Writing Successful Essays

Allowing for appropriate adjustments, the following hints may prove useful for tutorials, assessed essays and exams.

  • Read the Rubric. Usually this is unchanged from last year, but it’s good to be alert. Small changes can make a BIG difference.
  • First think, then write.Map the terrain and explain it, then narrow down the question to something manageable (and unambiguous). Decide what position you want to argue for and how to get there (agree/disagree with a quote, modify any options, etc.).
  • Answer the question.
  • Recognize and present the debate, give both sides and marshal evidence to argue your case.  Adjudicate between different interpretative options in light of the facts.
  • Be sure to cite a diversity of viewpoints, not just those you agree with.
  • Develop your argument through a clear structure and a thesis. Signpost your prose.
  • Presentation. Charm the reader. Writing in attractive English prose is half the battle.  Spacing (break up the appearance of the page), headings, etc. can help.
  • Bibliography and referencing. List only works cited, and provide full source information according to a standard format (e.g. the SBL Handbook of Style).
  • Avoid significant overlap. Use cross-references or other links between essay answers, where necessary.
  • Timing.  Divide your allotted time between the number of questions, assuming them to be weighted roughly equally. Since there are limited marks per question available, an overly long answer rarely compensates for an inadequately short one!
  • Finish and submit on time.
  • Less relevant for exams:

Rev.02/2011

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