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Study Skills

Essays

How to write well-organised essays that answer the essay question.

Writing essays is a common assessment task at university.  A well-written essay will: 

  • answer the essay question  
  • be well-structured and coherent  

  • present a strong argument  

  • use reliable evidence to support your points 

  • be written in academic style. 

This page will show you how to:

  • analyse essay questions

  • create well-structured and coherent essays. 

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Before you continue, reflect on your previous writing experience and feedback you have received. How would you rate your ability in the following essay writing skills? Rate your ability from ‘good’ to ‘needs development’. 

If you feel confident about your skills, you may find it helpful to review the materials on this page to confirm your knowledge and possibly learn more. Don't worry if you don't feel confident. Work through these materials to build your skills. 

Preparing for the essay

Before you begin working on an essay, you must understand what you are being asked to discuss. So, you must start by analysing the essay question carefully.    

Analysing essay questions

Read this essay question and watch the video to learn more. 

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can cause childhood cognitive impairment, leading to a lifetime of disadvantage. Evaluate the role of the national government in addressing this issue in remote communities. 

Analysing essay questions: putting it to practice
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Consider what you learned in the video and analyse two essay questions. 

  1. Identify the task words, topic words and focus words.
  2. Click on the icons to check your answers.
Understanding essay task words

Some task words are used frequently in essay questions. You should ensure you understand what they all mean.

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  Drag the best definition underneath each task word. 

Applying your learning

Apply what you have learned to your own assessments.

  1. Go to your units on Learnline. 

  2. Find and analyse your own essay questions. 

  3. Discuss your ideas with your peers. 

Analysing your topic will help you with the next steps. You may:

Structuring essays

After analysing the question, researching, note-taking and planning, you are ready to write your first draft. To do this, you will follow the standard three-part structure of a university essay: introduction, body and conclusion. 

Organising the essay

This section will explain how essays are organised. Most university essays follow a standard three-part structure: introduction, body and conclusion. These are divided into paragraphs.

In some disciplines, you may use headings in your essay. If your lecturer requires this, you can visit the Cohesion page to learn more about writing effective headings.

Most disciplines do not require headings in the body of the essay. Therefore, you must organise your essay very carefully.

essay structure

Watch this video to learn more about the standard three-part structure of essays.

 

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Check your understanding by identifying the elements that usually appear in each of the three parts of a standard essay.

Organising the introduction

An introduction should include the following: 

Introduction structure
Background  This is normally two or three sentences which give the context, or background information, and show the importance of the topic.
Thesis statement Your thesis statement is one or two sentences that give your main aim or argument. 
Outline The outline identifies the sub-topics of the essay and shows how the essay will be organised.  
Scope The introduction may include a scope if the topic is broad and you need to narrow it down. 

 

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Read the example introduction for the essay on fetal alcohol disorder and pay attention to how it has been analysed.

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   It’s your turn. Analyse the introduction about student success at university.

  

 

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Read the following sentences from the essay question about Kiribati. Put them in order to create a cohesive introduction. 

 

Organising the body

The body of the essay is divided into paragraphs that present ideas that support the thesis statement.  Each paragraph will focus on one main idea. Each will also include a topic sentence, supporting evidence, and possibly a link or concluding sentence. 

Paragraphs will present ideas in the same order as the outline in the introduction. For example, the Kiribati essay may present ideas in this order: 

body

Visit Paragraphs to learn more.

Organising the conclusion

Conclusions are often the weakest part of student essays because they are often written last when students are tired. However, your conclusions are very important because they are your chance to reinforce your ideas and end strongly. To ensure you write a strong conclusion, you should: 

  • take a break before you write your conclusion 

  • reread your introduction focusing on your thesis and outline 

  • ensure your introduction and conclusion are aligned. 

The conclusion should: 

  • restate your thesis or the main idea of the paper 

  • give a summary of the issues covered in the essay 

  • make a concluding statement. 

conclusion structure

 

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Read this example conclusion. Compare it with the introduction from the same essay. Can you find the paraphrase of the thesis statement? 

 

 

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It’s your turn. Identify the different sections of the conclusion to the essay on student success at university.

 

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Read the following sentences from the essay question about Kiribati. Put them in order to create a cohesive conclusion. 

 

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   Now, analyse the conclusion to identify the stages.

 

Applying your learning

Reflect on what you have learned in this material and consider how you can use it in your own work. 

Useful strategies
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1.

Read widely to improve your writing.

  • Read published papers in your discipline.
  • Ask your lecturer if they have sample essays you can read.

If you read widely, you may notice that your discipline uses slight variations in standard essay organisation. For instance, Law essays often use headings while many other disciplines don’t.

2

Re-read an essay you are drafting.

  • Have you included three stages?
  • Have you included each element of the three stages?
  • Does your conclusion mirror your introduction?
3Use this Essay Mapping Tool to ensure your essays are well-structured.
4Be very careful with referencing. The referencing style that you use depends on the expectations of your lecturer, so always check first.

     

    Next steps
    reflection icon

    Reflect on your learning.

    1Revisit the self analysis quiz at the top of the page. How would you rate your skills now?
    2Remember that writing is a process and mistakes aren't a bad thing. They are a normal part of learning and can help you to improve.

    If you would like more support, visit the Language and Learning Advisors page.

     

     

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    Sample essay

    Sample essay document

    What factors contribute to student success at university?

    The modern university serves a wide range of needs in society. In 2018, Australian universities had just over 1.5 million students in full-time and part-time study (Australian Department of Education, Skills and Employment, 2020). 

    Download sample essay (DOCX, 30.55 KB)

    Did you know CDU Language and Learning Advisors offer a range of study support options?

    https://www.cdu.edu.au/library/language-and-learning-support

     

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