per paragraph?
Do the paragraphs flow logically from one to the next?
Read it aloud and listen to the words. It may help to record it on cassette and play it back later. Is there a good mixture of:
Are there unintentional repetitions or puns?
Check it even when you've run your text through a spell-checker. Spell-checkers don't tell you if you've put the wrong word entirely (e.g. from instead of form). If you know you have trouble with spelling, try to get a friend to read it through.
Check that you have given references for every authority you quote, and that they are in the correct format for your course.
When you have checked those seven points about your essay, it is time to rewrite your essay. Neat, legible writing (or accurate typing) is essential. Check for spelling and grammatical correctness. Leave it overnight and put on your Editor's Hat again. With one final polish your essay should be ready to hand in.
Your next step should be to print out and work through the study guide Writing effectively
You might also want to work through the study guide Writing your Dissertation
There are further helpful tips about writing essays in the section on Excellent Essays on Arts.Net
See also the website on academic writing at Purdue University
last updated on
October 16, 2008