It’s tricky isn’t it; sometimes the words, fall from your fingers, arguments move seamlessly without hesitation, helping to push the essay on. And before you know it, a few thousand words later, it’s time for the conclusion and it’s complete: the perfect essay. Then there’s those times when you write, or type, delete or scrap and repeat without success. So how do you get your essay writing mojo?

Well, there is no exact science behind this; what works from one person may not work for someone else. It’s a case of finding out what works for you. And there are methods, techniques, and more importantly strategies students can adopt to help when it comes to paper, thesis and essay writing. And since it’s an integral part of college and school life, integrating these into your academic challenges, can both ease the stress and push up the mark. And when it comes to writing the perfect essay, having a plan is key. So how, and where do you start?

Begin with looking at your essay question. It might sound obvious, but it’s crucial that you understand exactly what it being asked of you because you don’t get any marks for answering the wrong question, even if it’s the best essay in the world. Essay questions tend to include a key word which can be the likes of ‘explain’ or ‘discuss’ or ‘illustrate’. These are crucial when it comes to formulating your plan, because it gives you an indication of how to plan and structure your answer. It can be a good idea to use a highlighter to mark out the key points of the question, for instance the key word and other supplementary information or references that are to be included. This can apply, for instance, to quote based questions, typical of English Literature papers. And be sure that there are no additional parts to the question that, perhaps through question formulation, aren’t clear.

Once the essay question is broken down and understood, it’s time to get cracking on your research. Take a look at your essay question when it’s broken down and from here look for primary sources. It’s useful to find books and quotes which will support your argument, and look at the bibliographies of these books for supplementary and secondary reading. Don’t exclude books or quotes that contradict your argument, because this can provide a contrast and more balanced essay. Plus it shows the depth and range of the research you’ve undertaken. Essay writing services can also offer a useful tool, throwing up previously unthought-of sources of research. These businesses are not there to write your essay because that is plagiarism, but rather they offer supplementary support. And no matter what, always avoid plagiarism by using the correct quotation format according to your school. There should be a style guide available to students for this very purpose and if not, just ask a teacher or tutor to demonstrate. Additionally, this applies to essay bibliography, with precise styles for layouts usually required.

Now for the plan and for most people this will begin with an introduction. It’s a good idea here to use this to outline how you intend to answer the essay question. It doesn’t need to be in a great lot of detail; save this for later. But it’s helpful to carving a clear objective and explaining this to the reader. The bulk of the essay will be designated to your answer, and it’s up to you how you structure this. However, try to use a paragraph for each point and stay on the topic, because going outside of the question can lead to loss of marks. Including quotations can be a good way to help the structure, plus it supports your argument. And build these towards your final section: the conclusion. It works as a summing up device; recapping on the points made in the bulk of the essay and any potential areas for the future.

So, to summarise; make sure you read and understand the essay question. Then begin to assemble your research. Planning the content is crucial as it will help structure your essay and keep you on track. And leave yourself plenty of time. Some people find it helpful to write a draft, leave it overnight and go back to it with fresh eyes. This can help spot any irregularities and confusion in your work. Then spell-check and hand-in. Good Luck!

essay writing skillsSarah Tolan is a professional journalist, former student who likes to think over the years, she’s found ways to perfect her essay writing skills from learning and thanks to advice from others.