It may be Halloween but don't be spooked by your first essay!

As the nights get darker and the spookiest time of year approaches, many of you will face another horror: your first essay! But here are some tips to take the fear out of writing.

Ghosts and pumpkins

Make a plan

Often, if you don’t know what to write, it’s because you need to spend more time thinking about it. The best way is to use a planning strategy. There are many out there, from bullet points to mind maps and flow charts. Visit our Skills for Learning website for lots of planning tips and useful templates.

Understand the title

It’s wise to take some time to really think about what your essay title means. Try to identify the key words so you know what you need to focus on. For example, if your question was ‘Examine the impact of global warming on the environment’, then you would highlight ‘Examine’, ‘impact’ ‘global warming’ and ‘the environment’. You would need to cover all these areas to ensure you were answering the question.

Top tip! Attend a Skills for Learning Essay Writing workshop to learn more about how to interpret your question (the next one is on 28 October).

Consult your reading list

Every university essay will involve a certain amount of background research. Luckily, your lecturers will have made it easy to get started by providing you with a course reading list. Access yours via your modules in MyBeckett.

Stop procrastinating

The thought of doing your essay is guaranteed to be worse than the process of actually getting on with it. Once you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you will feel better about the whole process.

But how will you know what to write? Let go of the notion that every word has to be meaningful. Just get used to the process of writing.

Top tip! Why not try freewriting? Spend five minutes writing non-stop. Write about anything – write down the first thing that comes into your head, even if it’s ‘I don’t know what to write’. This will help you overcome the fear of getting started.

Get some support

Writing your first essay can be scary, but you’re not alone. Use the support available to you from your module lecturers and the university more widely. If your lecturer has offered to discuss your assignment with you, take them up on the offer. If you have the chance to do a practice assignment (sometimes called a ‘formative assessment’), then take advantage of this as you will get useful feedback before your actual assignment deadline.

There is lots of additional support available to you from the Library, too. Why not consult your Subject Guide on the Library website and access the resources on the Skills for Learning website?

Top tip: If you have a specific issue related to academic skills that you want to discuss, you can book a 1-1 appointment. Use the ‘Get Help’ form to request an appointment with an Academic Skills Tutor or Academic Librarian.

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By The Library
22 Oct 2021
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