Planning, Writing & Presenting Essays

  • Last updated 21-Jul-2016 17:46:09
  • By Billy Sexton, Editor,

The law degree is well underway and essays are aplenty. Whether you’re completely lost with where to even begin with your first essay, or you’ve done a few essays already but they’re not quite up to scratch (been getting a few Desmonds?), you’re wanting some essay advice.

Use the resources available to you

Your first port of call should be your personal tutor or mentor, as they’re going to be more likely to be able to give you bespoke advice based on your past work. Why? Because your tutor will have seen your essays and the essays of your peers, they’re likely to be able to tell you where you can improve to hit the top marks. However, you may feel a bit embarrassed about seeing your tutor, or their office hours may be at a ridiculous hour of the day (9am?! Are you serious?). So, who ya gonna call?, of course!

Right, first things first, there’s three key elements of any essay: planning, writing and presenting. We’ll run through each part, giving you tip-top advice.

Essay planning

It’s impossible to write a fantastic essay without planning. Fact. So before you even type the first word of your introduction, you need to do four things.

- Analyse the question

Deconstruct the question. Work out precisely what you’re being asked. Are you being asked why something happened? Or how something will be carried out?

- Plan your points

Once you’ve worked out what you’re being asked, you should plan your argument. Your argument is largely going to be dictated by the evidence and supporting material. If you find yourself disagreeing with a particular author, find evidence to back up your claim.

- Selecting supporting material

There’s absolutely loads of material out there for any essay. Public law and constitutionalism has been written about countless times. Look up any controversial or contentious pieces of work that could apply to your essay as these are likely to have generated responses from the academic world, opening the door to a wealth of material. Material can also be in the form of lecture notes and any research you’ve done yourself.

- Organise your material.

But what’s the use in all this useful material if it’s not organised effectively? Usually, you should take the material you disagree with first, and present it as a response to the question, but one that you fundamentally disagree with. You should then present your argument, and support it with materials that compliment your argument.

Essay writing

So, once you’ve made a to-do list, analysed the question, selected and organised material in a concise essay plan, it’s time to start writing. There are three main points to a typical essay.

- Introduction

The introduction should highlight your understanding of the issues raised by the question and reveal how you intend to answer the question. Therefore, you need to show you understand context, tell the reader your interpretation of the question and outline your argument and structure.

You may have heard that the introduction should be the last thing you write in an essay. In practice, this can work, as it’s only after you’ve finished your essay where you know what you’ve argued. However, you should have a rough idea of what will be included in the introduction, even if it changes later on.

- Argument – divided into paragraphs and littered with evidence

Your argument should be split into paragraphs, each with its own point and purpose. Paragraphs should present and comment on supporting evidence. Evidence adds authority and credibility to your point.

- Conclusion

The conclusion should revisit the original question by summarising your main points and re-stating your point of view that was first touched upon in the introduction. It’s very important that you don’t start making new points in the conclusion, but you could question the implications of your argument.

Essay presentation

So you’ve nailed your essay, but how do you plan on presenting it? Comic Sans, size 14? Don’t even think about it.

Times New Roman, size 12, is the only font you should consider using for an essay. On top of that, you should justify and double space the text and make sure that your referencing complies with the style set out by your university or tutor.

Paragraphs should be indented, as should longer quotes, which should be single spaced and do not require quotation marks.

Hopefully that’s helped address some of your essay worries and if you follow these points you may see an improvement in your marks! 

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