How Write Better Essays / Bryan Greetham

By the time we reach university a surprising number of us are con-vinced that we should know all we need to know about researching and writing essays. We’re inclined to argue that if we’ve got this far we should know how to analyse the implications of questions, read efficiently, take notes, plan and structure arguments, use evidence, and write light and interesting prose. Indeed these skills are the very thing that has got us this far in the first place, so to admit that we could be better at essay writing seems to be an admission that we’re lucky to have got this far. Instead of seeking help, then, to improve our skills, we settle for the strategy of just learning by our mistakes, or by example in those rare moments when we might see our tutor think through and analyse a difficult concept, or pull ideas together from different sources and synthesise them into a new way of looking at a problem. If we recognise the significance of the moment, and most of us don’t, then we might be lucky enough to retain a small inkling of what went on in the hope that we, too, might be able to do the same. But it need not be like this. The two types of skills that we all need to be successful in our courses – study skills (reading, note-taking, writing, organisation, and revision) and thinking skills (analysis, synthesis, discussion, argument, and use of evidence) – can be taught. There is nothing mysterious about them. They need not be the exclusive preserve of a few. And there is nothing particularly difficult about them either. Indeed, most of us have the abilities to succeed, if only we can unlock and use them by learning these simple skills.

Categories: Writing
Tags: Essays, write

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