Essay writing instructions
1. Answer the question.
Ensure you understand what the question you have chosen to answer is actually asking. Read it carefully.
2. An essay must have an argument.
This is linked to ‘Answer the question’. Consider two or more potential responses to the question, and say which you agree with and why. Your argument must be supported by the evidence that you have taken from the reading (in the form of accounts of events, or arguments put forward in the literature).
3. An essay must have a structure.
Lead the reader through your argument and your exploration of the question. The question often suggests a structure: if it asks you to consider advantages and disadvantages, devote around half of the essay to advantages and half to disadvantages.
4. Paragraphs must be structured and each paragraph should make only one main point.
Each paragraph should also include referenced evidence to support the point it makes, and must be explicitly linked to the question so that the reader can easily see how it is relevant to the question. If your paragraph is more than one page long (even if it is double line spaced) it makes more than one point. Every paragraph between the introduction and conclusion consists of one main point, referenced evidence and analysis, applying that evidence and analysis to the question.
5. A conclusion is a summary of your argument.
The conclusion should summarise what has already been said, not introduce new evidence (including quotes). An essay’s conclusion should be one paragraph.
6. Use the referencing guides provided on Blackboard to help with the presentation of your references and bibliography.
7. An essay is an exercise in formal writing.
As a result, avoid contractions like ‘don’t’, and ‘&’. If you use an abbreviation like NATO spell it out at the first reference like this: ‘…North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)…’
8. Look at the grade descriptors on BlackBoard for guidance. Your essays will be judged against these descriptors.
9. Work must be double line spaced in 12 point Times New Roman.
10. You do not need a cover page for an essay. Just put the essay question and your student ID at the top of the first page.
11. You do not need sub-headings for an essay. You should be able to successfully indicate a change in topic within the paragraphs themselves.
12. Quotes put within a paragraph are contained within single quotation marks (‘) not double (“). They should not be put in italics unless they are in italics in the original source.
13. Long quotes, by which we mean quotes of 30 words or more, should be separated out from the main text, indented on every line, and be free from quotation marks.
14. If using footnotes, each footnote comes after a punctuation mark such as a comma or full stop, not before that punctuation mark. References never come within quotation marks as they are not part of the quote.
15. An essay introduction is one paragraph. It introduces the topic, the essay’s structure and the essay’s argument. If required by the question, it will also define key term(s).
16. Finally, avoid using footnotes for explanatory text. Either the content of that note is important and should therefore be in the main part of the essay, or it is not needed and can, therefore, be left out altogether.
Essay writing instructions