As February is fast wrapping to a close and the term is about to end, I thought I should share the following tips on how to write a good essay. Our tutors never let us go on holidays scot-free, it’s like an academic taboo. So since you probably have course-works to turn in a few weeks, this might come handy.
Although I put these tips together with a media student in mind, anyone who writes academic essays would find something to take away. At least I hope you do.
1) Do not make a claim that is not backed up by evidence, evidence being an academic source
2) Do not base your argument on an assumption, no matter how obvious. For instance, ‘1 in every 10 black person is a Nigerian’ – what statistical index are you referring to?
3) You can disagree with the stand of a published scholar; however, have other academic evidence to back up your stand – do not argue blindly.
4) Always adhere strictly to the format suggested by the tutor in the essay. This includes Font type, size, cover page style, margin specifications etc
5) Do not exceed your word limit or go overly below it. You can be penalized for that
6) Familiarize yourself with the difference between academic language and everyday language. An academic essay is neither fiction nor a diary entry. The art has a lingo, master it.
7) Learn the art of paragraphing. One paragraph should contain an idea and perhaps an illustration. Do not clog two or more ideas into one paragraph. At worst, the second idea must be so closely related that it would look silly to stand alone in another paragraph.
8) Confirm in your department if you can use She for female authors. A question raised in class will clear that doubt for you. Better still, stay safe and use He.
9) For every course-work try your best to draw a mind-map of how you want to go about it no matter how sketchy. You are likely to be basking in the ambience of delusion if you keep it in your head. Reality dawns when you power your laptop and stare at a blank screen for an hour.
10)Always identify the key authors in the area you are studying. From time to time, your tutor will raise these names in class – take note.
11)Take notes in class, no matter how little. They come handy when you need a gentle reminder while writing
12)Wikipedia is a No-No on the reference list. Do not quote wikipeadia in your work.
13)Endeavour to avoid citing dated sources. Perhaps, they are acceptable in an historical overview. However, it is risky to base the argument of your essay on dated sources, as the arguments have usually progressed beyond that point. Therefore, academic journals are your best friends in this case.
14)Don’t let emotions interfere with your essay. This goes especially for media students where you interpret racist ads & films, colonialism & post colonialism etc. Stay dispassionate and argue from a scholarly standpoint not an emotional one.
16)Tackle a coursework from the first day it is given. Even if you will only google the topic, don’t leave it to the last minute. I tag this sizing up the enemy. Have a feel for the availability of materials – are they going to be challenging or easy to come by?
17) Be weary of grammatical errors, they can make a Tutor’s bad day turn sour & fermented. Smart PCs underline these errors in red, don’t be too lazy to right-click & correct them
18)Take the pain to reference your work properly. Plagiarism has come to steal, kill and destroy your grades … give your academic life to hardwork and dilligent research and Turn It In will set you free.
P.S.: As usual, I expect your comments asking questions or dropping more tips. No one knows it all 🙂