AT UNIVERSITY, YOU get marks for the following elements of your assignment:

  • Answering the question
  • Structure
  • Style and language
  • References
  • Research and analysis
  • Formatting and presentation

These elements are not listed in any order of importance. They are all equally important and every single one of them will earn you points – which all add up and amount to high grades. I will briefly explain each element.

1. Answering the Question

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Despite the fact that this sounds obvious, everything you write in your assignment must be done with a sole purpose – answering the question. You have to make it relevant and informative. You must have evidence to back up your claims. The way you answer the question must be logical and coherent. Moreover, you must explain how each paragraph is related to the question or the topic of your assignment.

2. Structure

This is the ‘formula’, according to which you write your essay, research report or dissertation. It is a special way of organising your writing to make it flow coherently from the introduction to the conclusion. The majority of the chapters in this book deal with the building blocks of academic work – introduction, previous research, methodology, analysis, discussion and conclusion. In subsequent chapters, I will describe each of these, telling you what they consist of and how they should be written to make your academic writing more effective.

3. Style and Language

At university you are expected to write your assignments in ‘proper English’. To do this you will need to know the difference between spoken and written language, how to write in appropriate academic style and avoid basic mistakes that make your essay look less professional. You will also need to learn to think and write like an academic.

This, however, does not mean you need to use big words and complicated sentences. Your writing can be plain and simple, and yet very impressive.

4. References

The basic principle of referencing is as follows:

If you write about an idea that you did not come up with yourself, but which was taken from someone else’s book or article, you have to give credit to that person and write their name next to the idea.

Referencing is all about respecting the work of others and not stealing someone else’s thoughts. You can find a wide range of referencing guides from various universities on this page.

5. Research and Analysis

This differs from subject to subject – so, there is a limit to how much I can help you with this. However, my own experience has taught me that the more you read on your subject, the deeper you will be able to think. When you absorb other people’s ideas, you generate ideas of your own.

However, there is one vital aspect of deep analysis: being critical.

This means not believing the first source you read. Read different authors and examine their views on the subject. Are they similar or different? Moreover, how similar are their data and research methods to those you used? It also means acknowledging the limitations of your research. The theory you are using is not the only one; your data are never representative enough, and your method is not the only correct one either! You can read more about acknowledging your limitations in this article.

6. Formatting and Presentation

If you invited your guests to dinner, you wouldn’t serve them food on dirty plates.

The same applies to your essay. As your lecturer reads your work, sloppy formatting can be as insulting as a coffee stain across the page. Moreover, formatting usually constitutes five per cent of your mark, so a well-formatted and professionally presented essay can make a difference between a 2:1 and a first!

Make fonts uniform, leave wide margins, double-space your lines and add a conservative cover page – all of this is important.

P.S. This article is based on Vlad Mackevic’s book From Confusion to Conclusion: How to Write a First-Class Essay. You can download sample chapters of the book for FREE by clicking here or by entering your email address below.

The book can also be purchased on Amazon.co.uk in paperback and Kindle eBook formats. If you do not own a Kindle reader, Amazon provides a range of FREE applications for your computer, Smartphone or Tablet.

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