1. Focus. A solid 2.1 grade requires the ability to keep on topic and make all of the text of your essay ultimately relevant to the question. Context and background information is often an important part of academic writing, but should not be detailed at the expense of focus. Limit even the most interesting digressions.

2. Reading and research. All areas of academic proficiency depend on a sound understanding and first-hand knowledge of the literature relevant to your subject. You should read widely and demonstrate the breadth of your engagement through appropriate referencing in your essay.

3. Supporting material. Following directly on from the last tip, this point is just as important. A competent 2.1 essay must demonstrate not only wide outside reading but a strong ability to interpret and use the relevant literature for your own purposes.

4. Structure. Clarity of expression depends on the proper flow and progression of ideas through your essay. For a good mark, make use of proper structure in two ways: to guide the reader, and to organise your own thoughts. An introduction, purposeful body paragraphs, and a strong conclusion.

5. Argument and analysis. For a good 2.1 mark, all arguments that you put forward should be robust and well thought out. You should demonstrate your critical skills in analysing relevant sources, and show how far you can develop convincing arguments.

6. Language. You must reduce considerably the effects of minor slips in spelling and punctuation. Poor grammar in the construction of sentences should be seen as a potential source of obscurity and suitably amended. Use formal language and appropriate vocabulary.

7. Thesis. Certain types of work require an emphasis on review or discussion, but where arguments and critical thinking are expected, try to develop a persuasive overall thesis in your essay.

8. Academic conventions. To achieve your 2.1 mark, demonstrate your knowledge of the proper usage of title pages, bibliographies and appendices. Compared to the substantial element of writing, this should be easy.

9. Referencing. As with other academic conventions, the correct use of referencing not only increases intelligibility but signals to the reader your care and diligence. Use an appropriate system consistently.

10. Independence of thought. Solid and robust critique is essential for a good 2.1 grade, and part of this strength will come from your unique perspective. Don’t just repeat criticism from secondary literature, use your own mind.

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