Hiya! I’m Kitty, and I study Politics with International Relations at the University of York! In my blog post, I share the methods I’ve developed to write a good Politics essay. Academic writing is very different to anything I had done before, and it took me a while to understand how to go about developing the correct skills.
Expectations vs reality
When I started university, I felt confident that I’d have no issues with writing essays, as it was something I was well practised in thanks to my A levels. When I received feedback suggesting that my approach to academic essays and writing wasn’t quite right, I felt my confidence waver and I was unsure how to adapt my skills. Through a bit of trial and error, I have developed an approach to essays which has drastically improved my confidence and skill.
Throughout first year, I noticed that my skills improved as I read more academic articles. These exposed me to academic writing, and just through reading them for seminar work, I noticed that I was becoming more accustomed to the style. When I first started writing essays, I found looking back at articles an easy way to remind myself of the style and format.
I also started putting more effort into the formative assessments, as this is the main opportunity to receive feedback on your essay style. If the feedback is ever unclear or leaves me with questions, I make sure to go to the tutor’s feedback and guidance hours. I often find verbal discussions more useful than written feedback, so I try to make a note of any important information. This way, I am able to remind myself of what was said while I’m writing the essay.
Do some wider reading
When I plan an essay, I like to start by reading some of the key resources on the topic to ensure that I have a good understanding of the central debates. I usually look through the reading list on the VLE, as this tends to have the most relevant resources. As I’m reading these, I will make a note of the resources they reference, as this is another quick way to find the relevant texts. While reading, I make notes of any nuggets of information or quotes that I think could be useful to include in my essay. I always try to note the page numbers as I go, to save myself from having to search through again later.
Give your essay some structure
Once I feel that I have read enough resources to give me a good overview of the topic, I think of how I want to structure my essay, using the existing literature to develop my own argument. I start by creating a rough structure of the essay using bullet points and brief notes of what will be said where. I then start to expand the bullet points by adding in references to resources and my own opinion. Slowly the bullet points transform into sentences, paragraphs, sections, and eventually an essay.
Often, I find that I need to adapt the essay as I write, and I always try to leave enough time to have a few days break from it. This allows me to re-read the essay with fresh eyes. Having some distance from my work helps me identify any errors in the writing or overall structure, and gives me time to make any changes I see necessary. I also try to get a friend or family member to read over the essay to ensure it’s understandable to someone who’s not as close to the topic. This is important, as sometimes I phrase something in a way which I think is digestible, but actually isn’t very clear.
I have developed this approach to essays through a lot of trial and error, but find that a methodical and steady style works best for me.
Best of luck in your future essays!