Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Writing Essays

Essays in English

Almost all students will at some time be expected to write an essay, or some other kind of argument, e.g. a review or discussion section, in a longer piece of writing. In English, an essay is a piece of argumentative writing several paragraphs long written about one subject, usually based on your reading. The aim of the essay should be deduced strictly from the wording of the title or question, and needs to be defined at the beginning. The purpose of an essay is for you to say something for yourself using the ideas of the subject, for you to present ideas you have learned in your own way. The emphasis should be on working with other people’s ideas, rather than reproducing their words, but your own voice should show clearly. The ideas and people that you refer to need to made explicit by a system of referencing.

According to Linda Flower (1990, p. v) "students are reading to create a text of their own, trying to integrate information from sources with ideas of their own, and attempting to do so under the guidance of a purpose."

Your essay should have the following sections:

1. Preliminaries

Title page

2. Main text

{ Introduction

{ Main body

{ Conclusion

3. End matter


1. Preliminaries

Before you start the main part of your essay or assignment, there should be a title page. The title page should contain information to enable your lecturer and departmental office to identify exactly what the piece of work is. It should include your name and course; the title of the assignment and any references; the lecturer it is for etc. Check with your department for clear information.

2. Main text

English essays are linear: they start at the beginning and finish at the end, with every part contributing to the main line of argument, without digressions or repetition. Writers are responsible for making their line of argument clear and presenting it in an orderly fashion so that the reader can follow. Each paragraph discusses one major point and each paragraph should lead directly to the next. The paragraphs are tied together with an introduction and a conclusion.

The main text of the essay has three main parts:

I. An introduction

II. A main body

III. A conclusion

I. The introduction.

The introduction consists of two parts:

a) It should include a few general statements about the subject to provide a background to your essay and to attract the reader’s attention. It should try to explain why you are writing the essay. It may include a definition of terms in the context of the essay, etc.

b) It should also include a statement of the specific subdivisions of the topic and/or indication of how the topic is going to be tackled in order to specifically address the question.

c) It should introduce the central idea or the main purpose of the writing.

II. The main body.

The main body consists of some paragraphs of ideas and arguments. Each paragraph develops a subdivision of the subject. The paragraphs of the essay contain the main ideas and arguments of the essay together with illustrations or examples. The paragraphs are linked in order to connect the ideas. The purpose of the essay must be made clear and the reader must be able to follow its development.

III. The conclusion.

The conclusion includes the writer’s final points.

a) It should recall the issues raised in the introduction and draw together the points made in the main body

b) and explain the overall significance of the conclusions. What general points can be drawn from the essay as a whole?

c) It should clearly signal to the reader that the essay is finished and leave a clear impression that the purpose of the essay has been achieved.

3. End Matter

At the end of the essay, there should be a list of references. This should give full information about the materials that you have used in the assignment.

Layout of an Essay


General Statement
Organization Statement


A. Introductory Sentence
Point 1
Point 2
Point 3
Concluding Sentence

B.Introductory Sentence
Point 1
Point 2
Point 3
Concluding Sentence

C. Introductory Sentence
Point 1
Point 2
Point 3
Concluding Sentence


Recall issues in introduction;
draw together main points;

The process of writing an essay


Think about what you know about the subject. Write it down in some way.


Diagrams or notes.


Go to the library and find relevant books or articles.

library/research skills

Reading list.


Find the books on your reading list and study them.

reading skills: skimming and scanning

List of materials studied.


Make notes on these books and articles.

Record full details of the materials you use.

reading in detail

selecting & note-taking




Organise your essay/assignment.



Essay plan.


Type or write your first draft.

writing from notes


writing paragraphs


First draft.


Discuss your first draft informally with friends, other members of your class and your lecturer if possible.

speaking skills

listening skills

discussion skills

List of revisions/changes.


Revise your first draft, bearing in mind any comments that were made in your discussions.

Go back to 2. if necessary

Produce your second draft.

use of dictionaries & reference books

writing introduction & conclusion

quoting/writing a list of references

Second draft.


Proofread your draft.

checking for spelling mistakes

checking punctuation and grammar

checking vocabulary use

checking style

checking organization, references etc.

checking for plagiarism

Assignment with changes marked.


Produce a final typed version.


writing title/contents page

Final assignment.


Check everything.

final check

Hand in.

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