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Skills for Learning: Essay Writing


An essay is a piece of academic writing that answers a question or explores one specific topic. Essays are the most common form of assessment in universities. You will be expected to build an argument based on evidence gathered from information sources. Essays tend to have three main parts: the introduction, main body and conclusion.

We run interactive workshops to help you develop your essay writing skills. Find out more on the Skills for Learning Workshops page.

We have online academic skills modules within MyBeckett for all levels of university study. These modules will help your academic development and support your success at LBU. You can work through the modules at your own pace, revisiting them as required. Find out more from our FAQ What academic skills modules are available?

How to approach your essay

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Use the question you’ve been set to help you develop a plan for literature searching. For most topics, there will be many books and journal articles available. When searching Discover and subject databases, focus on keywords from the question. Download the Evidence Matrix Worksheet to help you.

Look for instruction words and phrases. These provide clues as to what the question is asking you to do. The key words in the question might include ‘What?’, ‘When?’ or ‘Why?’, in addition to topic-specific terms. Download the Essay Planning Worksheet and Understanding Assignment Questions Worksheets to help you.

After doing some research, you can begin to organise your ideas. Making an essay plan will help you to formulate an answer. You should plan before you start to write so that your answer is clear and logical. Try making a detailed list of your ideas using bullet points. Download the Essay Planning Worksheet for helpful methods to organise your thoughts.

You need to paraphrase and summarise information from published sources. Download the Paraphrasing and Summarising Information Worksheet to help you develop this skill.

Comparing information from different sources will help you include critical thinking in your essays. Download our Synthesising Sources in Writing Worksheet to help you with this. 

An academic essay is usually an argument, where you give evidence to make a case. A thesis statement is a summary of your main argument. It is usually expressed in one sentence in the first paragraph of your essay. The purpose is to tell your reader how you are going to answer the question. An example thesis statement might be: ‘Coffee is more effective at improving energy levels than tea because it contains a greater amount of caffeine’.

Your essay should provide evidence to show that your thesis statement is valid. Keep referring to your thesis statement throughout and be sure to maintain one central argument. This approach will allow you to remain focused as you write.

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The structure of your essay is very important. Each paragraph should contain one key idea, and each idea should link to the next. The order of the paragraphs should be logical. Think about grouping similar ideas together – you might structure chronologically or by theme.

Each paragraph should contribute to your overall argument. The PEAL model (which stands for ‘Point, Evidence, Analysis, Link’) provides a basic structure for your paragraphs. With this approach, each paragraph is built around one clear point backed up with evidence. Before moving on to the next paragraph, you must explain the relevance of the point. Finally, link back to your main argument or forward to the next paragraph. PEAL is especially useful if you struggle to structure your academic writing. Download the PEAL Paragraph Structure Worksheet to help you develop this skill. 

Use reporting verbs to explain and comment on your evidence. Download the Reporting Verbs Worksheet to help you with using these.

Your first draft does not have to be perfect. In fact, it may look very different from the finished essay. The first draft is about having a go at answering the question. Certainly, you should not see your first attempt as the final piece. You will always gain more marks by editing your work before you submit your assignment. Try making notes in the margins of your first draft to remind you of what to add or change.

This is your opportunity to check your work thoroughly. Examine the content and structure of the essay. Have you answered the question and fulfilled the assignment brief? Is your answer structured logically? Are there problems with grammar and spelling? Leave yourself plenty of time before the deadline to edit your work. You may want to put the essay aside for a day or so. When you return to it, you’re more likely to notice issues that need resolving.

Check the structure of your work by making a reverse outline. Download the Reverse Outlines Worksheet to help you with this. 

Top tips! Keep referring to the question to see if each paragraph contributes to your overall answer. Take a look at our editing and proofreading advice to help with the editing process.

The final read-through is when you check for spelling, typographical and formatting errors. It’s also wise to check your referencing (both in-text citations and the reference list) is consistent and accurate. Take time and care over this stage. Your tutor is sure to notice if you skip this important step.

Top tips! Don’t leave proofreading until the last minute! If you rush, you’ll miss obvious problems and your work will be less polished.

Find out more about proofreading.

If you haven't already done so, this is a good time to review any feedback you have received on previous work. Download the Feedback Action Plan Worksheet to help you with this.

Main features of an essay


This tells the reader how you are going to answer the question. Give your reader a clear summary of what you are going to argue (your thesis statement) and what points you will make. Additionally, outline any methodologies or theoretical frameworks you will use. In short, show what you’re aiming to achieve with the essay. The main body of the essay will expand on these aims.

Main body

This is the analytical part of the essay, where you will demonstrate your knowledge. You should use critical thinking skills to form your own argument. Each paragraph should make a different point and contribute to answering the overall question. The paragraphs should be presented in a logical order. You must give evidence from your reading to back up your argument. This is the longest part of the essay and your opportunity to show what you know!


The conclusion is where you summarise how you have answered the essay question. Return to the key points established in the introduction. Explain how the main body of the essay has examined these points to create your argument. In many essays, the conclusion can also be used to put forward your own ideas for future research.

Artificial intelligence tools

Before using any generative artificial intelligence or paraphrasing tools in your assessments, you should check if this is permitted on your course.

If their use is permitted on your course, you must acknowledge any use of generative artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT or paraphrasing tools (e.g., Grammarly, Quillbot, etc.), even if you have only used them to generate ideas for your assignment or for proofreading.

Tools for improving your essay writing skills

All the recordings from our interactive workshops can be found on the Skills for Learning Workshops page. We recommend starting with our standard Essay Writing recording, or perhaps Writing Academically if you want an overview of some of the different styles of writing you might encounter at university. There's also an Advanced Academic Writing recording if you're already feeling confident with your essay writing.

Essay Writing:

Writing Academically:

Advanced Academic Writing:

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Our interactive Essay X-ray tool can also help you begin to formulate sentences that demonstrate critical thinking. 



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This is because Skills for Learning live events have finished for this academic year. You can find recordings of sessions that ran this year on a range of topics on our Building on Feedback page.

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