Essays, Dissertation and Reports

Remember, the clues for what the lecturers want to see are in the module handbook, other student guidance booklets, lecture content and comments that the lecturers make.  Try to work out which ideas/information are relevant to the work, check with your tutor, Buddy, Post Graduate Mentor or Study Adviser then read the relevant  chapters / sections of books and articles to get the information you need for the essay or report.

Planning essays can be difficult. 

Step 1 Analyse the question:

Highlight the key subject words or phrases and the instruction words.  This will help you to accurately decide what you are supposed to do. 

IF you are not sure what is needed ASK; email the lecturer or module convenor and ask if you can check with them about what the essay should include.

Dissertation:  By the time you are doing a Dissertation you will have had a lot of practice writing essays.  However, this is a large piece of work.   A tip to help you keep all the writing focussed on the theme.  In 2 sentences summaries the theme of the dissertation.  when you are writing, keep referring back to these 2 sentences.   Check that what you are saying, the information you are using is relevant to theme in the sentences. This helps with longer essays too.

Step 2 Collect Information and Plan the essay

Your lecture notes and seminar / tutorial discussions will have clues about the structure of the essay.  Use this information to draft an essay plan.  This can be done in different ways. 

Some people use different coloured paper, post-its and pens for doing different sections, some use spider diagrams / mental maps to help them organise what they want to write. 

Other people find that making a list of headings and sub-headings helps.  Some do a list of questions they need to answer to understand the essay title or question. 

Step 3 Read the set texts and others that seem to be useful for the essay. 

Remember to write down everything you need for Referencing the books and articles you use.  (Check the 'style guide' for the subject and module.  Ask for help if you are not sure exactly how to reference something.) Make notes on the information that seems to relate to the essay question as you go along.  Keep checking with the essay question and the plan that your reading is useful as well as interesting.

Be Aware:  People with AS can get caught up reading something very interesting but not relevant.  Warn your lecturer, mentor or study adviser about this and ask them to help you keep this under control!

Step 4  Writing the essay.

Keep checking the style guide for referencing the material in the body of the essay.

Capture your ideas and thoughts in writing.

Proof read for grammar, punctuation and spelling.

Ask another person to read it.  this is because people might think they have explained something clearly, but, another person reading the essay might not agree. 

Help is available through your dept and the student study support services.  Other students ask each other and might show each other their work; if you cannot do this, ask the tutor if they can show you a good example.  

Feedback sheets are usually filled in for each essay/report that you do.  Use the comments and ask the lecturers for clarification and examples of what they mean to help you improve your marks. 



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