Hallmarks of a good undergraduate essay

Students often underestimate the amount of work required to write a good essay, which results in two things: 1 late nights at the library, and 2 a disappointing grade. If you want to achieve a good mark, you should start planning your essay the moment you receive the essay question.

Twelve College Essay Examples That Worked

The following table may be a useful aid:. It is also important that you leave time, ideally a couple of days, between finishing your first draft and proofreading. Perfect theories and academic approaches are rare — the clear majority of theories, arguments, and studies have flaws.

Being descriptive is fine if you are looking to scrape a pass, but for a higher grade you need to show that you are able to leverage critical reasoning in your dealing with academic materials. What are the limitations of the theories you are drawing on? How have these been dealt with in the literature?

Did you know your essay makes up 25% of your college application?

How do they impact the quality of arguments presented, and to what extent do they limit our understanding of what you are studying? What alternate explanations might offer additional depth? Critical thinking is what will make your essay stand out. It shows the marker that you are not simply repeating the arguments that have been fed to you throughout your studies, but actually engaging with theories in an academic manner.

10 Characteristics of Successful Students

How you present your argument is nearly as important as the argument itself, which is why it is imperative that your essay follows a logical structure. Each section, paragraph, and sentence should add value to the argument you are presenting.

How does it link to my overarching argument? You should also make sure that all the different parts of your essay fit together as a cohesive and logical whole, and that the transition from one argument to the next is fluid. Students often treat essays as lists of arguments, presenting one after the other with little consideration for how they fit together, which inevitably leads to a lower grade. Make sure to tell your reader why you are transitioning from one argument to the next, why they are in this particular order, and how each argument helps shed light on a particular aspect of what you are discussing.

Writing may be the core task, but reading is equally important.

Characteristics of a Good Teacher

Before you start writing your essay, you should conduct a broad search for relevant literature. Learning how to sift through a large amount of data is an important academic skill. You should start by searching through databases — Google Scholar is a great tool for this — using key words related to your research topic.

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If you are still not a hundred percent sure, it is usually a good idea to skip to the conclusion — this usually contains a detailed summary of the study, which will help determine whether you should read the article as a whole. Once you have identified a few solid articles, you should a go through their bibliographies and take note of who they are citing, as these articles will likely be of value for your own research; and b check on Google Scholar to see who has cited them.

To do this, simply input the name of the article in the search bar and hit enter. You should be particularly careful in using course books i. The hallmarks of a first-class essay are polished style, sound judgement, effective organization, and an argument of substance. A first-class paper often has a special flair, a something extra which distinguishes it from a competent B-plus paper: for example, originality or profundity, a special way with words, exceptionally sound research.


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Do not give first-class marks lightly; they should be reserved for exceptional efforts. Stylistic finesse is another keynote: the title and opening paragraph are engaging; the transitions are artful; the phrasing is tight, fresh, and highly specific. The middle-B essay is typically competent but undistinguished: although basically sound in content, style, and organization, it lacks the stylistic finesse and richness of content characteristic of first- class work.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive and brilliant blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree. The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand whatever it may be. But what does critical evaluation actually look like?


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Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that. The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.


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I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.