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Essay Writing Guide: Tips and Requirements

Content and Development


Focus on important or novel aspects of your selected topics. In general, it is much better to demonstrate a coherent grasp of the whole subject rather than to focus on minutiae that may not be important in the wider context. It is fine to use personal viewpoints as long as your opinions are logically developed and well referenced.


This section identifies the issues to be discussed, introduces perspective using references from the literature, and outlines the scope of the essay. The reader should be ‘drawn in’ to your topic from here and get the impression that you have read widely in these areas.

Content and Development

Your text should develop in a logical way (using description, evaluation and analysis), and credit will be given for originality of approach or scope. There should be a critical and wide-ranging use of relevant literature, providing evidence for your argument, and allowing you to explore and evaluate the main issues. Summarise appropriate papers in your own words, making sure that you focus on the topic. This part of the essay may be divided with sub-headings. You may include Figures or Tables but each should have a title, caption and footnotes as appropriate, and should be correctly cited.

Your conclusions should be clearly defined, and should arise logically from your arguments in the main part of the essay. You should not introduce new material, but should refer back to the main argument or question that you mentioned in the Introduction. We are interested in your opinions, even if they conflict with accepted dogma.


Please consider whether presentation of your essay accurately reflects the amount of work contained within it: poorly printed, scrappy or amateurish presentation will not help you here or in your professional career.  Marks are awarded for general features such as clear page layout; grammar and spelling; and references. Each time you quote published work in the text or in tables/figures you must reference (cite) the original paper in the text. The reference section should contain full citations in Harvard style (full reference title). Web pages should be cited with the full URL and the date when accessed. You are strongly recommended (though it is not compulsory) to use EndNote or Reference Manager software. We expect you to cite at least 10 references, although most good essays contain 20 to 30.

address the topic or question adequately
show basic, but competent, knowledge of the material
display reasonable understanding and some clear argument(s)
But it will also:
have made a weak or poor selection, and use, of evidence in support of the argument(s)
lack depth in citing of evidence in support of the argument(s)
have acceptable prose, referencing and presentation.

To achieve a Merit, the work should:
address an important local question or relatively rare topic  
make accurate and effective use of evidence to support the argument(s)
address the question or topic well
be well-organised and referenced
display evidence of general reading and/or good literature research
display insight and understanding and present coherent argument(s)
have well-considered conclusions which relate to the argument(s) presented
be written in fluent, concise and clear prose with good graphics and tables.

To achieve a Distinction, the work should demonstrate hard work and intelligence, and the following in addition to the qualities of a Merit-worthy composition:
      present an exceptionally clear argument on an important topic     
      integrate a range of materials and information sources
      have a real depth of insight into theoretical issues and display analytical rigour
      display originality in treatment and exposition of the subject, particularly where the opinions disagree with conventional dogma
      make perceptive conclusions.

Work will be graded as a FAIL or below if there appear to be several of the following issues:
       It does not address the topic/question adequately.
       Knowledge of the material is weak, inaccurate or mis-represented.
       Some knowledge of the issues raised is shown, but its use is unselective.
       There is an uncritical treatment of literature sources.
       The work lacks clear, coherent argument(s) and/or structure.
       The prose style obscures the meaning.
       The citation of sources is inadequate or missing.

Submitting your essay

Please submit your essay via the Turnitin portal on the Moodle page. The deadline is strict and late submissions will be penalised. Please alert the Programme administrator in good time if you have a valid reason for requesting extra time. The examiners will hope to return marks and comments swiftly, but this can only be achieved if all essays arrive on time.

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