Essay writing

A step-by-step strategy to prepare for, research and write an academic essay.

This section will cover

  1. To outline the method of researching and preparing to write an academic essay.
  2. To outline the elements of an essay.
  3. To identify elements of a body paragraph.

Essay writing

Essays are a widely used form of assessment that is used by lecturers. As a student you will need to demonstrate the ability to create a coherent and logical argument that proves that you understood the course work. Writing an essay can be a difficult task, however this module will equip you with the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully write an essay.

Watch a video on essay writing

Firstly we explore the planning and preparation required to write a standard essay and then outline the basic essay structure.

Analysing a topic/question

  1. First check the meaning of words in the question. Use a dictionary if there are any words that you are unfamiliar with.
  2. Secondly identify and highlight the instructional words. E.g. is the essay asking you to compare, justify, argue, discuss etc. Also underline the key words/ideas that have been used like workplace diversity, communication etc.
  3. Bracket the limiting words e.g. word count.


You will then need to find some research based on the topic which can include text books, journal articles, conference papers etc.

Essay structure


  1. The introduction sets up the essay by presenting background information related to the essay question. The general focus on the introduction will then become more focussed on the essay question.
  2. The introduction is usually one paragraph 15% of total word length (don't get caught up on numbers).
  3. You also be required to devise your argument which is commonly referred to as the thesis statement.
  4. If you are struggling to write the introduction, reword the essay question in your own words.

Organising the body

  1. Each main point that you make needs to be linked back to the introduction and the thesis statement.
  2. There should be one main point in each paragraph: the topic sentence and supporting examples must be centred on the same idea.
  3. The number of points that you make will depend on the word count (1500 words, 4-5 paragraphs).
  4. The order of each point will depend on the importance of each point.

Each paragraph contains

  1. One central idea.
  2. A topic sentence (introduces a new idea) usually short and succinct.
  3. Supporting examples/evidence and references (provide an example)
  4. Paragraphs are usually 7-8 sentences long.
  5. A common approach that is used for academic essays is:
  • Main idea - Is the central idea that is expressed generally.
  • Explanation - The main point is expanded and its meaning is explained.
  • Illustration - The main idea is reinforced by an example or evidence.


The conclusion reaffirms the thesis statement and summarises the key points of the arguments that have presented in the body paragraphs. The conclusion does not introduce any new information. The conclusion finishes by putting the topic in context and suggesting recommendations for further research or a concluding statement.

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