How to write an essay on coronavirus (COVID-19)
(Last updated: 10 November 2021)
With the coronavirus pandemic affecting every aspect of our lives for the last 18 months, it is no surprise that it has become a common topic in academic assignments. Writing a COVID-19 essay can be challenging, whether you're studying biology, philosophy, or any course in between.
Your first question might be, how would an essay about a pandemic be any different from a typical academic essay? Well, the answer is that in many ways it is largely similar. The key difference, however, is that this pandemic is much more current than usual academic topics. That means that it may be difficult to rely on past research to demonstrate your argument! As a result, COVID-19 essay writing needs to balance theories of past scholars with very current data (that is constantly changing).
In this post, we are going to give you our top tips on how to write a coronavirus academic essay, so that you are able to approach your writing with confidence and produce a great piece of work.
1. Do background reading
Critical reading is an essential component for any essay, but the question is – what should you be reading for a coronavirus essay? It might seem like a silly question, but the choices that you make during the reading process may determine how well you actually do on the paper. Therefore, we recommend the following steps.
First, read (and re-read) the assignment prompt that you have been given by the instructor. If you write an excellent essay, but it is off topic, you’ll likely be marked down. Make notes on the words that explain what is being asked of you – perhaps the essay asks you to “analyse”, “describe”, “list”, or “evaluate”. Make sure that these same words actually appear in your paper.
Second, look for specific things you have been instructed to do. This might include using themes from your textbook or incorporating assigned readings. Make a note of these things and read them first. Remember to take good notes while you read.
Once you have done your course readings, the question then becomes: what types of external readings are you going to need? Typically, at this point, you are going to be left with newspapers/websites, and a few scholarly articles (books on coronavirus might not be readily available at this stage, but could still be useful!). If it is a research essay, you are likely going to need to rely on a variety of sources as you work through this assignment. This might seem different than other academic writing where you would typically focus on only peer-reviewed articles or books. With coronavirus essays, there is a need for a more diverse set of sources, including;
Newspaper articles and websites
Just like with academic articles, not all newspaper articles and/or websites are created equal. Further, there are likely to be a variety of different statistics released, as the way that countries calculate coronavirus cases, deaths, and other components of the virus are not always the same.
Try to pick sources that are reputable. This might be reports done by key governmental organisations or even the World Health Organisation. If you are reading through an article and can identify obvious areas of bias, you may need to find alternate readings for your paper.
You may be surprised to discover the variety of articles published so far on COVID-19 - a lot can be achieved over multiple lockdowns! The research that has been done has been fairly extensive, covering a broad range of topics. Therefore, when preparing to write your academic essay, make sure to check the literature frequently as new publications are being released all the time.
If you do a search and you cannot find anything on the coronavirus specifically, you will have to widen your search. Think about the topic more widely. Are there theories that you have learned about in your classes that you can link to academic articles? Surely the answer must be yes! Just because there is limited research on this topic does not mean that you should avoid academic articles all together. Relying solely on websites or newspapers can lead you to a biased piece of writing, which usually is not what an academic essay is all about.
2. Plan your essay
Taking the time to brainstorm out your ideas can be the first step in a super successful essay. Brainstorming does not have to take a lot of time, and can be done in about 20 minutes if you have already done some background reading on the topic.
First, figure out how many points you need to identify. Each point is likely to equate to one paragraph of your paper, so if you are writing a 1500-word essay (and you use 300 words for the introduction and conclusion) you will be left with 1200 words, which means you will need between 5-6 paragraphs (and 5-6 points).
Start with a blank piece of paper. In the middle of the paper write the question or statement that you are trying to answer. From there, draw 5 or 6 lines out from the centre. At the end of each of these lines will be a point you want to address in your essay. From here, write down any additional ideas that you have.
It might look messy, but that’s OK! This is just the first step in the process and an opportunity for you to get your ideas down on paper. From this messiness, you can easily start to form a logical and linear outline that will soon become the template for your essay.
Creating an outline
Once you have a completed brainstorm, the next step is to put your ideas into a logical format The first step in this process is usually to write out a rough draft of the argument you are attempting to make. In doing this, you are then able to see how your subsequent paragraphs are addressing this topic (and if they are not addressing the topic, now is the time to change this!).
Once you have a position/argument/thesis statement, create space for your body paragraphs, but numbering each section. Then, write a rough draft of the topic sentence that you think will fit well in that section. Once you have done this, pull up the coronavirus articles, data, and other reports that you have read. Determine where each will fit best in your paper (and exclude the ones that do not fit well). Put a citation of the document in each paragraph section (this will make it easier to construct your reference list at the end).
Once every paragraph is organised, double check to make sure they are all still on track to address your main thesis. At this point you are ready to write an excellent and well-organised COVID-19 essay!
3. Structure your paragraphs
When structuring an academic essay on COVID-19, there will be a need to balance the news, evidence from academic articles, and course theory. This adds an extra layer of complexity because there are just so many things to juggle.
One strategy that can be helpful is to structure all your paragraphs in the same way. Now, you might be thinking, how boring! In reality, it is likely that the reader will appreciate the fact that you have carefully thought out your process and how you are going to approach this essay.
How to design your essay paragraphs
- Create a topic sentence. A topic sentence is a sentence that presents the main idea for the paragraph. Usually it links back to your thesis, argument, or position.
- Start to introduce your evidence. Use the next sentence in your introduction as a bridge between the topic sentence and the evidence/data you are going to present.
- Add evidence. Take 2-4 sentences to give the reader some good information that supports your topic sentence. This can be statistics, details from an empirical study, information from a news article, or some other form of information.
- Give some critical thought. It is essential to make a connection for the reader between your evidence and your topic sentence. Tell the reader why the information you have presented is important.
- Provide a concluding sentence. Make sure you wrap up your argument or transition to the next one.
4. Write your essay
Keep it academic
There is a lot of information available about the coronavirus, but because much of it is coming from newspaper articles, the evidence that you might use for your paper can be skewed. In order to keep your paper academic, it is best to maintain a professional and academic style.
Present statistics from reputable sources (like the World Health Organisation), rather than those that have been selected by third parties. Furthermore, if you are writing a COVID-19 essay that is about a specific region (e.g. the United Kingdom), make sure that your statistics and evidence also come from this region.
Use up-to-date sources
The information on coronavirus is constantly changing. By now, everyone has seen the exponential curve of cases reoccurring all over the world at different times. Therefore, what was true last month may not necessarily be the case now. This can be challenging when you are planning an essay, because your outline from a previous week may need to be modified.
There are a number of ways you can address this. One way is, obviously, to continue going back and refreshing the data. Another way, which can be equally useful, is to outline the scope of the problem in your paper, writing something like, “data on COVID-19 is constantly changing, but the data presented was accurate at the time of writing”.
Avoid personal bias or opinion (unless asked!)
Everybody has an opinion – this opinion can often relate to how you or your family members have been affected by the pandemic (and the government response to this). People have lost jobs, have had to avoid family/friends, or have lost someone as a result of this pandemic. Life, for many, is very different.
While all of this is extremely important, it may not necessarily be relevant for an academic essay. One of the more challenging components of this type of academic paper is to try and remove yourself from the evidence you are providing. Now… there are exceptions. If you are writing a COVID-19 reflective essay, then it is your responsibility to include your opinion; otherwise, do your best to remain objective.
Avoid personal pronouns
Along the same lines as avoiding bias, it is also a good idea to avoid personal pronouns in your academic essay (except in a reflection, of course). This means avoiding words like “I, we, our, my”. While you may agree (or disagree) with the sentiment you are presenting, try and present your information from a distanced perspective.
Finally (and this is true of any essay), make sure that you take the time to proofread your essay carefully. Is it free from spelling errors? Have you checked the grammar? Have you made sure that your references are correct and in order? Have you carefully reviewed the submission requirements of your instructor (e.g. font, margins, spacing, etc.)? If the answer is yes, it sounds as if you are finally ready to submit your essay.
Writing an essay is not easy. Writing an essay on a pandemic while living in that same pandemic is even more difficult.
A good essay is appropriately structured with a clear purpose and is presented according to the recommended guidelines. Unless it is a personal reflection, it attempts to present information as if it were free from bias.
So before you start to panic about having to write an essay about a pandemic, take a breath. You can do this. Take all the same steps as you would in a conventional academic essay, but expand your search to include relevant and up-to-date information that you know will make your essay a success. Once you have done this, make sure to have your university writing centre or an academic at Oxbridge Essays check it over and make suggestions! Now, stop reading and get writing! Good luck.