If you’re an English student one of the most demanding parts of studying English at University is the essay writing! But once you’ve mastered the technique you should be able to apply it to all kinds of different essays and assignments; whether that’s a close analytical essay, comparative response or a long dissertation. To help you master essay assignments at university, we’ve come up with some top tips on essay writing for English students!

Do The Critical Reading!

When writing a university essay, make sure you are using critical readings to build a persuasive argument. Reading as many critics as possible not only gives you an insight to a wide perspective but also allows your argument to be supported. A critical source is a piece of original research, published in academic journals, books or edited collections, and are essential to English students. These are available to students via databases including the JSTOR or your university library website, giving you easy online access to all the resources you may need. Many of these secondary readings are covered in your English module courses throughout the term. Staying on top of reading throughout the term makes your life a whole lot easier when it comes to planning your essay! In a typical English essay at university level, you should include around 5-6 critical readings with direct quotations. When doing this reading, you should select and highlight interesting quotations, relevant to your points that you can slot into your essay later. Making full use of the course reading list and using these critical sources is one of the best tips for English essay writing!

essay writing

Make A Detailed Plan

I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but always start with a detailed plan! Without this your essay will lack direction and clarity. This makes your ideas clear in your head before you start writing and stops you from waffling, ensuring a strong and coherent English literature essay. Identify possible themes from your set text which you would like to explore. The most vital part for English students planning assignments is coming up with a thesis. This is the argument which you want to flow throughout the whole essay; often a thought raised by the essay question itself. This will ensure that you write a persuasive and clear essay. From your thesis, you can come up with separate points which will form the body of the essay. Each paragraph should be governed by a topic that drives the argument forward. Here you can signpost your argument, by finding ways you can link the last sentence of one paragraph to the first of the next in order to make your writing flow nicely. In your essay plan you can also organise your critical quotations, making sure they accurately and clearly support the points you want to make in your essay.

Start Writing Freely

The hardest part of writing an essay at university is always where to start. Using different time management techniques can help you make a start on your essay. For example, setting a 15 minute timer just to write your ideas down without any pressure. You will often go past the time limit, but it means you can just get your thoughts down without making it sound perfect. Once you’ve got started, the writing process seems much less overwhelming as you now have a framework, which you can continue to edit and develop into a proper English essay.

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Read Your Writing Aloud To Others

Collaborative working is especially useful for English students. Sharing your work with your friends or flatmates allows you to verbally hear your writing. A fresh set of ears can often notice things that you can’t when you’ve been rereading the same piece of writing over and over again. They can offer you different suggestions and feedback to make your essay even better.


Proof Read And Make Sure You Stick To The Word Count

It can seem like the most tedious task to re read your entire essay after having spent the last week reading it as you’ve written it. But, the last proof read can be the difference between a 2:1 and a first. Leaving time to proof read your work for punctuation and grammar is so important for an English essay as you will be marked down for errors. In most university essays you are given some leeway with the word count, 10% above and under. However, if you go too much under or over you will be penalised so make sure you keep checking. Sticking to the word count is one of the easiest ways to quality control your English essay!

Leave Time For Your Bibliography

Engaging with critics means you need to cite and reference everything you have used in your essay. This is extremely important for English students and all university students as failing to cite can lead to plagiarism and penalties on your work. This takes some time so it’s worth doing this throughout to make your life easier once you’ve finished writing. Always check what referencing type your university wants you to use, English is often MLA. Make sure to have a look at the referencing guides on your university websites to help you write your references correctly for the different critical sources.


And there you have our Top Tips On Essay Writing for English Students. It’s important to stay calm and try out new approaches to essay planning & essay writing. Eventually you will find the best methods that suit your writing style. For more academic tips and hacks see our other blogs on studying at University.

This This blog was written by Florence Henderson, at the University of Exeter.

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