Generally, if you know the answer to a question, it can be relatively easy to write an explanation either by writing a few sentences, drawing a diagram or by producing an example. But, when we are asked to write an essay, that is an entirely different experience as our minds can immediately go blank and the harder we look for ideas, the more elusive they become which results in waves of panic and blank pages.

  • The first tip is Don’t Panic.
  • Then take a deep breath.
  • Relax and take the time to read these tips.

1. The Instructions

Often it is easy just to skim read instructions and not take in the significant bits of information. Even worse, it’s possible to misread and panic that you are being asked to do something that you do not have enough knowledge or skills to compete within the given time.

  • Read through the instructions very carefully. It is possible that tutors can make mistakes such as ask you to hand in the essay in two days as opposed to two weeks.
  • If you are not sure about something, then check it out first.
  • Make sure that you are very clear what you are being asked to produce.

Check out:

  • When the work needs to be submitted.
  • Does the work need to be referenced? If it does, make sure that you know what you need to focus on (such as double line spacing etc.
  • The type of essay that you will be writing: as different skills are necessary for creative writing compared to report writing.

2. Examples

It is difficult to write an essay or report if you don’t know exactly what is expected of you.

  • Ask your tutor to provide you with an example.
  • Some tutors will even talk you through an example.
  • Additionally, you can search for examples through Google Scholar.

However, be aware that if you copy someone else’s work and present it as your own you will get found out as many schools and colleges will use plagiarism checks.

Many websites offer free examples of different types of essays, and essays of varying quality,

This means that it is possible to look at work that is considered:

  • Weak
  • Average
  • Outstanding

Time spent on this type of search is a way of acknowledging what you need to do to produce quality written work.

  • Essays that have been annotated by markers are always useful as you can learn from other people’s mistakes.
  • You can also search for videos where tutors will give a tutorial (that you can play back as often as you like), on how to look for ideas for your essay or on how to construct it.

3. Topics

If you have to find your own topic and are stumped for ideas, then try looking for topic lists online for the type of essay that you need to write.

  • Be aware that some of the listings are quite long and can give you an infinite number of choices that you may not have considered.
  • The best advice here is to keep your topic simple and choose something that you already have some knowledge or opinion.
  • Once you are comfortable with the topic, then ask yourself if you need to do any additional research.
  • Set yourself a time limit of an hour – it is incredible what you can complete within that time.
  • The best tip here is that you need to plan your research, as it can be very easy to get distracted and start planning other homework or start shopping for your next pair of shoes.

4. Planning

  • Brainstorm ideas.
  • Plan an outline.
  • Look for a logical progression of ideas your writing to follow.
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve within time limitations.

5. Milestones

  • Set yourself a time by which to complete your draft and add that information to your diary.
  • Also, target the time when you are going to read through and edit your work. Ideally, make this tie for a few days after you have finished writing, so it is easier to spot glaring errors.

6. Writing

  • Start your work with a really good introduction, such as a statement that captures interest for the right reasons.
  • Make sure that each paragraph is a logical progression of ideas.
  • Each paragraph should be treated as a mini-essay as it should have an introductory sentence. The central part of the paragraph should tackle one idea, and the concluding sentence should wrap up the content of the paragraph and lead the way to introduce the next idea (paragraph).
  • The concluding paragraph of the essay should offer an overview of the essay.


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