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Article – I’ve been tasked to write an essay – How do I do that?

Writing well is an essential skill which requires constant practice to develop competence. As many people have a less than positive attitude toward writing, the following article provides a starting point for the construction of an essay.

I have to pray? P.R.A.Y.

A recent study[1] has shown that writers’ attitudes toward writing will influence and determine the quality of writing. As a result, the best advice is to PRAY.

P – stay Positive. The attitude taken towards writing is often reflected in the quality of writing produced. To avoid incoherent text, poor word choice and other errors, it is important to approach the essay with the mindset that this is your opportunity to reach a wider audience with your great ideas.

RResearch. To inform your writing, you will need to gather information from a variety of reputable sources; read newspapers, journals, magazines and online material about the topic. Keeping a record of sources will enable correct referencing and expedite the creation of a bibliography for your essay.

AAnalyse, think and plan. To ensure that your essay has a logical and cohesive structure and consistency of argument, an essay plan is essential. Thorough planning will help you avoid common mistakes such as trying to write too much, or unintentionally contradicting your own argument.

YYou must write. No one else is going to write your essay. You must write it. Starting well in advance of the due date allows you to review your work and seek feedback from others.

Structure – Paragraphs of STEELST.E.E.L.

Only a well-structured essay is able to achieve its intent. At the text level, an essay requires an introduction and conclusion to support the body paragraphs that communicate your main ideas. As the quality of an essay will often rest in its body paragraphs, it is important they clearly detail ideas in a logical format. One way to craft paragraphs is to use the STEEL structure.

STStatement. A paragraph begins with a topic sentence, a concise statement that introduces the concepts or ideas to be discussed.

EExplain. Following the topic sentence, the initial part of the paragraph should explain and expand upon its topic.

EEvidence. To strengthen your argument, it is important to use evidence and examples to illustrate your point. While it can be tempting to use direct quotes, best practice is to paraphrase and cite appropriately to avoid disruption to the flow of your writing.

LLink. The last sentence in a paragraph should reinforce your paragraph’s intent and where possible, subtly link to the next idea. This can be a difficult skill to master, but aids the overall cohesion of your essay.

Finally finished! Now what?

While you may feel that all the hard work is done once you have written the final word, dedicating some time to comprehensively review and revise your essay will enhance its overall quality. While a quick punctuation and grammar check will help, research[2] indicates that reviewing the text for meaning, at a conceptual level (its organisation, cohesiveness and strength of arguments), will yield greater benefit.

However, this conceptual review is recognised as a difficult skill[3] , often only employed by experienced and accomplished writers. Therefore, it is best practice to seek assistance and request feedback from a respected source. Education Officers at your local Education Wing are available to read and discuss your writing, provide feedback and assist you in the revising process.

Writing an essay is not designed to be an easy task. However, through applying yourself in the research, planning, writing and revising process, you have the opportunity not only to learn, but to effectively communicate your ideas to a wider audience.

 

[1] Sanders-Reio J, Alexander P, Rieo T and Newman I 2014, “Do students’ beliefs about writing relate to their writing self-efficacy, apprehension and performance?”, Journal of Learning and Instruction vol. 33

[2] Bruning R, Schraw G and Norby M, 2011, Cognitive Psychology and Instruction, Pearson, Boston USA

[3] McCutchen, D 2006, Cognitive factors in the development of children’s writing. In C. MacArthur, S. Graham & J. Fitzgerald (Eds.), Handbook of writing research (pp. 115-130). New York: The Guilford Press.


About the authors:
This article was produced by a team of dedicated educators from the Education Wing at the Land Warfare Centre. Education Wing is available to support individual and unit educational needs – just contact them through the DRN.

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