Writing your first ever essay at university

Whether you’re coming to it from A Levels or the world of work, we understand that writing your first academic essay is a daunting task. Here are our top tips for getting through your first essay writing experience at university.  

1. Start early 

 It may sound obvious, but don’t leave your essay to the last minute. Degree essays need a lot of work and research. If you want to get a good mark, they are not something you can write from scratch the night before your deadline.  

It helps if you choose a subject that interests you and ideally on something that you attended the lectures and seminars on! The more you like a subject, the less of a chore writing your essay will feel and you’ll spend more time on it and get a better result.  

2. Research  

When writing essays at school or college, you could probably get away with simply making use of textbooks. However, when writing your essays for university, your tutors will want to see that you have conducted your research thoroughly. This means you should look at a number of different kinds of sources. For example, journal articles are often expected in essays at university. It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with some journals that are related to your topic. Not only will they help you increase your subject related knowledge, it’ll also help you to become more familiar with academic styles of writing.  

 That said, do start with a few books from your library. Your tutors have chosen core reading materials for a reason, so they are a good place to start.  

 We also recommend that you show evidence that you have made use of a range of sources, so try not to rely too heavily on one book. For an average 2,000-word essay, we recommend at least eight as a minimum.  

 Once you’ve got your resources together, make lots of notes. Make sure to include the page number and source title of relevant quotes so that they are easier to find when you are writing up.

3. Plan  

 All essays need a clear argument and a solid structure. Start by deciding on your main argument, and make sure everything you include in your essay works towards making a case for your argument.  

 There are a number of different ways to structure an essay, from chronological, to thematic to comparative. There is no one size fits all for essay structure, so just decide what will work best for the subject you are covering and go from there.  

 The important thing is that you have a plan. This will make the writing process easier and will help you to express your ideas and arguments logically.  

 4. Answer the question 

 Again, this seems obvious, but please answer the question. It can be easy to run off on tangents when you find pieces of interesting information. Don’t waste invaluable words on something that won’t help you make your case! It will only confuse the reader and may result in a lesser mark.  

 keep your essay relevant and on topic. If you’re struggling with the word count, it probably means you need to do a little more research.  

5. Stay focused and write  

Now you have conducted all your research, and you have a solid plan, it’s time to just get on with it and write. Remember to think critically, don’t simply talk about something you read in a book, explain the content and analyse the argument. Put simply, make your point, provide evidence, and explain the evidence.  

 Try to work in an environment that helps you to concentrate. In other words, no distractions!

 6. Reference correctly 

 You may have had to reference your essay in school, but be aware that it is taken much more seriously at university. Referencing incorrectly can mean serious consequences. You will certainly fail your essay and could even risk being kicked out of university altogether.  

 If you mention anything that was said or written by anybody else in your essay, then be sure to reference the source it came from. This is important even if you are not going to be quoting somebody directly.  

 Referencing styles can differ between departments, so it’s important to find out which style of referencing you should be using.  

 7. Consider using a professional service  

 Although you should research and write an essay yourself, a professional proofreading service could help you when it comes to perfecting your final piece. They will be able to spot mistakes that you may have overlooked, which will give you the upper hand when it comes to wowing your tutor with an excellent writing style and impeccable spelling and grammar.  

 We understand that writing the first essay of your first semester can be daunting. As a result, we are offering 20% off on all proofreading and tutoring services until the end of November. Our proofreading+ service may help if you are struggling with your academic writing style. Not only do we correct basic spelling and grammar errors, but we also provide guidance on writing style, structure and referencing. Check out what we can offer by following this link: www.larkintutors.com/proofreading. 

 8. Submit on time! 

 Once you have written and proofread your essay, make sure you know when and where your essay needs to be handed in. Don’t leave printing it off until the last minute either! There can be a long queue for printers at university close to deadline days.  

 It’s important to remember that you will likely be penalised for handing an essay in late. After all the hard work you’ve put in, you don’t want to risk going from a 1st to a 2:2 simply for handing your essay in a few days late.  


There we have it! Our top tips for essay writing success. Try not to stress about it too much. Just do some research, get on with writing and hand it in on time! Remember we are always here to help if you need us.

Good luck!  



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