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    I've seen this question asked a lot recently so I thought it'd be helpful to have a thread where everyone can contribute advice/tips or things you've picked up for writing good uni essays.

    It's sometimes difficult to pin point exactly what makes an essay a first class essay so the more tips the better :dumbells:
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    Got firsts in both my pieces of coursework this year thus far.... (72, 78)

    Researching a lot helped. Once I had a basic plan from my uni notes, I just googled basic ideas, found good articles, and often they led onto further articles through the references. I had ~100 unique references for my 2000 word essays. Pretty difficult not to be well informed and critical when you've read so much!

    Most importantly, actually answering the question properly. I aimed to use words from the Q etc, at the end of each section / point etc, which makes it clear to whoever reads it, and to myself.

    Also making sure I had an outline in my intro so I didn't go off course, and removing all non-committal words from conclusions - 'arguably', 'potentially', 'maybe' - even if I wasn't 100% convinced, coming across like you are reads as a much stronger argument.
    Also I made sure all my references and points were complete before I started writing - writing is by far the easiest part - it flows much better if you aren't stopping every second to write a reference, and helped reduce errors / poor writing etc. (I use RefME! It's excellent to form references)

    And leave lots of time to proof-read - leaving a few days to refresh your mind etc. ie I aim to finish a week before deadlines for this (unlike I'm doing now, oops)

    [I mention these tips in particular as they're the main things I did between this and last year - I got 52 and 62 in my cwk units last year to give you an idea of the improvement]
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    Start by looking for the quick wins.

    Read the assignment brief carefully. If there are instructions about font, font size, line spacing etc., make sure you follow them. You can get marks docked for not paying attention to this sort of basic instruction.

    Make your work look neat and spellcheck it. If the marker picks it up and thinks that it looks organised and well-presented, they'll start reading it in a positive frame of mind.

    Correct referencing can be easy percentages once you get the hang of it.
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    (Original post by Inazuma)
    [I mention these tips in particular as they're the main things I did between this and last year - I got 52 and 62 in my cwk units last year to give you an idea of the improvement]
    Law & State eh?

    But yeah, if I had to recommend something, it would most definitely be researching properly and using what you found in your essays. It makes it a whole lot different to actually have your opinions backed by someone like Elliott...

    Also, ensure that your structure is flawless - organised paragraphs, easy flow and clear progress.
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    I've answered this question before and I think it would bore everyone if I repeated my response tbh
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    (Original post by *Stefan*)
    Law & State eh?
    Incorrect, sorry Luckily that was 1st year.
    52 was Crime, Justice and Society. Did not get along with it lol. Interestingly, Criminology this year was the one I got 78 in.... Logical ofc!
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    (Original post by Ethereal World)
    I've answered this question before and I think it would bore everyone if I repeated my response tbh
    Perhaps a link or a copy/paste would let us benefit from your wisdom and save you the tedium of having to write it out again?


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    (Original post by Inazuma)
    Incorrect, sorry Luckily that was 1st year.
    52 was Crime, Justice and Society. Did not get along with it lol. Interestingly, Criminology this year was the one I got 78 in.... Logical ofc!
    Oops, I assumed you were in your 2nd year :P

    I've been told so many bad things for CJS - definitely not picking it. What would you recommend out of the options available?

    Would you recommend Medical?
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    Critical Analysis and using meta analysis are your best friends.
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    Best advice I read on TSR was as follows.

    When you're writing an essay it's very easy to assume that the reader will know something about the topic already. As such you will often gloss over the basics and delve straight into the analysis. It's important to take the reader on a journey, step-by-step, so that they follow how you get to the analysis.

    Essentially, write the essay as if the reader knows nothing about the topic about which you are writing.
    Don't assume the reader will read between the lines.
    Start from the beginning, and guide the reader through the essay, one step at a time.

    That will make for a much clearer essay.

    (Original post by Puddles the Monkey)
    I've seen this question asked a lot recently so I thought it'd be helpful to have a thread where everyone can contribute advice/tips or things you've picked up for writing good uni essays.

    It's sometimes difficult to pin point exactly what makes an essay a first class essay so the more tips the better :dumbells:
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    (Original post by Supersaps)
    Perhaps a link or a copy/paste would let us benefit from your wisdom and save you the tedium of having to write it out again?


    SS
    I just found it very easily as it was one of my earliest posts on the site

    I am not bothering to edit it, sure my advice won't have changed in the past few months:


    For a first class essay, my advice would be:

    1. Think outside the box- The question is fixed but you can maybe look into different angles or different ways of structuring the answer. Remember everyone is going to do a standard response- do something different, whilst of course staying on track

    2. Present novel research- Especially if you have been taught or directed to a number of papers or textbooks- see what you can find in the literature

    3. Read read read, but not necessarily to include it in your essay. I found that when I did a load of reading around a subject, I performed better. I think if you read a lot of stuff, you then build clarity in your mind on the arguments for and against and you will just write better- and your writing will 'sound' more informed. Sometimes I read papers that I didn't directly include in my answer or cite, but they helped me to understand the bigger picture.

    4. Go above and beyond- If there are a couple of papers or a couple of leading people in the area of your essay- contact the academics/authors. A couple of times when I was at uni I did this. I contacted the authors to see what had changed since they published or what their current views of the situation are/research they were currently doing. This helped me to have a unique perspective and to be thinking in current times.

    5. Structure- it's really important to have good structure of course. Use your opening paragraph to set the scene of how you're going to go about tackling the question and then your answer will follow more logically and clearly.

    6. Less is more- Most people have to cut their word count down at the end of an essay or they nearly always max out on words (so word count +10% or whatever). Being succinct and potentially coming in a few hundred words below the limit shows confidence and maturity. It will also be refreshing for the marker. Word limits are randomly imposed- you could write thousands and thousands of words on any subject. It's important to be concise and definitely don't sacrifice that just to get your words up. Of course, it is definitely worth checking what the minimum number of words is.

    Getting a 1st is about differentiation. Following a standard template, citing standard references that you've looked at in lectures or the lecturer has pointed out, is gonna max you out somewhere in the 60s, irrelevant of how well you write. You've got to do that bit extra to lift yourself into the 70s. The above is what I did in my final year and I transformed high 60s marks into high 70s and sometimes even low 80s.

    EDIT: another easy thing to do, is to approach the person (if you feel confident enough) who is delivering that course/module and ask them what they want to see or what they would be looking for in a first class essay. I started doing this and it seriously transformed how I approached essays, when I realised the types of things that they were looking for.
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    (Original post by Inazuma)
    Got firsts in both my pieces of coursework this year thus far.... (72, 78)

    Researching a lot helped. Once I had a basic plan from my uni notes, I just googled basic ideas, found good articles, and often they led onto further articles through the references. I had ~100 unique references for my 2000 word essays. Pretty difficult not to be well informed and critical when you've read so much!

    Most importantly, actually answering the question properly. I aimed to use words from the Q etc, at the end of each section / point etc, which makes it clear to whoever reads it, and to myself.

    Also making sure I had an outline in my intro so I didn't go off course, and removing all non-committal words - 'arguably', 'potentially', 'maybe' - even if I wasn't 100% convinced, coming across like you are reads as a much stronger argument.
    Also I made sure all my references and points were complete before I started writing - writing is by far the easiest part - it flows much better if you aren't stopping every second to write a reference, and helped reduce errors / poor writing etc. (I use RefME! It's excellent to form references)

    And leave lots of time to proof-read - leaving a few days to refresh your mind etc. ie I aim to finish a week before deadlines for this (unlike I'm doing now, oops)

    [I mention these tips in particular as they're the main things I did between this and last year - I got 52 and 62 in my cwk units last year to give you an idea of the improvement]
    I agree that referencing is important, as is originality, as it demonstrating that you have actually listened to and responded to your unit leader's lectures. Getting hold of past powerpoint slides is good for this??
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    I got firsts for 3 out of 4 of my essays, all 4 were done 3 or less days before the deadline :/ Don't do that in 2nd or 3rd year tho

    - Include LOTS of sources, but don't base it entirely round it.
    - Lecture knowledge is important, lecturers can tell when you've not been in lectures, missed easy marks by not writing or explaining basic stuff and then waffling about **** they haven't even covered.
    - Answer the question, NOT your "interpretation" of the question. If you're unsure just ask, there's nothing more disappointing than writing 2000 words of off topic nonsense, coming out with 45% cos you didn't answer the question or the motivation to ask the lecturer for clarification.
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    (Original post by *Stefan*)
    Oops, I assumed you were in your 2nd year :P

    I've been told so many bad things for CJS - definitely not picking it. What would you recommend out of the options available?

    Would you recommend Medical?
    Ahh no, that was a lifetime ago now haha.
    Medical is great, really interesting. If you have any interest in assisted dying, organ donation etc then it'll be good.

    Much easier to get a first if it's interesting

    (We could get killed if this goes off-topic further, so perhaps PM me? Are you at Bristol or elsewhere?)
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    (Original post by Inazuma)
    Most importantly, actually answering the question properly. I aimed to use words from the Q etc, at the end of each section / point etc, which makes it clear to whoever reads it, and to myself.
    (Original post by somemightsay888)
    - Answer the question, NOT your "interpretation" of the question. If you're unsure just ask, there's nothing more disappointing than writing 2000 words of off topic nonsense, coming out with 45% cos you didn't answer the question or the motivation to ask the lecturer for clarification.
    Answering the question is super important. If it's even a little bit vague, I always spent a couple of lines in the introduction clarifying my interpretation of the question. Not sure you can do that with STEM as much as humanities though, although I know a STEM student who interpreted a question in a different way to what the lecturer intended but still got full marks because their interpretation was also valid... :beard:

    Closely related:
    Define your terms!!

    (Original post by SmaugTheTerrible)
    When you're writing an essay it's very easy to assume that the reader will know something about the topic already. As such you will often gloss over the basics and delve straight into the analysis. It's important to take the reader on a journey, step-by-step, so that they follow how you get to the analysis.
    This is interesting... I think you've got to be a little careful about this as you don't want to spend too much time discussing/explaining basics and not getting in to the proper analysis. But your reader does need to understand the thread of your argument :woo:
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    I think getting a first comes mostly down to your planning, especially your angle.

    Spoiler:
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    I think scoring highly on an essay comes down to your planning. It requires doing lots of additional reading, you'll find that reading a wide range of material will give you different ways to approach the essay. I used to have a running word document where I would write down any good points that I'd taken from journals etc, but lots of it might never get used and much of your reading might not even find its way into the document.

    Before you do anything else plan your essay's angle, how are you going to answer the question. I think having a clear idea about how I was going to answer the question before writing was the difference between me getting a 2:1 and a first. A good approach is to break it down into two parts, thats how people tend to answer questions anyway, for example:

    I really enjoyed the film, but I thought the actor was better in his last one.
    My heart says GB would thrive outside the EU, my head knows that economically its folly.
    Government should generally try to avoid intervention however in some circumstances it becomes necessary.
    Short term v long term
    The main cause of the civil war was political but it would have been less of a driving factor without economic difficulties.

    It is important to understand that choosing an angle implies trade-offs. You cannot say everything there is to say about a subject (not only because of the word constraint). Saying one set of things implies not saying others. The choices that you need to make are those that allow you to say what you want to say. They should help you argue your case.


    After you've thought of a few different possible angles, you can pick the best (or your favorite) and start a plan. Bringing in quotes and points that you've been collecting from your reading so that you've got a good idea of the main points that you're going to make in each paragraph.

    Then I found that when it came to actually writing my essay, everything I was saying was relevant to my angle. It makes for a much more critical essay and gives it more of a narrative.

    PROOF READ. But don't do it immediately after you've finished, its very hard to read through something that you've just written with clean eyes, you tend to read stuff as what you meant to say and miss errors. Give it at least 3/4 days before going back to it, and you'll pick up on more mistakes.
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    Engineering undergrad here so very few essays, I got 80+ in all my essay based assessments though.

    1) Give the essay plenty of time, if you want a first you can't do it last minute.

    2) Be a sieve not a bucket, no doubt this cliche has probably been heard by a lot of you already but you want the gems and not the sand from the articles you're reading. The best way (in my personal experience) to know you're doing it right is if you're reading a lot and taking very little for your work.

    3) Be concise, the word limit is just that - a limit. Don't waffle to reach 3000 words if 2000 words was enough.

    4) Research - a lot. This should be a no brainer imo you're in university to become a professional in your field, essays aren't a measure of how much you can copy and paste but rather how effectively you can research the topic and what you take away from your research. It was actually from researching for an essay that I discovered what I wanted to do for my Masters.

    5) Leave your work for a day or two before reviewing it, trust me we all think our work is amazing directly after we complete it (refer to point 1. you need to give the assignment time).

    6) Don't over proof read, proof reading is important but i've seen so many friends ruin their essays by over proof reading.

    7) Formatting, lowest priority, but please give this some time a professional looking paper will always help.
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    (Original post by Inazuma)
    Got firsts in both my pieces of coursework this year thus far.... (72, 78)

    Researching a lot helped. Once I had a basic plan from my uni notes, I just googled basic ideas, found good articles, and often they led onto further articles through the references. I had ~100 unique references for my 2000 word essays. Pretty difficult not to be well informed and critical when you've read so much!

    Most importantly, actually answering the question properly. I aimed to use words from the Q etc, at the end of each section / point etc, which makes it clear to whoever reads it, and to myself.

    Also making sure I had an outline in my intro so I didn't go off course, and removing all non-committal words - 'arguably', 'potentially', 'maybe' - even if I wasn't 100% convinced, coming across like you are reads as a much stronger argument.
    Also I made sure all my references and points were complete before I started writing - writing is by far the easiest part - it flows much better if you aren't stopping every second to write a reference, and helped reduce errors / poor writing etc. (I use RefME! It's excellent to form references)

    And leave lots of time to proof-read - leaving a few days to refresh your mind etc. ie I aim to finish a week before deadlines for this (unlike I'm doing now, oops)

    [I mention these tips in particular as they're the main things I did between this and last year - I got 52 and 62 in my cwk units last year to give you an idea of the improvement]
    This, however. If you say arguably in a politics essay it can be quite good. If you are making an odd point, which could be contentious, saying arguably before suggests that you have weighed up both sides rather than just making a point.
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    (Original post by Oilfreak1)
    2) Be a sieve not a bucket, no doubt this cliche has probably been heard by a lot of you already but you want the gems and not the sand from the articles you're reading. The best way (in my personal experience) to know you're doing it right is if you're reading a lot and taking very little for your work.
    This is such good advice!
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    (Original post by balanced)
    This, however. If you say arguably in a politics essay it can be quite good. If you are making an odd point, which could be contentious, saying arguably before suggests that you have weighed up both sides rather than just making a point.
    Yep, yep totally agree, I do that too - they can be useful to present counter-arguments

    Should have clarified I meant it more in conclusions - e.g. "Therefore, arguably, the media does have some effect" - it would just sound like you haven't got an opinion. I always take those kind of things out in proof-reading, and would change some to strong or moderate effect perhaps.
    Shall amend that quickly
 
 
 
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