What are the key elements of a good essay?
It’s likely you’ll have to write many essays throughout your time at uni. While you may know generally what an essay is and how to write one, it’s important to keep improving your approach to research, writing and essay structure. There’s always areas in which you can improve.
Here, we’ve recapped some essay basics, as well as things that your assessor will be looking for.
An essay is a piece of writing where you present your opinion, backed up by evidence, in response to a topic. This opinion is referred to as ‘your contention, position or thesis statement’. There are many different types of essays, but they have several common features to help you plan and complete them – if you follow these guidelines!
Essays commonly contain the following:
- your point of view, supported by ideas, arguments and evidence
- the summary and analysis of other writers’ research and opinions
- a clear structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs and a conclusion
- a reference list.
Always leave enough time to prepare for writing an essay: you will need to complete the required reading (both from your classes and wider sources), brainstorm keywords and concepts, decide on your point of view, and draft an outline of the contents of your paragraphs.
What your assessor is looking for
Always follow your specific task instructions and check your assessment rubric to confirm exactly what you are being asked to do. Most commonly, these are the elements that your assessor will be looking for when they mark your essay.
- You have answered the essay question directly.
- You have met the assignment criteria.
- You have drawn on readings and discussions from your weekly seminars and classes (your unit’s weekly topics should be your guide for all of your assessments).
- You have provided a position on the topic and shown your understanding of it.
- You have completed the set and recommended readings.
- You have discussed and analysed sources, and formatted them in the required referencing style.
- You have planned your essay so that is readable, clear and logically sequenced, with a distinct introduction, body and conclusion.
- You have kept within the set word limit.
By following these guidelines, you will set yourself up to achieve the best that you can.
Could you use some help?
This is just a taste of the Academic Skills Guide to Essay Writing. It contains information and resources on how to write an essay, including a guide to paragraph structure, a paragraph planner and a handy explanation of the steps of the writing process. Have a read if you’re looking for detailed guidance about an aspect of essay writing, or about essays more generally.
We also have Academic Skills Guides about researching, referencing, oral presentations and preparing for End of Unit assessments.
And, if you’ve got more questions, chat to a Writing Mentor, make an appointment with a Language and Learning Adviser or check out Deakin’s online tutoring service Smarthinking. The Study Support team love chatting about essays and they are ready to help you out.