How to write the perfect essay

Everyone experiences writers’ block from time to time: that moment where you stare at the blank page in front of you and simply have no idea where to start.

You feel the panic rising: how are you ever going to produce the 1500 words of analysis your tutor is expecting from you by next week?
In these moments it helps to remember that writing is a process, not a product. And it is a skill that with practice you can improve. Remember, good writers do not get it right first time; rather they go through many cycles of reflecting, reviewing and revising.

Student Support officer at our Sydney Campus Kate Buckell brings you her helpful advice on writing your perfect essay. Remember, each of JMC’s campuses has on site student support available for whenever you want advice during your studies. 

Prewriting & planning

The most important work often takes place before any writing occurs. This is the prewriting stage.

•    Analyse the task: break down the task into parts, identify the key words, make sure you are clear about the audience and purpose of your writing, brainstorm your initial ideas and decide what additional information you need to complete it successfully.
•    Gather information: review lecture notes and handouts; collect, read and make notes on other information and material that may be required. (Remember to keep records so you can reference it later.)
•    Generate ideas: brainstorm, free write, list ideas and pose questions
•    Plan your writing: organise your ideas, use graphic organisers, consider what is relevant and what needs to be cut out, how things link together, and in what order will you address them.



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Drafting, Reflecting and Revising

You may need to go through this cycle a few times until you are happy with your text and confident that you have met the assignment requirements.

•    Draft: this is your first rough copy. Expand the ideas in your plan into full sentences and paragraphs. Make sure the paragraphs link together and follow in a logical order. (You should have worked this out in your plan). Focus on getting your ideas down; you can worry about accuracy later.

Once you’ve finished, it’s a good idea to have a break and come back to your draft with fresh eyes a few hours later.

•    Reflect: Review your draft, focusing on: 
o    the content: is it sufficiently developed, is there enough evidence to support your points, is all the material relevant, is anything badly expressed or confused?
o    the structure: are the paragraphs logically sequenced, are they themselves logically structured, do they link together, is there a conclusion and an introduction?
o    the style: is this appropriate for the audience and purpose, is it consistent?

This is a good time to ask your peers, tutor or academic support for feedback.

•    Revise: Make any necessary amendments and alterations to the content, structure and style. You may need to go back briefly to the research stage if you have identified gaps.  

At this point go back to your assignment brief: have you met all the requirements?

Editing & proofreading

Now you can begin to check for accuracy in sentence construction, spelling and punctuation. A final ‘fine-tuning’ before you are done.

Make sure all your sources are properly referenced.

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Written by Kate Buckell, Sydney Student Support Officer.

Irvin, L, 2015, Writing & Learning Spaces, San Antonio, viewed 8th December 2015
Monash University, 2015, Language & Learning On-line, viewed 9th December 2015 http://www.monash.edu.au/lls/llonline/writing/index.xml