What makes a good academic essay

There are several ways in which you can improve any essay you write and ensure it stands out from the crowd. First, and perhaps most importantly, it is essential to ensure that you address the question set and focus on meeting its requirements throughout. This may sound obvious but it is all too easy to go off-track and include irrelevant material.

Second, it is important to create a plan for your essay ‒ what is your central argument, what are the key points you need to make, what evidence will you need to include to support these, and what is your final conclusion going to be? This requires creating a clear structure for your essay. It will need to have a brief introduction that tells the reader what you are going to cover (and in what order). The ‘meat’ of the essay should then follow this outline exactly, and consist of a succession of clear points (each contained in a separate paragraph) supported by relevant evidence. This should lead to a conclusion that briefly summarises the journey on which you have taken the reader, and ends with a clear statement that relates directly to the question set.

Third, in writing your essay, it is essential to ensure that the points you make flow smoothly from one to the other in a logical and coherent way. Do not confuse the reader by jumping from one point to another with no apparent connection to what has gone before. Use of section headings can assist in this process, but do not overdo these (four or five sections is probably ample).

Fourth, the central point you make in each paragraph should be supported by evidence (e.g. published research, legal documentation) and illustrative examples. Evidence lends authority to the points you are making, rendering them more than mere assertions, whilst the use of examples helps bring your overall argument to life and grounds difficult points in a context readers will find easier to understand.

Fifth, strong essays go beyond merely presenting the material by critically reviewing and assessing the evidence cited – what are its strengths/weaknesses, how convincing is the line of reasoning employed, are there alternative points of view that need to be considered, how plausible are these? Although the skills of critical evaluation require practice and take time to develop, it is worth the effort as it can inject a sense of debate and tension into your work, giving it a sense of dynamism that really captures the reader’s attention. It also shows you have thought deeply about the topic and are aware of the nuances involved.

Finally, a good academic essay will be one that is free of spelling, punctuation, and grammatical errors. Such errors can be very distracting for the reader and seriously undermine their confidence in your argument. To avoid this, always ensure your work is proofread by a professional editing/proofreading service before you submit it.