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How to write an essay 

How to write an essay 



Problem setting - thinking - planning - writing - checking - perfecting what you've written 


2.1 The quality of any essay (essay) depends on three interrelated components:


the source material that you are going to use (notes of the read literature, lectures, notes of the results of discussions, your own thoughts and accumulated experience on the problem);

the quality of the processing of the available source material (its organization, argumentation, and arguments)

argumentation (how accurately it correlates with the problems raised in your essay).

2.2 Taking notes, especially in reading, is a strategic intellectual skill and discipline (rather than a mechanical process of writing a summary). Why?


In outlining, you pay attention (after making the appropriate decision) to those points that are key (both a theoretical or general argument and an empirical argument or a case study of a particular issue).

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As you outline, you select relevant material and develop your understanding of theoretical points and/or empirical arguments (i.e., what kinds of facts either support or refute a particular point).


It should be noted that when you read some texts, you take more notes than others because they will be useful to you in your future work or are more relevant to the problem you are interested in and/or are more interesting and/or more informative from a theoretical or empirical point of view. You then divide the material you read into those of greater and lesser interest to you for the reasons given above.


We suggest the following method of outlining: divide your notebook into two columns. In the left column you make an outline of the material you are reading, and in the right column (at the same time or later) you make a comparative analysis of the content of this outline with other facts you have previously read about, heard about (in lectures), discussed (in classes - tutorials - or informally), and with your own comments and criticisms of the text you are reading. In other words, you use your notes to build a cross-reference, based on your own thoughts, language, data, and including your own comments on the statements of others.


2.3 What to Read? How much to read?


There is some conventional relationship between the quality and quantity of reading material: how you read and how much you read. In general, it is better to read less but better than to read more and worse. For the latter leads to misunderstanding, misjudgment, and destruction of the connection between the argument and the facts.

This means that a very important point is the choice of reading material: for each particular topic, you should first read two or three key articles or book chapters, 8 which, for example, provide a clear conceptual framework or theoretical argument, and/or provide comprehensive empirical data (and, as much as possible, the latest data), and/or review and evaluate a wide range of literature on the topic. This strategic reading will begin to form some key reference points on the topic (including various interpretations and discussions) that will serve as some foundation for the direction and development of your future reading. [Course syllabus and faculty advisement will help you in finding material for your subject reading].


Depending on the topic, it is very important to include one or two case studies with opposing points of view in your reading list. Effective use of case studies and data will help you avoid the typical mistake of overgeneralizing material in your essay (see below).

2.4 Preparing to write an essay


Usually, the questions and assignments posed to you in the process of writing an essay require analytical answers, i.e. searching for an explanation: why something happens (for what reason) and how it happens (processes, mechanisms), and the answer requires not just a description of facts or a generalization of what others have said. Naturally, the facts, along with the available points of view on the problem, are extremely important. However, all of this is just part of the background material that you use in answering the question, but it is not the answer to the question itself


When you choose a question on a topic, be sure to read and understand it carefully before you plan your answer, as it can be interpreted in different ways and there are several approaches to cover it: therefore, you will need to choose an interpretation or approach you will follow and be able to justify your choice (see below). In doing so, the content of the question may cover a wide range of issues that require a lot of literature. In this case, you may decide to cover and illustrate only certain aspects of the issue. You will have no problem in doing so, as long as you stay within the scope and your choices are reasonable and you can back them up with the appropriate evidence.


Based on your decision about how you will answer the question, you should make a plan/structure for your answer. The structure of a written paper usually consists of components such as:


Introduction: the essence and rationale for choosing this topic.


Development of the topic: reasoned disclosure of the topic based on the collected material (ideas, models, and data).


Conclusion: generalizations and reasoned conclusions on the topic, indicating its scope, etc. It is like a sandwich, in which the reasoned disclosure of the topic is the stuffing, which represents the sought-after part.


A well-tested (and, for most of us, perfectly necessary) way to construct any essay is to use subheadings to indicate the key points of the argumentative outline: this helps you look at what you intend to do (and see if your intent is good). This approach will help you follow exactly what you've identified as your goal for this research, rather than going around and around. Effective use of subheadings is not just about marking the main points you want to cover. Their consistency can also indicate the presence or absence of logic in your topic coverage.



3.1 Introduction.


Should include a brief statement of your understanding and approach to answering the question at hand. It is very helpful to cover both what you anticipate doing in the essay (your goals) and what your essay will not include, as well as provide brief definitions of key terms, such as: "By gender relations/capitalism I mean the following&hellip" However, try to keep the number of definitions to a minimum (say, three or four) with a summary of them (one sentence is enough).


If your essay provides research and assessments of how (maybe and why?) scholars use key terms to refer to concepts differently or give them different meanings (e.g., decentralization), then you need to reflect those points in the introduction. Your own judgments should be given in the main part of the essay (for example, give it under a separate subheading).


3.2 Content of the main part of the essay


This part involves developing your reasoning and analysis and justifying them based on the available data, other arguments, and positions on the issue. This is the main content of your essay and it represents the main difficulty: it is for this purpose that subheadings are important, based on which your argumentation is structured; it is where you must justify (logically, using data or rigorous reasoning) your proposed argumentation/analysis.


As you fill out the sections with your argumentation (corresponding to the subheadings), limit yourself within a paragraph to addressing a single main idea. It is also useful to use the technique of numbering all paragraphs sequentially to write your draft-it helps you make sure that each paragraph (and its main idea) has its "place," that is, that each paragraph follows the previous paragraph and precedes the next one in a logical sequence. In the final version (see below), you can delete paragraph numbers.

3.3 Requirements for Evidence and Other Sources


When writing an essay (or other type of written work), how empirical data and other sources are used (especially reading quality) is extremely important in order for it to be done well.


All (factual) data relate to a specific time and place, so before you use it, make sure that it is appropriate to the time and place required for your research. Even if you are using, say, a data table on social mobility in Britain, specify the time of that study, etc.


Appropriate specification of the data by time and place is one way that can prevent overgeneralization, which can result in the assumption that all countries are the same in some important respects (if you think so, then this should be proven rather than being an unsubstantiated assertion).


You can always avoid overgeneralization by remembering that within an essay, the data you use is illustrative material, not a final act, i.e., it supports your arguments and reasoning, and demonstrates that you know how to use data appropriately.


Don't forget, too, that data concerning controversial issues is always questioned ("lies, damned lies, statistics, etc."). You are not expected to give a definite or definitive answer (no one will ever agree that this is the only right answer!). But what you can do is to understand the essence of the factual material related to this question (relevant indicators? how reliable is the data for constructing such indicators? what conclusions can be drawn from the available data and indicators regarding causes and effects? etc.), and demonstrate this in your essay.


When writing an essay, it is sometimes difficult because you do not know how to properly use the literature available on the topic. You can avoid these problems by remembering some rules (starting points): when quoting (using someone else's words), always take the text in quotation marks and give an exact reference to the source (including page number). If you do not do this, i.e. pass someone else's thoughts off as your own, it will be considered plagiarism (a form of cheating); even when you convey the text in your own words (giving a summary of its contents or paraphrasing) do not forget to give a reference to the source. For example: "In this paragraph/section I use primarily the work of Dreze and Sen (1991, Ch.1)... etc." (failure to do so may also be considered plagiarism).


When you prepare a summary/report on the views of a particular author or authors in polemic, a reference to the source is also necessary. For example; "According to Sen..." "Sen Nolan's critique of Sen shows that..."


Do not refer to works that you have not read yourself; the only exception to this rule might be if you are referring to an author quoting another author, then you can say, 'As Sen. (1983. P.26, quoted in:Nolan. 1993. С.104}..."

3.4 The final part of the essay can include a summary of your main arguments, but try to keep it very brief.


The conclusion can contain such a very important, complementary element to the essay as an indication of the application (implication) of your research, not excluding the connection with other problems. For example: "The essay is mainly about gender relations in agricultural labor, but a fuller examination (of this problem) would also require an examination of class relations," then say a few sentences explaining why this would be useful, and briefly illustrate how this could be done.



Verifying the first version of your essay is of the utmost importance when writing an essay. When writing a draft, your main task is to develop an argument, polish your main thoughts and arrange them in a strict sequence, accompanying them with illustrative material or supporting data, etc. After writing the first draft, let it sit for a day or two and then return to work on revision and improvement, with a "fresh head."


When checking, first of all, pay attention to the strength of your argument. Does the essay you've written match your intentions in terms of work structure and analysis? Is it coherent and persuasive? Is enough data used? relevant data? used effectively? etc.


Then (last step) check for style (check for spelling, punctuation, etc.) and coherence (content) (by headings and subheadings, format, etc.)


You apparently want to get good grades for the assignments you complete. At the same time, the writing experience you gain (develop) while preparing essays and other assignments in your master's course will be of great value to you after you complete it, no matter which of your professional fields you find yourself in. Grades, being the instructor's feedback to the student, are needed on the one hand to encourage intellectual activity that finds expression in written work as a means of communication, and on the other hand, grades discourage "bad" intellectual work by the student.


For the ability to construct and prove your position on certain problems based on the knowledge you have acquired.


[Remember that in the subjects we deal with, there are no absolutely "right" or "wrong" answers to questions, as there are in physics or mathematics - there are only more or less reasoned points of view. Remember also that you don't get grades simply for agreeing with your lecturers' point of view - the examiners expect you to think for yourself, i.e., what you think about it].


When advancing your own position, your focus is on your ability (ability) to critically and independently evaluate a range of data and viewpoints/arguments from others; your ability to understand, evaluate, and connect the key points of any problems and issues; your ability to differentiate (what is more and what is less important); understand analytical approaches and models; differentiate opposing approaches and models and their application to empirical material; discussions of principled issues; and conduct of development po


Need to write briefly, clearly, and concisely. (Making the most of limited length.)


1. the fact that you can't answer the question. 

2. Poor organization of your answer. 

3. Failing to stick to your answer to the main question. 

4. Using rhetoric (assertion) instead of argumentation (proof). 

5. Careless handling of data, including overgeneralization. 

6. Too extensive descriptive part, not supported by analytical material. 

7. Presenting other viewpoints without stating your own position. 

8. Repetition unnecessarily. 


1. Before you begin.


  • Have you carefully read the relevant literature? (key articles and book chapters; case studies, if needed; other relevant sources).

  • Do you have sufficiently detailed and organized outlines?

  • Have you read the question carefully? Have you thought through what the approach to the problem will be and how it will be defended?

2. Structure of the essay


  • Have you developed an argument?

  • Have you prepared a writing plan according to the stages of the argument?

  • Do you have a good system of subheadings (related sequence)?

3. Essay writing


  • Does the essay meet the following requirements:

  • Is the introduction concise and relevant to the topic? Does it include points such as: a rationale for choosing the approach you use; having a brief definition of all basic terminology according to your intentions for their use?

  • Do you follow a system of subheadings?

  • Do you formulate one clear main question in each paragraph?

  • Are the paragraphs presented in a logical sequence?

  • Do you use evidence effectively?

  • Do you make proper references to sources?

  • Do you avoid repetition? Excessive generalization? Descriptions without analysis or argumentation? Summarizing other points of view without stating your own point of view and justifying it?

  • Is your conclusion concise and relevant?

  • Do you indicate any other (broader) applications and implication of the topic you are investigating?

4. Essay Review


  • Have you reread your essay, paying particular attention to the points above (item 3)?

  • Have you checked how the essay answers the questions posed?

  • Have you checked the style of your work and have you made any changes in style? References, footnotes?

  • Have you compiled a bibliography/list of references and references used?

5. Turning in the essay


  • Did you do any proofreading?

  • Have you organized your time so that you can turn in your work on the due date? Do you know how you would like to improve the essay if you had the opportunity? (Try to write this down briefly and compare it with the results of your paper review. Review the instructor's notes attached to your work.)