Kickstart 2010
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Kickstart 2010. Transition to Further Study. Essay Writing. Make sure you understand what the essay question is specifically asking for. Focus upon the key terms in the question. Technical terms need to be elaborated upon. Specialised areas of study rely upon exact definitions.

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Kickstart 2010

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Kickstart 2010

Kickstart 2010

Transition to Further Study

Essay writing

Essay Writing

  • Make sure you understand what the essay question is specifically asking for.

  • Focus upon the key terms in the question.

  • Technical terms need to be elaborated upon. Specialised areas of study rely upon exact definitions.

  • You need to understand how to use the common definitions of a topic to show that you are knowledgeable about it.

  • Some definitions rely upon an everyday understanding of how the words are normally used. But sometimes definitions stipulate a new or special way of using the words.



  • Focus upon the key terms in the essay question.

  • Write a quick short answer to the question.

  • Write a plan as to what will need to be discussed in order to answer the question.

  • Read some basic references on the topic to better get your bearings.

  • Brainstorm the topic.

  • Reassess your essay plan.

  • Focus upon specific texts.



  • Brainstorming - Make a list or mind map of all the ideas, issues and questions that you think relate to the essay question.

  • Do not be too self critical at first – get all the ideas out. Later you can criticise them and try to be more creative.

  • Write an essay plan so that you know what logical order to place your thoughts and how many words to demarcate to each subtopic.

  • A good plan will give the essay an organised structure.

Sign posts

Sign posts

  • Use signposts throughout your essay.

  • Let the reader know why one sentence follows from another and why one paragraph follows from another.

  • In sentences, this is done by using connective words e.g., and, or, because, if-then, subsequently, consequently.

  • In paragraphs, this is done by starting a paragraph with a sentence that states what will be discussed in that paragraph.

  • It may be a good idea to insert a short paragraph that states the structure of the essay.

  • In longer essays or essays with complex arguments, it is a good idea to insert a summarising paragraph later in the essay.



  • As with taking notes in lectures, it can be very beneficial to take notes when reading.

  • Paraphrase and simplify long arguments.

  • Look for key quotes that encapsulate an idea or position.

  • Ask yourself: What is the writer arguing for, what against, do you agree?

  • Use the index at the back of texts to avoid having to read too much.

  • Do not quote excessively; it is your essay and your ability that is being judged. It is often better to paraphrase or just provide a reference rather than quoting.

  • Use quotes to support what you are saying or as a springboard to broaden the discussion, never to avoid saying something yourself.



  • Always include notes and a reference list (list of books you have referred to in the essay) or bibliography (list of books you read which specifically helped you write the essay).

  • There are some different referencing styles. Use the style that your School insists upon.

  • References should include author’s name, title, publisher, country and year (and page number for notes).

  • Book titles should be clearly distinguished (italic, bold or underlined).

  • Articles and chapter headings should be placed in quotation marks.

Referencing styles

Referencing styles

  • There are two major styles of referencing; Harvard and APA.

  • Harvard – Author, Year, Title (usually in italics), Publisher, place of publication.

  • APA – Author (Year). Title (usually in italics). Place:Publisher.

  • Notes and references in the body of the essay would just have Author Year (APA places the Year in brackets), page number/s.

  • For those studying law there is another referencing style, Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) – for information on this referencing style visit:



  • Academic research participates in the enhancement of the knowledge of the world; past, present and future.

  • Your essays are involved in historic discussions (whether you realise this or not) and as such the reader needs to be able to place your comments within this history and move easily from what you say to the primary texts and secondary sources.



  • Include a bibliography at the end of your essay.

  • As a general rule bibliographies should only contain works that directly contributed to the content of your essay. Do not include encyclopaedias, dictionaries or websites that carry general information (read them as a basic starting point by all means). Aim for quality rather than quantity.



  • Use either numbered footnotes (bottom of each page) or endnotes (end of essay), or include references in the body of the text (within brackets after the relevant sentence) for works that are contained in the bibliography (in the form “Author Year, p.x”).

  • The number of the note should occur in the body of the essay after a punctuation mark and directly after the reference has been cited. Usually the number is raised (superscript) and in bold.

  • To avoid the repetition of having to write the same reference numerous times, use the abbreviations ‘ibid’ – in the same place as the previous note, or ‘op cit’ – for a work that has already been cited (in the form “Author’s name, op cit, p.x.”).

  • To repeat, follow the guidelines of your particular School.



  • Plagiarism is the copying of someone else’s work and presenting it as your own.

  • As a student you should be seeking to learn; plagiarism is cheating – yourself and others.

  • Do not do it!

  • An essay found to be plagiarised will receive an automatic fail.



  • The introduction should make clear the broader implications of the question, its context and significance.

  • Explain how you are going to set about tackling the problem.

  • State your thesis (major position).

  • The conclusion of the essay should not contain new information.

  • Rather it should sum up or encapsulate what has been already presented.

  • Both should be written for impact, to impress the reader.

  • A good writer also learns to end paragraphs with a sentence which expresses with impact.

The key

The key

  • Your thesis (major argument) should be the key of the essay.

  • It should be what makes the discussion yours, what shows that you have understood and thought about the topic and have something to say about it.

Things to avoid

Things to avoid

  • Avoid trying to say everything. Summarise and then focus upon what is important and what you can contribute to the topic.

  • Avoid stating the obvious.

  • Do not be too subjective. What you think is important but reasons have to be provided.



  • To criticise a position look at whether it is coherent, comprehensive and consistent.

  • Does it make sense?, is it applicable?, does it suit the matter under investigation? and does it cover all likely eventualities?

  • If not, then look for a counter-example. E.g. The only good philosopher is a dead philosopher. (There must be at least one good living philosopher.)

Before submission of your essay

Before submission of your essay

  • Always reread your essay prior to submission to correct spelling and grammar, remove padding and waffle and improve clarity and quality of expression.

  • Clarity is very important – if your expression is confusing, then the reader will assume that your thinking is confused.

  • A well planned essay will improve clarity.

Sample essay question

Sample Essay Question

  • What does it mean to be a human being? Discuss.



  • A number of university students struggle with understanding what is expected of them.

  • It can seem like academics are speaking a language which is meant to intimidate and exclude students.

  • But consider this:

  • When you read, who are you reading for?

  • When you write, who are you writing for?



  • Many students read only what they are told to read and because they are told they have to read it.

  • They have little sense of how their understanding and thus how they themselves will change and grow by reading carefully.

  • They read for others rather than for themselves.



  • Many students write for themselves, trying to express themselves in a way that comes naturally and in the same language they use with their friends.

  • When you write it should be for the intended audience, which for an essay is academics.



  • Restrict expressing your emotions.

  • Do not allow your unwarranted subjective beliefs to rule your thinking.

  • Use the terminology of the area under discussion.

  • Show an understanding of the theories and master thinkers of the area.

  • Seek to make your own contribution.

Kickstart 2010

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