1. Misreading the question. Disregard for the precise wording of the question, or poor comprehension of its meaning, can waste hours of work. Avoid this occasional but catastrophic slip by making a habit of breaking down and studying the question before you begin.
2. Beginning too late. There is nothing worse than a desperate rush to meet a deadline, especially if hours of good research are to be squandered through poor execution. Plan your time in advance and save yourself from the horror.
3. Beginning too early. A less obvious mistake, but a serious one if the temptation to make a head start compromises the thoroughness of your research. A shallow essay will not earn you a satisfactory mark.
4. Inadequate research. Following on from the previous tip, you should recognise also that even if you spend plenty of time in research and background reading, this can be far from useful if the research is superficial. Really try to engage with the texts, or risk limiting the mark you can achieve.
5. Incoherence. A poorly structured essay will fundamentally limit the value of the piece. No matter how many bright ideas are poured in, they will not be given the recognition they deserve. Bad structure disrupts the flow of arguments and discussions and makes the essay a chore to read.
6. Too few sources. There is no natural law determining the number of sources required for an essay of a given length; it is something you must develop a feel for. If your ideas are exhausted after two paragraphs, you should have done more reading before you started.
7. Scholarly clangers. Have you been referring to Dr Bloggs as ‘he’, only to discover having submitted the essay that ‘he’ is a ‘she’? Very embarrassing in a module on Feminism & Academia. Avoid such calamities by adopting an attitude of diligence and care in all things.
8. Over-reliance on the web. We have become used to quick answers to factual questions through internet search, but the lack of depth in much of the material on the web makes it often unsuitable for academic work. Authoritative texts and peer-reviewed journals carry that much more credibility.
9. Striking the wrong note. Tone is an aspect of language important enough to be given its own consideration. In academic work, choose formality over-familiarity. Be mindful of your place in the scheme of things; assurance is better than timidity, but make sure you have the credentials to keep confidence from being seen as bravado.
10.Plagiarism. The biggest mistake of them all. All universities take a very dim view of plagiarism, to say the least. Quite apart from deliberate plagiarism, be certain also to avoid inadequate referencing and poor paraphrasing.