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Student Post: Essay writing from a standing start.

Nickie Phillips

By Simon England: Leeds Beckett University Student.

I am writing this blog post in the hope that someone may better understand the art that is essay writing from a student’s point of view with the use of a structure that I promise has worked for me and can work just as well for you.  In my first year, first semester before using the guidance I detail below I received a 40, 49 and a 58 for my assignments.  After using it, I attained a 72, 75 and an 81.

So, a little about myself and the circumstances that have led me to write this blog, something that a person such as me usually wouldn’t do being of a private nature. I am 38 years old and have enjoyed an extremely successful career as a professional photographer, traveling the world taking pictures and doing something that I had wanted to do from a young age. I slowly came to realization as the industry changed that it no longer gave me the satisfaction that it had, so with the backing of my wife and children I made a decision return to study so that I could forge a new career that might fulfill me as photography had done.

Needless to say this previous career did not equip me with very much knowledge concerning essay writing let alone the Harvard referencing system. It has taken some disappointment regarding my results within the 1st semester, a lot of fact finding and hard work within my 2nd semester, to establish a working understanding of what is expected of me and how best to achieve this so I am able to maximize my results going forward.

I worked hard within my 1st semester and read and took notes, attending every lecture and seminar in the hope that I would gain the results that hard work will usually give you, so as you can imagine I waited eagerly for my results to come in. When they did I was shocked I received a 40, 49 and a 58, the lecturers comments all said I had promise but wrote in a somewhat ‘none academic way that didn’t reach the standard required for the university course’.

I was mortified with my results and questioned the decision I had made in returning to education. I decided to continue and find out where I had gone wrong, so in my 2nd semester I once again set about working hard but with a difference, I asked for clarification and guidance from my lecturers and to ask for guidance as to where I was going wrong and how to correct it.

The biggest help by far was the formulae given to me by Dr. David Patton, one of my seminar leaders, he showed us all the way to maximize our marks by formulating our essays in the correct academic style.

Taking this new information onboard I set about working as hard as ever attending lectures, seminars and reading the relevant literature that I needed to write my essays, this time I applied the structure that David had supplied to my work. I completed my first drafts in a timely fashion so that my lecturers were able to proof read it making sure that I was moving forward in the right direction and giving pointers where I could improve my work, with this done I completed my final drafts and handed the work in.

I waited patiently for my results, this time hopeful that I might get near the grades that I ultimately wanted to achieve, I am pleased to say that I did the formulae had worked and I received grades to be proud of with a 72, 75 and an 81.

I feel that I am equipped to make the most of my university education now that my lecturers have given me the formula and guidance that I needed to move forward with a clear understanding of the requirements’ of university writing, this is why I agreed to share my story within this blog so that others might benefit from the things that I have learnt through my first year and be able to put them into practice so they too achieve the highest marks that they can

Below is my version of the essay-writing plan that I have followed with the guidance of my lecturers to good effect, don’t get me wrong it is no miracle cure as such, you still need to work hard and read as much information on your chosen subject as possible, but if you do work hard then following the essay plan has the potential to help you better gain the results that you want from your course. 

Essay Plan:


{C}1)     {C}State question in the opening paragraph, and how you’re going to answer it.

{C}2)     {C}Justify what is being covered and not covered in your assignment (and why).

{C}3)     {C}List main themes you will cover.

{C}4)     {C}Give key definitions that are central to your question.

{C}5)     {C}Summary of conclusion.

Main Body of Text:

{C}·         One paragraph per theme that you listed in order you listed them in the introduction.


            I/2 page per paragraph minimum broken down as follows

{C}1)     Intro to theme.

{C}2)     Present main information and evidence relevant to the discussion of the theme

{C}3)     Discuss the implications, pros and cons of the information/evidence presented.

{C}4)     Conclude the discussion based on the points made for this theme. 


At the end of this section you should have answered your assignment question. 

You should begin writing concluding comments based upon each of the concluding comments made per theme at the end of each paragraph in the main body of the essay.    This will be the first time you have amalgamated the conclusions that you have used within each theme discussed within main body. 

Provide a final answer to the question posed.  It is sometimes  appropriate to suggest any future research or make recommendations as to policy or practice changes in light of the evidence presented.

Do not introduce new evidence or arguments within your conclusion. 

Do not write a summary of the issues discussed.

Do not end the essay with a few sentences that start with ‘I think/believe…’ 

Following the aforementioned rules and guidelines has aided my progression in understanding and fulfilling the required methods for essay writing as I hope it will for others that maybe struggling to grasp the finer points of essay writing for University.

You need to read a lot for your degree so that you gain a good understanding of the subject that you are writing about, the lecturer Don Crewe told me that the more academic material you read the better developed your academic style will become and to date I have definitely noticed a change in my style of writing which again I believe my grades from the 2nd semester has shown to good effect. 

These guidelines and the help that is available from lecturers and seminar leaders help you to get the formula right so that you are best equipped to make the most of the university course, but the hard work has to come from your own dedication to the course and your commitment to your own future for the required standard to be met for you to succeed.