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Guide to a proper essay

02 Feb 2016Guides

1. Have you written an essay from logically ordered and sequenced plan that outlines the main ideas covered by each paragraph? HINT: A plan lets you go back over your writing during editing and check that you have followed a logical order.

2. Have you stated your argument in the Introduction, e.g. This essay will argue the case that ...? HINT: This argument should then be supported throughout the paper.

3. Does your paragraph add to or elaborate on a point made previously? HINT: Check if you repeat some words or phrases from the last few lines of the preceding paragraph.

4. Are paragraphs dealing with separate aspects of a topic connected (do not look like completely independent pieces of writing)? HINT: Check if you are using connector words or expressions to indicate a connection with the previous paragraph.

5. Does your writing have a balance? Is any of one section too long? HINT: A good place to check what is expected of you in terms of content and word count by section is the rubric and criteria given to you by your lecturers; they are often quite specific about this.

6. Have you answered the question? HINT: Check you brief /assignment description again to make sure you answered exacty the same question you were asked.

7. Does each paragraph have one main idea and is it expressed clearly in a topic sentence? HINT: The topic sentence is generally the first sentence in the paragraph so it is very clear what the main idea is.

8. Are all sentences in the paragraph relevant to the main idea? HINT: Check that all of your sentences support the topic sentence and are relevant to the development of the point.

An editing checklist

  1. Read aloud: read the text aloud to yourself. Reading aloud helps identify parts of the text that was not properly written, too wordy (vague), etc. Also, it’s a good idea to have someone edit / proofread your essay.
  2. Edit when you are freshest: e.g. early in the day, not late night hours.
  3. Edit in a quiet setting: minimal distractions; no music, TV, Internet; mobile on silent.
  4. Take a distance: effective editing requires some distance. Ideally, you may leave 24 hours between writing and editing.
  5. Review hard copy; print it out and read paper-printed text. We tend to ‘skim’ read and jump parts of text on screen.
  6. Mark-up your text: Use a pen (or highlighter) when you read to identify issues.
  7. Focus-edit: Edit for one thing at a time; edit for content, then switch to organisation, then check formation, tone and finally tipos.
  8. Edit for an extended period: you need to have to have a good run at it. Depending on the length of text, it may require an hour or so, not 5 minutes here and there.
  9. Double / Triple check final work: once it’s submitted, that’s it, it’s gone. There were lots of examples when students have failed because they submitted the wrong draft! Don’t let that be you.



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