Planning, Writing & Presenting Essays
As with any degree, a law degree requires plenty of essay writing. You might be at a complete loss regarding how best to start your essay, or you might have already submitted a few essays but your grades aren’t quite up to scratch. The following article seeks to answer all your pressing questions about essay writing, while offering tips and tricks to help you achieve the best possible result.
Use the resources available to you
Your first port of call should be your personal tutor or mentor, as they will be more likely to offer you bespoke advice based on your past work. Your tutor will have seen your essays and the essays of your peers, so they will have the experience and knowledge to tell you where you can improve to hit the top marks. However, you may feel slightly intimidated to see your tutor, or their office hours may be at an inconvenient hour of the day. In that case, this article should help you out.
There are three key elements to writing an essay: planning, writing and presenting. We’ll run through each part separately, giving you top advice.
It’s impossible to write a fantastic essay without planning. So before you even type the first word of your introduction, you need to do four things.
Analyse the question
Deconstruct the question and work out precisely what you’re being asked. Are you being asked why something happened? Or how something will be carried out? Look for keywords such as “analyse”, “contrast” or “critically evaluate” to name but a few. In these words, the essay question is telling you how to answer it.
Plan your points
Once you’ve worked out what you’re being asked, you should plan your argument, which 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 exists plenty of material to support your arguments in an essay. Public law and constitutionalism have 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. The material can also be in the form of lecture notes and any research you’ve done yourself. Be sure to verify the credibility of your sources, and if possible aim to fact-check the information you choose to include in your essay.
Organise your material.
Your material is all but useless without organising it in an effective and comprehensive manner. Usually, you should tackle the material you disagree with first, and present it as an initial response to the question. This should be followed by a presentation of your own argument using the material to support and add substance to your viewpoint. Your argument should seek to disprove and critically analyse any opposing arguments presented in your initial section. Although this is a rigorous way of tackling an essay question, it’s recommended to check beforehand with your tutor or lecturer the desired format of the essay.
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.
The introduction should highlight your understanding of the issues raised by the question and reveal how you intend to answer it. It’s crucial to demonstrate you understand the context. This is best achieved by informing the reader about your interpretation of the question, presenting your thesis and outlining the structure you intend to follow over the course of the essay.
You may have heard that the introduction should be the last thing you write in an essay. This isn’t necessarily the case. Generally, you should have a rough idea of what will be included in the introduction, even if it changes later on.
The body of the essay
Your argument should be split into paragraphs, each with its own point and purpose. Paragraphs should present and comment on supporting evidence. Make sure to always support any argument with evidence. The evidence adds authority and credibility to your point.
The conclusion should revisit the original question by summarising your main points and restating 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.
So you’ve nailed your essay, but how do you plan on presenting it?
Generally, universities will specify the font, type-size and format in which they want the essay to be presented. However, if the university doesn’t provide this information, a readable font in size 12 should be the default option. 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 without quotation marks.
Hopefully, that’s helped address some of your essay worries. If you follow these points, you may see an improvement in your marks!
Next article: Delivering a presentation