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anti's Guide to Essay Writing (1 Viewer)


aww.. baby raccoon ^^
Jul 28, 2002
Essay writing

I have to say I’m probably not the best person to comment on writing essays considering I haven’t done one for over two years.. but if you would like to read my guide then I hope it assists you in some way.

For your essays in English (Advanced) you will be exploring and evaluating the ideas expressed in texts, relationships between text and contexts and representation and meaning (straight from the syllabus guys). As a result your essays should reflect not only your understanding of these concepts but also your ability to critically analyse and deconstruct them.

Understand the question
The greatest downfall of many students is not spending enough time understanding the question, planning the essay and as a result struggling to create a cohesive and structured response.

When you read the question, it may help to underline, circle or highlight the key words. Key words are words which jump out at you whether because they are important (what exactly you are talking about) or because they add context to your response. Going through an example:

Compose an argument for or against the topic:
‘That every text has its use-by date.’
Consider your prescribed text’s ideas, language and form, and its reception in different contexts.
(English (Advanced) Paper 2 – Modules 2003, Question 2)

“for or against” indicates you are choosing an argument from a single point of view, usually ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Here it is wise to choose what you believe in rather than what you think the marker is going to approve of; however as you can tell the questions are sometimes very biased ;)

“every text” indicates that you are going to be mentioning your text in detail. Why do I know this? Because you are trying to use your prescribed text as an example to encompass ‘every’ text, and therefore your argument must be strong – something you can only do with close reference to your text.

“use-by date” indicates that you are going to be arguing about the longevity or lifespan of your text. I’ll get back to this later.

“ideas, language and form.. reception in different contexts” indicates that you are going to be talking about themes, techniques AND how audiences respond differently to this text depending on who they are, where they’re from, how they’re reading etc.

Once you’ve pulled that apart, you can start to focus on the meaty bits. Your task here is really to argue ‘that texts ose touch with society’ (or that they don’t). How you define this bit is up to you, and this will be the basis for your thesis.

Planning your response
I always say spend at least ten minutes planning your essay, although I have frequently rushed through the planning and regretted it later. If you are a fast thinker but slow writer, spend about five minutes planning. You will appreciate it.

The idea behind planning is to literally jot down your thesis and supporting arguments. You can write: on the question booklet. On the last page of the answer booklet. On the inside cover of the answer booklet. Take a page, take two pages, as long as when you are done you are satisfied with your plan.

My general method is to write my plan in dot points. I write my argument as the main point, and each following argument in the order that I am going to talk about them beneath that. Your introduction will include every single one of your arguments as well as your thesis. Lesser points beneath those arguments (techniques, examples, chapter references) may also be included in the introduction but you will only be mentioning them in brief.

Once you are satisfied with your overall plan, spend a bit of time writing your introduction. This will be a guide for your readers, signposting your arguments (ie. indicating what order you’re going to talk about what). Don’t be scared to elaborate on your thesis – rather than restating the question, use the introduction to show how your thesis answers the question. For example,

“A major sign of the success of a text is its ability to sustain its place in society over time. In the text King Lear we can see that despite its age it has not lost any of the original meaning given to it by Shakespeare; rather, it has developed into a text by which we can analyse our societal and familial values...”

Your introduction will incorporate techniques. To brush over them (“Michael Ondaatje uses techniques”) is as good as not writing anything (the marker will say DUH and move on – yes, markers say DUH). This is where practise of essay introductions will come in handy: your ability to pick out exactly what techniques result in what response. You want to be specific enough to be able to refer to these techniques in the body of the essay, but you don’t want to be so specific that it leaves no room for further explanation in your essay (and your introduction becomes a lengthy expose on a single technique!). For example,

“Bronte’s Jane Eyre uses the technique of imagery to convey the undercurrent of emotions and conflicting interests beneath the calm personae of Jane and Rochester. For example, in the bedroom scene, the ‘bed on fire’ preempts the burning passion with which Jane and Rochester will eventually hold for one another because that’s when Jane saves Rochester’s life and he realises quite how different she is; and the image of Joan St Rivers (or was it St Joan Rivers or Rivers St Joan or oh I don’t know) as a man of the church contrasts so greatly with Rochester that when Jane hears Rochester’s voice calling to her she is made aware of how much she still cares about that man..”

It’s too detailed, it’s too wordy, and I had so much trouble writing it ‘cause it’s been a while since I read Jane Eyre ;)

More appropriate would be: “the technique of imagery is used frequently throughout Life of Pi to indicate the desolation of Pi and his companions; the change in mood / scene / appearance of characters, and finally the reader realises that imagery has been used to trick them all along as Pi retells his story with people rather than animals”. Then you can go on to talk about exactly what the imagery used to show these things are (in the body of your essay) and how and why it is effective. Here you’re just signposting what you’re going to talk about rather than elaborating.

I’m sure you all know by now how to structure paragraphs and the body of your essay, so I’ll just give you a brief outline of this section:
* write in paragraphs. Seriously. When you come to a new point (this is where your plan comes in handy), start a new paragraph. If you start talking about something else, start a new paragraph. If you start a new paragraph, check that you’ve finished what you wanted to say about the LAST paragraph.
* topic sentence / elaboration / example / how it relates to your answer or why it is important
* write about the points you have signposted in your essay, in order that you mentioned them in the introduction

You may say your arguments are ‘reasons’ that you stand by your answer (your thesis). If someone asked you “do you think texts have a use-by date?”, you would say “No, because..” – this is exactly what your arguments are supposed to represent.

* Remain critical at all times. Refer to your essay plan if you start rambling or if you think ‘I have no idea what I’m talking about’. Avoid retelling stories or stating facts / themes. No value is gained from a paragraph that reads:

“The themes of war and peace, the journey from ignorance to understanding, the changes which took place post-WW2 and the differences between the generations are shown in Briar Rose. The theme of war and peace looks at the differences between war times, such as the difference between Gemma’s time and Becca’s time. Becca also undergoes a shift from ignorance to understanding in the text because she learns about her grandmother’s past and realises the struggle that Gemma must have gone through.”

- no techniques
- listing of themes which don’t relate to the question (any question)
- exploration more of the storyline than of the author’s intent / context of story
and so on.

How to synthesise points is something that people constantly question. The idea of ‘integrating’ arguments into an essay is as simple as using words such as ‘therefore’, ‘similarily’, ‘on the other hand’, ‘it follows that’, etc. If you want to go into complex hoo hah you can mention several conflicting points of view in a single paragraph, but you must understand what you are saying before you try to make somebody else understand it :)

“In both A New Hope and The Bourne Identity we are shown a young man who does not understand, or does not remember, his past..”

With the aid of your essay plan you can see how your points may be related, and thus how to refer to previous arguments you have made.

Everybody hates conclusions, and I don’t know why – maybe it’s because it means you’re actually finishing an essay?

Anyway, the conclusion will take no time at all if you have: (a) planned or (b) not planned. If you have planned, the conclusion is simply a synthesis of the ideas you have talked about, the techniques which illustrated these ideas, how your arguments link together and link with your thesis. If you haven’t planned, chances are your conclusion is about one line long.

Don’t bring up new points in your conclusion. Just base it around what you have mentioned and what we can pull from your arguments – in other words, show how your thesis has answered the question.

Other stuff?
I know I talk about planning a lot, but I honestly think that it’s too easy to go off track without one. In the pressure cooker of the HSC exam environment it’s well worth the extra five or ten minutes.

Cross out paragraphs with a single line, so you can go back to it if you need to take something out later – or if you run out of time (eek!) you can always say ‘please mark this!’. Though try not to run out of time ;)

In each paragraph of ANY essay, esp. one regarding journeys you should include:

The Where? (though this shall vary, depending if you've done it already or not and whether if its appropriate)
Origin? Text types? Medium? Time period? Background? Composer information?

The what?
What ideas does the text raise about the concept of the journey? How does it relate t the focus areas of Physical Journey, Imaginative journeys and Inner Journeys? Can the text be read in a variety of ways?

The How?
How does the text communicate ideas about the journey to its audience? What effect does language, structure or other techniques have one the meaning of the text?

The Why?
What is the texts value? How oes this value link to the focus journey?

anti said:
In most cases, essays should stick to using third person. While first person 'I feel this...' etc. can be used in personal responses if it is the most effective way to convey a personal response, it should be used sparingly
Gummy_bear said:
Links can be made between texts by tying together similar thematic ideas or contrasting thematic ideas. So one paragraph focusing on the individual can be contrasted with the group for example. Or a paragraph focusing on death could link to existentialism in the next.
Intro: Refer to question
Introduce text


Point: answer question
Example: quote/evidence/
Summary: how does it support the question


Point: answer question
Example: quote/evidence
Explanation: technique
Summary: how does it support the question


Point: answer question
Example: quote/evidence
Explanation: technique
Summary: how does it support the question

Conclusion: same as intro

"A good essay should be like a miniskirt
long enough to cover what is needed,
short enough to keep the readers attention." :drink:
Last edited by a moderator:


Mar 20, 2013
Just wanna say thanks for this guide. It really helped me out today, especially with the idea of writing out an essay plan for 5 minutes. Cheers.


ON is my homeboy
Mar 4, 2012
Thanks for the advice about the essay plan, I generally write one but it's far too short lol.


New Member
Apr 18, 2017
Thanks! I've just finished reading Advanced English Essay Writing Guide and yours guide was a great addition for me! :)


New Member
Aug 25, 2018
Thank you for this post. Essay writing is not a simple task. We have to research a lot on any topic for finding facts. It will make the essay more appealing to readers. Essay content should be easy to written language which follows grammar rules and styles. Content should be well-formatted including headings and subheadings.

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