University essay writing tips: How to get better at essay writing

University essay writing tips: How to get better at essay writing

Writing an essay can be overwhelming and stressful. There’s a lot of pressure to get top grades, and many of your university classes’ final grade will be exclusively based on the essays you have written. But no need to panic! We have written out the top tips you need to know to guarantee a stellar essay. No stress needed.

Essay writing tips by academics to succeed this term

We know that writing your first essays at university level can become a cause for anxiety as you are suddenly instructed to write in a way you may have never done before. Lecturers expect you to understand the task, research the topic, evaluate the material and construct a convincing argument. So, we have put together 10 essay tips that will help you excel!

1. Read the question of your essay carefully.

It’s important to make sure you really, fully and completely understand your thesis. You should feel comfortable moving forward, so if you have a list to choose from, make sure you have chosen wisely. Know what knowledge you have and be honest with yourself. Your choice could determine how much time you spend on it and what grade you may get. So before even writing one word, make sure you have a clear and concise idea of what you will write to answer your thesis.

2. Plan your time

Whilst some people may work well under pressure, many do not and leaving your essays until the very last minute may make you panic or bury your head in the sand. Lay the foundations for a good start by making a note of all your deadlines and staggering the times you allot to each essay at the very beginning of term. Leave a couple of days (or at least hours) before your deadline so you have time to check your essays before you submit them.

3. Summarise your answer in one paragraph.

One way to guarantee you have a good grasp on your thesis is to summarize it. Make sure you organize your thoughts, advises the article Essay Tips: 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay. First to yourself, and then if possible to a classmate, your professor or a tutor. They will be able to check if you have understood your thesis and that you are heading in the right direction. It will also help you see how comfortable you are summarizing it. The last thing you would want is to write an essay that doesn’t properly target the thesis, as you can be heavily penalized for this. Also, once you start writing your essay, it’s difficult to change course. Which means if you start in the wrong direction, and realise it before handing it in, you may have to start over. Which would really be a pain.

4. Answer the question

Similar to exams, there can be a discrepancy between the question you would like to answer and the question that you have to answer. It is important that you read the essay question carefully and understand what you are asked. If you are unsure, make sure to ask your lecturer or tutor since answering the question is crucial to getting a good grade.

5. Brainstorm

Sometimes you may experience writer’s block. A good way to counter that is to brainstorm ideas in relation to the essay title as you think of potential readings, your structure, and start formulating the argument you may make. Brainstorming can take place in many ways and there is no one way to do it right. Be it mind maps or post-it notes, find out what works for you.

6. Make notes while reading

Some students prefer to read all their readings and then go back to them whilst writing their essays. As lecturers expect you to reference from a wide range of sources it becomes increasingly difficult to remember which author said what. It can, therefore, be useful to highlight important parts of the text as well as make notes that clearly indicate where you got each quote or thought from to save time.

7. Write a clear argument

Now that you have understood the question, brainstormed and read, you need to formulate a strong argument and extract sufficient evidence to make your case. Ensure that your argument is clear to the reader and indicate how you will make your case by outlining your structure in the introduction. Then follow this structure to keep yourself on track and allow the reader to follow what you are saying. Make sure that each component of your structure is relevant to your argument, which must clearly answer the set question.

8. Structure your essays

Ensure that you have an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. These are the three essential building blocks for your essay. Your introduction will introduce the reader to the topic, clarify any definitions and state your argument and structure. The conclusion sums up your main points and reiterates the argument you stated in the beginning. It is in your body that you expand your argument and provide the evidence that supports it in a clear, coherent and compelling manner.

9. Technical skills. Refine your tone, grammar, and vocabulary.

All of these skills will allow your essay to be easily read. Having a solid vocabulary, no grammatical mistakes, and an elegant tone will allow your readers to enjoy what they are reading, stay engaged and therefore have more facility in understanding the quality of your arguments. “You may not consciously realise it when you’re reading, but sophisticated sentence structures make the world of difference to how intelligent you sound”, states the Royal Oxford Academy, in its guide How to Write Better Essays: 5 Practical Tips. As I’ve mentioned earlier, your main goal throughout is to write as clearly and concisely as possible, so as to make sure your reader can follow your complex arguments. That is the point of writing an essay. Demonstrating that you have researched a topic and can clearly lay out your reasoning and proof with a high calibre of English.

10. Synthesise

The term ‘synthesise’ has caused much confusion as students are expected to do it but often have no idea what it means. To synthesise means to break ideas down, discussing them and adding your own analysis in order to support your argument. It is not about simply describing what you have read but adding your own interpretations of the evidence presented and being able to demonstrate in a concise manner that you understand what the authors are arguing. Be critical of the material you read, which can often be conflicting, and assess which points are most convincing to you.

11. Reference whilst writing

Even though some students prefer to keep the referencing until last, we recommend you make a note of the author, year and page number after each piece of evidence you present from the very beginning. This should be easy, as you will have linked ideas to authors in your notes already. If you try to link up evidence and authors at the very end, you can waste a lot of time by having to through every reading again to see what the different authors said.

12. Edit

As mentioned earlier, it is useful to leave enough time for you to go away from your essay for a few days (or hours if time is tight), so you can give it a final edit with fresh eyes. Check for spelling and grammar mistakes, confirm your argument makes sense and is supported, and ensure each of your paragraphs each has a topic sentence that introduces it and leads on logically from the previous one. Also make sure you have stuck to the word limit provided.

13. Make sure you repeat yourself.

Don’t underestimate the importance of being clear. Keep in mind that the person who will be reading and grading your paper will not have the same knowledge of your work and research as you. Make sure you start and end your essay, and each paragraph, strong. Keep in mind that each first and last line of each paragraph must be clear, concise and connect to the last idea you mentioned. In other words, you are the guide and must lead your reader at each step, making sure as you go along that each idea connects to the next and that there is no jump in though.

14. Present your essays in a professional manner

The way you present your essay will give the marker a first impression. Therefore, check the style guide or, if still in doubt, use double spacing and a classic 12 point Times New Roman or Arial font. Number each page and ensure you used the correct referencing system. Also do not forget to include the essay title and your student ID number on the first page if marking is not anonymous.
 

University essay writing tips for topic & end sentences

We asked Jan, one of our top university tutors, about her experience providing essay tutoring and dissertation guidance for undergraduate and postgraduate students. In this blog posts, she gives her top essay writing tips on topic and end sentences.

To assess my students’ true understanding of essay writing skills, I always first ask them whether they know the purpose of topic and end sentences. This is because topic and end sentences are the alpha and omega of a perfect paragraph and indicate logical thinking and sound structure.

In response, I am often met with blank stares and stutters as the meaning of these key sentences remains largely elusive – despite the supposed teaching and re-teaching of this concept in GCSE and A-levels. Many have never been taught HOW to write substantiated, logical and linking paragraphs in an essay. Therefore, I hope that the essay writing tips that follow help students write better and more coherent paragraphs.

Explaining topic and end sentences

It is important that you now that topic sentences will make or break your paragraphs. They are the first unifying sentence, introducing the argument you will discuss in the paragraph body. The rest of the paragraph then uses whatever points necessary to substantiate your argument sentence before concluding with an ‘end sentence’.

The ‘end sentence’ restates the ideas you introduced with your topic sentence, serving as the concluding statement of your paragraph. This repetition might seem unnecessary to the amateur writer, however, it is key as it allows the reader to follow your thoughts. This is particularly important if your ideas are complex, which academic ones often are. The topic and end sentences, therefore, sandwich the content in between themselves and guide the reader.

Great writers who receive great grades are those who also use the ‘end sentence’ as a connecter to the next paragraph’s topic sentence. You should note that there will be some (few) instances when you might delay your topic sentence until a couple of lines into your paragraph. The reason for this is that you may want to first introduce a relevant hook for your reader, hoping to keep them more interested in reading on. Nonetheless, this is a more difficult tactic and you should first master the classic sandwich model as it is KEY to great academic writing.

For example:

For my family, Christmas is undoubtedly an important holiday. (This is the topic sentence that introduces your argument.) With busy schedules and commitments, it is often the only time that we all get together, making it a very special time of the year. On Christmas day, we usually begin with opening presents, unable to contain the children’s excitement. Everyone then lends a helping hand with Christmas lunch before we feast on a meal that lasts for days. We eat and we drink, laugh and play, making the most of this family time. It is these quality hours spent together that makes this holiday so special and important. (This last end sentence comes full circle repeating the argument of the topic sentence.)

How comprehensive essay writing workshops for university students can boost grades for life

At Über Tutors, we see everyday how students are unprepared for what awaits them at university. That’s why we introduced comprehensive essay writing workshops, so as many students as possible can learn this important skill once and for all. Many students have already worked with our academic tutors who provide essay writing crash courses and detailed feedback editorial of essays, dissertations and other assignments. With our students improving their grades by up to 30%, we wanted to ensure that more students learn about what key requirements, formulas and style are needed for a stand out academic paper. Hence, we introduced our comprehensive essay writing workshops for undergraduate and masters students.

So, how do our essay writing workshops work?

Our essay writing workshops are led by our top university level tutors who have taught at university. To ensure maximum success for all students attending, we keep our essay writing workshops as small as possible, and invite no more than 5-7 students at a time. First, we begin by introducing the foundational formula of essay writing, sharing our top tips in thesis development, and essay structure. We also emphasise the importance of topic and end sentences, which are key to a well-structured assignment. We realise every session just how many knowledge gaps our essay writing workshops fill as we revise both foundational requirements and give more advanced tips as well.

The second half of our essay writing workshops is practical and gives attendees a chance to put what they have learned into practice. We ask them to revisit an old essay and see if they had applied what was taught beforehand. For many, this is the first time the switch is turned on! They understand where they have been going wrong and what they need to fix. Next, we ask students to start working on an upcoming essay and ask them to formulate a three-point thesis, write an introduction or restructure a paragraph. Our academic tutors then spend time with each student one-on-one. This is key to ensure that students are properly applying taught material and feel confident to tackle their upcoming deadlines. It also gives students a chance to experience the difference private tutoring at university level can make, seriously boosting skills, grades and confidence.

Are these workshops beneficial?

Of course we think that our workshops are super beneficial, however, we realise this may come across biased!  So, we have included one of the many positive testimonials we received in the past:

“Very helpful workshop! Helped me to understand the aim of writing essays and how to structure them. All was very clearly explained and help with individual essays at the end enabled me to put into practice what I’d learned. There was also a friendly atmosphere. Thank you!”

Essay tutoring and dissertation guidance

We perfected university essay tutoring and dissertation guidance in response to the difficulties many university students face when writing academic assignments. So, read on to find out why academic tutoring is important and what it entails – Read and share with friends!

Why academic tutoring is important

Academic writing skills are amongst the most vital skills for success in your university education. However, you may have noticed that your university does not offer the lessons and one-on-one attention it takes to teach you these essential skills. With heavy weighting of dissertations and essays, this can be particularly scary. That’s why our essay tutoring and dissertation guidance can help you develop the skills you need to write with success.

Why we are not an essay writing service (and never will be)

Recently, there has been a lot of reporting on so-called essay mills. An essay mills is an essay writing service that allows university students to commission an original piece of writing and submit it as their own. In January, for example, The Telegraph reported that more than 20,000 university students buy custom-written essays and dissertations every year. More than a third were enrolled at Russell Group and Oxbridge universities. Similarly, The Guardian investigated the issue in this article and illustrated just how easy it is to order a personalised essay. The problem with these bespoke essays is that anti-plagiarism systems cannot detect them, making it difficult to detect this kind of academic fraud.

In light of these reports, we would like to explain our essay and dissertation guidance in more detail. First, it is important to clarify that we are not an essay writing service and never will be. As a team of academics ourselves, we strictly abide by universities’ plagiarism policies. Therefore, we have made it clear on our website and reiterate here that we never write our students’ essays and have turned away many who have asked us to. Having someone else write your essay and handing it in as your own is always academic plagiarism and we want to play no part in that.

What our university essay writing tutoring entails

Our essay tutoring and dissertation guidance entails three services: (1) Academic writing tutoring, (2) academic editorial and feedback, and (3) proofreading. Below we explain each service in a little more detail and tell you how to get in touch.

1. Academic writing tutoring

Our academic writing tutoring equips you with the skills to put our top essay tips and dissertation do’s and don’ts into practice. We teach you how to structure your essay or dissertation, and formulate a strong argument. Additionally, we explain how to synthesise your thoughts, i.e. to break down your ideas and discuss them, and add strong and critical analysis.
 
2. Academic feedback editorial by an expert in your studies

Once you start writing, we offer detailed feedback editorials to help you improve. If need be, you can meet up with your tutor again or speak on Skype if you need a little extra guidance.
 
3. Proofreading to check spelling and grammar

Lastly, we also proofread academic assignments to ensure that there are no spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes. This way you can learn from your mistakes and ensure you don’t make them again.

Your next step? Contact us

As a result of our tutoring, our students increase their grades by up to 30%. This not only makes a serious difference to their grades but also sees their confidence soar as our academic tutoring helps students write great essays and dissertations. If you would like to boost your grades, contact us today at info@ubertutors.co.uk or 02030867311 and we’ll tailor a programme to your needs and budget.

Interested in finding out more about our Private Tutoring process?