Writing an essay can be a serious trial for many students. Unlike multiple choice or short answer questions, an essay requires far more effort on the part of the student and is often held to a higher standard than other types of work.
Unlike multiple choice or short answer questions, an essay requires far more effort on the part of the student and is often held to a higher standard than other types of work.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways a student can ensure that he or she does well on any essays that the instructor assigns to the class.
Understand and Follow Instructions
The most important part of doing well on an essay is both understanding and following the instructions of the student’s instructor.
Many teachers have specific requirements that they take into account when grading an essay, and ignoring these requirements can lead the unlucky student to being forced to redo the essay or even having his or her work rejected outright.
In most cases, these instructions will be provided either when the essay is assigned or as part of the course syllabus that every student should have been given when the course first started.
It should be noted that few teachers will accept a student’s excuse that they “lost the instructions.” If the student is confused about the nature of instructor’s directions, it is important to immediately seek clarification from the teacher before starting work on the essay.
- The essay’s minimum and maximum allowable length.
- The format for any citations used in the essay.
- The number and type of sources that must be used in the essay.
In most cases, the instructor will give both a minimum and maximum essay length. While everyone knows it is a bad idea to write less than the instructor demands, the fact is that an overly long essay can be almost as bad for the student’s final grade.
The instructor will assign the length that he or she knows is sufficient, and students who write a longer essay than was requested may find their grade reduced due to that fact.
It is important to ask the instructor if the essay length is only for the body of the essay or if it also includes the bibliography and notes.
Students should avoid using overly large fonts or spacing, as that will make it plain they were attempting to write as little as possible and will result in the essay being marked down by the instructor.
Most college and high school instructors will require that their students provide relevant sources for their work.
The students should be certain that they understand how the instructor wishes them to format these notes. In most cases, the instructor will require a bibliography at the end of the paper and footnotes or endnotes throughout the body of the paper, providing the source for any factual information or quotes used in the essay.
Note formats can vary widely depending on the class and the instructor. Some instructors demand footnotes while others require endnotes from their students.
In addition, various fields will use different format styles for their footnotes or endnotes. For this reason, the students should always ask their instructor what type of note format he or she desires.
In some cases, the instructor may provide this information at the start of the class, while other instructors may assume that their students already know the proper format to use.
However, students who fail to use the proper format may find their essays marked down or outright refused, making it very important to verify the instructor’s specific format requirements.
The Number and Type of Sources Required
Most instructors will require that their students provide a variety of sources for their essay.
The student should be certain to find out exactly what types of reference sources are acceptable to the instructor.
Most importantly, many instructors feel that Internet sources such as Wikipedia articles should not be used in an academic essay.
Other instructors will mandate the use of both primary and secondary sources in all assigned essays. The student should be certain that he understands what types of sources will be required and how the instructor will want to see them employed.
Start on Time
An essay is not something that can be finished in a few minutes. Many classes require rough drafts to be turned in before the final paper is given to the teacher; even when this is not the case, an essay that is started the day before it is due will be a very shoddy essay indeed.
The student should allocate enough time for research, outlining, rough draft and a finished final draft to be turned in to the class. This is most important for the longer essays, as many students will find that they must extensively revise their work before it is ready to be given to the instructor.
Many instructors will simply refuse to accept a late paper, while others will substantially reduce a late essay’s grade.
Remain in Contact with the Instructor
Failing to communicate with the instructor is one of the worst things a student can do. The time to bring up problems in the essay is well before the due date— not five minutes before the final class begins.
Instructors enjoy hearing from their students and many of them set aside office hours when they are specifically available to talk about any problems their students might have.
By staying in contact with the instructor, a student can often make arrangements to obtain help with his or her essay while also impressing the instructor with the student’s work ethic.
Ultimately, essay writing is a vital part of the educational process. Whether a student is completing high school or working in a graduate program, he or she will no doubt be required to finish many essays over the course of the school year.
By working to ensure that the essay is completed to the instructor’s satisfaction, the student can be assured that his or her grades will reflect the effort that went into completing the student’s essay.