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University essay structure

Hi I'm a first-year Econ student and would appreciate some advice on essay writing.
My first few essays I submitted I got a 61 and 69, where the 61 was because I used the wrong graphs etc, but I feel like I've fallen into the common problem of not knowing how to write an essay effectively, especially with word counts and limits.
The feedback I got was very general, and mostly about how I could've focussed on certain points better, and explaining more (even though we had a word limit)
I've tried to do some research about essay writing, but they all seem to be the same advice.
I was wondering whether anyone had any tips of how to structure essays better (except for the general intro, main body, conclusion, references) such as how in GCSE and A-levels we were taught to use structures such as PEEL, or point, explain, analyse, evaluate. I used this kinda structure in the essay that got me 69 so I think thats somewhere in the right direction however if anybody has a more specific structure I could use that would be great?

The next problem is the actual content of it. So much of the advice I've seen talks about being analytical and pointing out weaknesses in research, but with the questions I've had for econ, it doesn't seem to be relevant or I may just not be doing the right thing? I'm worried this might be the reason that I'm being capped at a 2:1 since I'm mostly just arguing about the theories and content from lectures, and my references are mainly data to support my answers, not necessarily topics we've not covered in lectures. So I'm just confused do I go down a hole of discussing how someone else argued about how this theory is, and just counterargue it, it seems to not be really directly linked to the question well?

Another thing is, my final exam is meant to be an in-person handwritten exam, and in the handbook we have, they only have general criteria for the assessment criteria. How would referencing and mentioning outside sources work or would this not be expected in an in-person exam?

Thanks in advance :smile:
Reply 1
Essays usually need an overall argument, so I would suggest starting off by unpacking the essay question, re-stating what you think it is asking you, and then saying how you are going to answer it, and what conclusion you expect to arrive at.

Analysis means taking the data / theory / approach which is being singled outin the essay and evaluating it (many students get stuck at description). Your PEEL model maps to this - take a point, explain it (i.e. describe it accurately), analyse and evaluate.

As for referencing in an exam, yes you should cite authors, theories etc - so name-dropping scholars and/or theories with dates if you can remember them would be a good minumum.

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