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Essays, and how to prepare for them (by Solenn and her mentor group)

on Thu, 10/13/2016 - 19:36
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Understanding an essay and what is being asked of you can be difficult, especially your first essay in university. Lecturers will often highlight what they expect the contents of your essay to have, however it happens quite often that you have to do all of the research on a topic that you know nothing about. In any case, there are steps that you can take along the way that aid and improve your ability to write an academic essay or paper.

1st – Understand what the key components of the essay are. What are your key words? If your task a report, a study, a critique? Asking yourself these basic questions will help you be more precise when answering the question.

2nd- The library is your best friend. Use its resources to its fullest extent! Search the key words of your essay or look for books and publishes papers that have similar research topics to your question. Don’t be afraid to ask the library staff for help in this matter, there are numerous faculty librarians that are always more than happy to help you.

3rd – Create a plan, and stick to it. Many students follow the 5 paragraph rule, introduction, points 1-3, and conclusion. This creates structure and gives an easy guide to follow, although it may not work for all types of essays, it is usually a good place to start. Divide your word count as well so you give your essays separate parts equal attention and focus.

4th – Make yourself refer back to the primary question in your essay. Many students lose marks in essays because they go off topic or don’t answer the question correctly. Making reference to your question throughout the essay will not only keep you on track, but it will earn your brownie points with the person who is grading your paper. Lecturers love essays that stick to the topic.

5th – REFERENCE! The biggest pet peeve of any lecturer is bad referencing in essays. Know what type of referencing you should be using as there are many different types out there, such as Harvard, APA, MLA, and much, much more! Typically, faculties will highlight the kind of referencing they want in year handbooks that you can find on the NUI Galway page or in hardcopy form that is usually given out at the start of the year. Don’t forget that plagiarism penalties are heavy in NUIG and it is not worth your time copy and pasting information into your essay if you are going to get into serious trouble for it.

6th – Make sure you give yourself time to edit and refine your essay at the end. Don’t start an essay 12 hours before it’s due because you are giving yourself zero time to work on it, resulting in bad referencing, a bad understanding of the essay question, and a rushed and lazy attempt at a paper that you know you can do 100% better than the outcome. Remember, less time spent on an essay = less marks.

7th – Go to the Academic Writing Centre. This is a free, drop in service which offers one to one tutorials on essay writing for all students no matter what year or what you are studying. The tutors at the AWC can highlight the areas of your writing that you need to improve on, setting you on track for a better essay

Some wise words from the Connect Mentors  -

IF YOU’RE ON A ROLL KEEP GOING. It’s good to surpass your target, only wanted to get two paragraphs done then at the end of your two paragraphs you still feel like writing? Keep going! It’s so much better than stopping for the sake of it and coming back later when you’re not in the mood to write.”

“Well, first things first - close the tab that is playing "motivational" music in the background. Get off your comfy bed and sit at a desk because no work is going to be done in your pyjamas with a packet of digestives by your side, and, newsflash, reading a Buzzfeed article titled "22 Ways To Make Your Study Session Count" does not actually count as studying”

“Ensure to include labelled diagrams/tables/graphs etc. and explain what they mean. Do not forget to include subheadings and a bibliography in alphabetical order.”

“Get Burrito”

Overall, writing should not be a stressful ordeal. I know it happens way too often that essays accumulate and deadlines are much faster approaching than you want them to, but it is not the end of the world. There are many resources on campus that can help, and even just a simple email to your lecturer to ask if they can clarify the essay for you can make a difference. That new Netflix show isn’t going anywhere and you can meet up with your friends after you’ve submitted your essay, just don’t forget that it helps to focus on college as a primary now and again.