At university, essay writing can often feel like a chore.  If you dread this type of assignment, you may wonder why your tutors bother to set essays.  Surely they could think of a more enjoyable way to test your knowledge?  Here are 5 tips to help you assess the purpose of the essay assignment:

  • Writing an essay gives you a reason to read widely about your subject and to engage with it fully.  The marker wants to see that you have read at least some of the material on the reading list and hopefully explored some more books and journals that were not hand-picked for you by the tutor.  This is why it is important to be studying a subject that you enjoy – or that will lead the way to a decent income when you graduate, so that your studies keep your motivation levels high.
  • Essays encourage you to develop critical reading and writing techniques. This means that you question the validity of all the material you read.  Again, in your writing, the tutor will be able to see whether you are capable of doing this.  They will want to see evidence that you have thought about every piece of material and puzzled over the claims made by other writers.  They don’t want you to accept text at face value simply because the author has a PhD!  Analyse it all!
  • Do you understand the topic?  The essay allows you to find out how much you have taken on board and demonstrate this in your writing.  However, the problem is that although some students understand their topic, they don’t take the time to fully interpret the essay questions.  Consider the essay question very carefully.
  • Essay writing helps the tutor to see whether you can communicate clearly or not.  This is a vital skill for the workplace – you will see plenty of job ads that ask for you to have good communication skills.  Develop these skills now.  Focus on spelling, grammar and punctuation.  If you know you are not good at these, ask someone for help with editing or proofreading your work.
  • Get feedback! Your grade and the tutor’s comments tell you how well you have grasped the subject.  You may be doing better than you think!

Depending on your university subject there will be other issues that the marker is looking for, however these 5 essay tips should give you a good start.  Was this helpful?  Let us know if you’re having any particular essay writing issues.  Use the comment box below.