Writing an Essay involves reading the task instructions carefully, looking up keywords/ terms, highlighting important information and asking your lecturer if you have questions, not other students! Writing essays also requires brainstorming and planning. Research is an important step. Resources should be valid and reliable, and students should follow the task instructions. Resources used should help you to answer the question/s appropriately. Depending on the task, resources may include other texts, academic journals and/ or newspapers, that is, published resources. You will need to write a draft of your essay, read it and edit it as required. Make sure that you follow all task instructions, and keep the instructions next to you whilst checking your essay. A checklist may be useful.
General Writing Skills
General writing skills include appropriate word use/ spelling, sentences and paragraphs, as well as correct use of grammar and punctuation marks. Inclusive language, that is, language that is gender-neutral and is not discriminatory, should also be used. The structure of information should be logical and clear to the reader. Poor writing skills make writing harder to read, and for tertiary/ pre-tertiary students, marks may be deducted for poor language skills. Make sure that your writing makes sense. One way to do this is to read your work aloud.
Academic Writing Skills
At universities, students are expected to follow certain guidelines in relation to writing assignments, and even in tests and exams. Academic writing is objective and logical. Students are expected to write about theories and ideas, but not about personal opinions, experiences and/ or their emotions. For this purpose, do not use the first person, but write ‘This writer’ or ‘this author.’ Avoid assumptions and generalizations, the use of absolutes and the use of vague language. Avoid slang, text message/ email style language and use a formal tone. Do not ‘talk’ to the reader.
In essays/ assignments, students are expected to support / demonstrate a point of view by using resources as mentioned above. This forms part of academic writing. All resources used must be acknowledged, using the Harvard Referencing method. You may also find that different resources have different points of view. This is not only normal, but a part of critical thinking in which we realize that there is often more than one side to an issue. Once again, remember that resources used must be updated, valid and reliable.
It is important to use an appropriate format. This includes the font size, line spacing and block style which are often indicated in assessment task instructions. Students should also attach the assignment cover sheet, completely fully and accurately, as well as the marking guide and staple all pages on the top left hand corner. Using the appropriate format makes a document look visually pleasing and professional, but it also helps the reader who, of course, is your lecturer/ marker, to mark your work and provide relevant feedback.
Harvard Referencing Method
Plagiarism is copying another person’s words or even ideas without acknowledgment. This is a form of stealing and does show respect and courtesy to others. Plagiarized materials do not have to be published. This includes materials created by lecturers/ unit coordinators and internet materials.
The Harvard method uses citations and a reference list to acknowledge sources. Citations are an abbreviation of the source used in-text, that is, in the body of your essay/ assignment. A direct quote is used if the source is 30 words or less. For this purpose, copy straight from the source and use single quotation marks. The citation is shown in brackets, usually after the quote, and has three elements; author’s surname, year of publication and page number. You must comment on the quote, that is, show the purpose for using it. Here is an example: