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Being able to write a good essay is a key skill to master if you want to succeed at university. By completing the EPQ you are providing evidence when applying for university that you can write an essay. Our top ten tips for writing essays are below:
1. Read the question carefully and understand what is required
Although you will be setting the question yourself for the EPQ you still need to ensure that you answer the question! Be clear about the focus of the essay and check that you are answering this with each paragraph.
2. Preparatory reading
Do not begin writing your EPQ until you have enough knowledge (information from books and journal articles) to support your overall conclusion. As you read you will confirm your conclusion.
3. Make an essay plan
This will help enormously when you begin to write. You can use a mind map or a spider diagram - whatever works for you. It just helps to get your ideas down on paper before you start writing. Decide on the main ideas or issues to be covered in the EPQ. What points will lead to your conclusion?
4. Gather information
As you will usually be writing your EPQ on a topic completely unrelated to your A level subjects you will need to gather the information yourself instead of using class notes. Visit your 6th form library and see what they can offer in the way of books, journal articles and websites. If your school arranges a visit with the University you will have some time for independent study and will be able to use our resources.
5. Structuring your essay
All essays need an introduction, main body and conclusion. The introduction and conclusion should be approximately 10% of your total word count each.
Your paragraphs also need a structure: as a general rule remember one point = one paragraph. A typical academic paragraph should follow the PEEL structure: Point (assert something), Evidence (back up your point with references or experience), Explanation (how this helps answer the question), Link (to the next paragraph or back to the essay title).
6. Most essays will require you to think critically
It is in the analysis/explanation part of your paragraphs that you will gain marks for showing an ability to discuss and analyse the facts and argument that you have presented. Make sure that every paragraph explains why it is relevant to answering the question or reaching you conclusion.
7. Use academic writing style
In essays you need to write in a formal, clear, cautious and balanced manner. Only write in the first person (I) if your teacher has said that it is acceptable.
8. Sequence your argument
This means developing a clear line of thought. Your ideas need to be organised in a sequence meaningful to the reader, and which can be sign posted in the introduction. Include sign posts throughout your writing to show how your argument is developing: phrases such as 'in addition', 'furthermore', 'conversely', 'consequently' etc all help your reader follow your line of reason.
9. Cite and reference your sources
Make notes as you read and record publication information and page numbers so that you can create your reference list.
10. Remember, your first draft is exactly that
Be prepared to amend, add, expand or adjust parts until you are satisfied with the presentation and content. Check for: your content, argument and meaning; referencing; spelling and grammar; punctuation; and style.