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Essay writing. A method for preparation and execution By Keith Barker-Jones. Overview. Main section. Introduction. Conclusion. Paragraphs. Title . Structure. Reference list and bibliography. Separation & flow. Link words. Essay. Font. Drafting. Presentation.

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Essay writing

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Essay writing

A method for preparation and execution

By Keith Barker-Jones


Main section






Reference list and bibliography

Separation & flow

Link words





References and citations


Line spacing





Comprises 5-10% of word count

An introduction should:

  • Identify the subject of the essay

  • Signpost the shape and content of the argument

  • Highlight the major debates that lie ‘behind’ the question

  • Define terms

  • Establish a ‘position’ (sometimes)

    (Redman 2006, p41)

Main section

The main section is essentially a detailed discourse; one that

according to Redman (2006, p48) “needs a strong and coherent


As part of this structure a useful ‘rule of thumb’ is to discuss one

point per paragraph

Throughout the discourse the author should strive t0 build an argument

which, according to Cottrell (2005), will hold reasons to support a point

of view

Cottrell (2005) then infers that the reasons should be aligned logically;

creating a line of reasoning that leads the reader to a conclusion


A conclusion should comprise approximately 10% of word count

According to Redman (2006) it is “a final condensed version of the

essay’s core argument that restates your position on the question”

Redman (2006) goes on to characterise a conclusion as:

  • A recap of the key points in the argument

  • A summary and synthesis of the key debates raised by the question

  • An opportunity to identify absences in the argument; maybe to be explored in future work



Use reliable, authoritative sources such as:

  • Text books

  • Current academic journals

    Beware of using ‘ad hoc’ websites, which can be

    unreliable or inaccurate


In respect of gathering information, it is unrealistic to read

in detail every potential source of information

Prior to collating information look in the assessment criteria


  • Content words

  • Key words

    To economically access information it is advisable to locate

    information by ‘scanning’ texts.


Murray and Hughes (2008) provide useful guidance in

gathering relevant information through scanning:

  • Look for key words associated with ideas

  • Look for the names of scholars/writers/books and articles associated with ideas

  • Read abstracts of articles

  • Read information contained in the preface of books

  • Scan contents and indexes of books


Be sure to collate and keep information. It is useful to

keep a ‘research file’ for each assignment

Further tips include to:

  • Take notes

  • Experiment with mind-maps

  • Note references as you go along

  • Use an essay pro-forma (planner) to map out

    introduction, main body and conclusion

References and citations

An academic essay will contain:

  • Citations within the text

  • A list of references; containing full details of citations

  • A bibliography; contains full details of additional reading


Once information has been gathered through research,

the writing process may begin.

According to Murray and Hughes (2008, p111) drafting is a

process that involves “writing a rough copy…” “which you will

edit and refine later.”

This process, although potentially laborious, is an essential part of

academic writing

With this in mind:

  • Never be content with the first draft (several drafts are necessary)

  • Each draft must be thoroughly proof-read

Separation and flow

In the name of clarity, chunks of text are separated by


However, this does not mean that they are disparate


Indeed, each paragraph must be linked to the last by use

of link words to ensure a flowing, interlocking discourse

List of references

Cottrell, S. (2005) Critical thinking skills: Developing

effective analysis and argument. Basingstoke: Palgrave


Murray, N. and Hughes, G. (2008) Writing up your

university assignments and research projects: A practical

handbook. Maidenhead: Open University Press

Redman, P. (2006) Good essay writing. 3rd Ed. London:

Sage Publications Ltd.

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