Essay Writing Class                                                                                                     Jonathan Wolff


Before starting work on any question you should read through the paper carefully and pay particular attention to whether any of your topics have been raised in an unusual way.

 It is easy to miss this in an attempt to get started.


Before writing your answer you should make a plan - one point in the plan for every paragraph in the essay. Some people work better by making three plans before writing any

answers and then start on the strongest plan. This way you do all your main thinking when you are fresh and can add extra points to your other plans if they strike you when

 you are writing you earlier essays. But this is a matter of temperament.


Do not fail to do a third essay. Give it as much time as the first two.


Planning your essay.

1. Introduction

Are there any key terms to explain?

Why bother asking the question?

Are there key assumptions made in the question?

What are the possible answers to the question?

What will be your answer and why?


2. Development

Do you need to introduce any technical concepts or vocabulary?

What is your main argument or arguments?

How does your argument answer the question?

What lines of objection could be made against you?

What replies are there?

Are there further implications of your argument? (Be brief!)


3. Conclusion

What have you shown? (Do not introduce new material into the conclusion.)



If you are told to write an essay on a particular item of reading, without being given a title, assume that the title is: ‘What does x attempt to show in .......?

Does he/she succeed?’.


For certain questions there are only three possible answers: ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘no-one can know’.


Once you have found a way of expressing a key thought or concept use the same wording. If you change the wording the reader may think you are trying

to express a different idea.


If a point is standardly made in the literature by means of a standard example, use that same example. Don’t worry about boring the reader –

that is better than confusing him/her.


If you do not quite understand what you say, do not think ‘never mind, I’m sure the examiner will get it.’ We are testing your knowledge and

understanding, not the examiner’s.


It is often helpful to structure the main part of your essay as if you are arguing against someone who is sceptical of your position: giving your position –

possible objections - your replies to the objection etc.


Decide what you are arguing for, and then stick to it.


Assume that you are writing to convince someone of the same general level of intelligence and experience as yourself, but who is fairly ignorant of the

 topic you are discussing: e.g. a friend who is on the same degree course, but taking different options.