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The essay

Writing a good essay is all about communicating your ideas clearly

While it can be a challenge, it is a learnable skill. It requires you to spend some time planning and thinking about what you are going to write. You need to develop a structure, work out the key ideas that you want to communicate and fine-tune them so that they are presented in the best possible way for your audience to understand.

Before you start writing

Before you begin writing, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Who is my audience? (Your lecturer, other finance experts?)
  2. What is the question being asked of me? (Dissect the question, identify the key words, brainstorm your answer.)
  3. What background reading/research do I need to do to answer the question well?

Then build an essay plan around your key ideas.

See "The Importance of Preplanning" for information on preparing a plan.

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Parts of the essay

Introduction

The introduction is an announcement, it should tell what your assignment is about, the extent of your discussion and the issues that will be included. It states the stance or point of view that you will take and identifies what will be discussed in the main body of your work. It should include an explanation of any terminology that is part of the assignment topic and that needs to be more clearly defined.

Discussion

This should be at least 50% of your total word limit or longer. It should contain all the issues that you have identified and should develop your ideas into a logical argument and analysis. It is the most important part of the essay.

Paragraph 1: General discussion of key point or statement/idea outlined in the introduction.

Paragraph 2: First back-up statement to support key idea plus two or three sentences that provide argument or analysis to support this statement.

Each additional paragraph should follow the pattern set in paragraph 2 and should provide support for your overarching key point.

Conclusion

Your conclusion is not just a summary. It ties together your ideas in the discussion/main body—it is a synthesis of the key points of your argument. There should be no new information included in the conclusion; it should wrap up your thinking on the topic.

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Tips to remember when writing your assignment

1. Demonstrate understanding

Show that you understand the topic by expressing your own ideas in your own words rather than regurgitating exactly what you've researched.

2. Get your thoughts down on paper

If it's difficult to write at first, concentrate on getting your thoughts on paper, rather than worrying too much about the mechanics of grammar and punctuation.

3. Constantly monitor what you write

Constantly check that you are answering the question and sticking to the topic. Is what you've written relevant and meaningful to the question being asked? Don't ramble off the point to create more words. It is better to have a concise and clear piece of work that may be shorter, rather than word padding that means your essay strays from the point. Are you communicating exactly what you need to? Don't use unnecessary words.

4. Get some cohesion and write to develop your argument

An essay is not just a collection of facts—it is information arranged in a way to support your point of view. Link your thoughts according to your main idea. Give the reader some clear paragraph structures to follow. Use headings initially if you need to—you can remove them later on.

5. If it helps, express your ideas out loud first

Read your work with a critical eye. One great help is to read your work out loud to yourself. You may also want to ask a friend to read your work.

6. Review, critique, revise, check

Even the greatest writers would never submit a first draft. If you've got time, take a break and leave your essay for a couple of days and then go back to it. Be critical of your own work—are there important points that you haven't included but should have? Is it cohesive and could the reader clearly follow your arguments? Is it readable—does it communicate your ideas well to the reader? Does the content of the introduction, main discussion and conclusion conform to the guidelines outlined above?

Do some revision, rewrite and add in new material if you need to. Refine some of your sentences to make the communication clearer. Check that your grammar and punctuation are accurate. Ensure there is no plagiarism and that your referencing is correct. Is the essay clearly presented and formatted according to the departmental guidelines?

Most importantly, does the essay make the best possible job of addressing the topic and answering the question?

Get more advice and tips on how to write a great essay or report.

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