5 things I wish I’d known for my first essay

Apart from sorting out my Student finance and other important documents I didn’t spend much time preparing for my second year. The reason for this is probably that I just couldn’t find the time to do it on one hand and on the other there wasn’t a specific list of books, which we would use in our second year. Well, there might have been one that I wasn’t able to find but nonetheless even if I had it I wouldn’t read all of them.

I would like to give some advice to readers of this blog on writing essays. Sooner or later your coursework assignment will be to write an essay. Here are five things/tips I wish I had known for my first essay.

Plan your time

Working against time pressure makes your essays weaker in structure and context. You always get enough time to write it and submit it. Plan ahead and create a time plan. If you still have loads of time when you’re writing it, you can always contact your lecturer or tutor if there’s something unclear.

Select your readings

Make sure you get enough readings and do enough research. On a focus group we held a guy said 5 references per page. The most important question is where to get readings. The fastest way is through your online library search engine. Just write your keywords and find relevant articles. It is important that the context of the article is relevant to your essay and not just the title, so make sure you read it (or at least the abstract). If you’re more of a book guy, search for books and get them in the library.



Structure is very important. Essay isn’t ‘write everything you read and found’. Make sure you answer the question. Different answers demand different questions. Pay attention to key words of your essay such as ‘discuss’, ‘compare’ or ‘why’ and ‘how’.


Reference as you write. Don’t do it at the end. If you have trouble referencing, use EndNote or similar programs. In psychology we are only allowed to use APA style referencing. A good website (with examples) is Purdue Owl.


Proof reading

When you finish your essay, ask your academic advisor if he/she could read it and give you some feedback. They will usually be happy to do it unless they teach that module (in which case they are not allowed to).


If you want more tips, our university offers guidelines and suggestions for essay writing, which you can find here. It’s quite a long document, but it’s worth it. I also wish I’d read it before my first essay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *