Tips for First Year Students on Writing Essays

By Priya Doal


It may be daunting when having to dissect a question based on the Law for the first time, particularly when this is something you have not done before.


This article will include some tips on how to approach the question, plan and research. These are all things I did for my first year at university which aided greatly!


1. UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE QUESTION IS ASKING


Does the question specify whether you should analyse, critically evaluate, or compare?


This will determine the type of answer you produce, for example evaluating a statement on the Law will mean identifying and analysing strengths and weaknesses.


2. PLAN


You should create a plan which takes into consideration prior commitments and reduces the number of late nights as possible.


You should split your plan up into sections and allocate deadlines to each of these. The ‘steps’ to writing an essay are as follows:


  • Understanding the question

  • Create a brief plan – identify your standpoint on the question, arguments to support and potential counterarguments. Identify what you will include in each point you make and number these.

  • Conduct research – read articles/books as you find them and take notes, number each finding according to their number allocated from step 2. Remember to use CTRL+F to find particular words or phrases.

  • Aim to have a particular amount of books/journals in your work, the bibliography is often one of the first things that are looked at. You must also ensure the sources are reputable.

  • Start writing – here is a basic structure to follow

  1. Introduction – 10% of word count

  2. Main body – 80% of word count

  3. Conclusion – 10% of word count.

  • Proofread and edit – the most crucial stage! At this stage, you must avoid grammatical errors and ensure all your writing reads well.


3. CRITICAL WRITING


Ensure the person reading your essay is aware of your viewpoint but also aware of the opposing opinions. When discussing the counter arguments, you must always refer back to your main argument and why this view reigns over the other. This is where you will find articles more useful than books as they include opinion based upon facts which can help formulate your argument.


4. REFERENCES


This is the most important part of the essay. Any point of view, opinion or quote must be referenced in your essay as they are not your original ideas. Paraphrasing is not acceptable and will likely be flagged up by university software. If in doubt, reference!



I hope that these tips will aid you in writing your first essay and hope to be a reference point for your journey!

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