A Step-by-Step Guide to A-Grade Essays

Your essay is almost due and all you have is an essay topic with a few brief instructions. If you’re lucky, you may have had a tutorial on some basic essay techniques, but that’s it! No-one has really told you what’s expected, what you lose and gain grades on, and how much effort or time you are expected to put in. This text will help to clarify all of these matters.

Essays involve a lot of detective work. Think of yourself as an academic detective who has to solve the puzzle of the essay topic that confronts you. You are to find the relevant facts, motives and logical explanations of the topic under investigation. In your quest for understanding and explanation, you have to put aside any personal views you may have about a topic, and leave no stones unturned. In the course of your investigation of an essay topic you will uncover much information and often conflicting explanations or theories. Being an academic detective means that you look upon the evidence gathered with a ‘critical eye’ and accept nothing on blind faith. To ensure that you take nothing for granted and properly evaluate the information you uncover, do as Sherlock Holmes would do, and keep the following detective questions in mind:

  • Is the information you have found relevant to the topic?
  • Is your information up to date?
  • Do you have supporting evidence for any claims made?
  • What explanations support the evidence collected?
  • Do alternative or conflicting explanations and evidence exist?

The work of an academic detective is something you learn by doing, but you can also learn basic skills and tips from those who have gone before you. So, let this tutorial be your guide to the secret methods of the academic detective; your ‘sidekick’ that helps your investigation along by clarifying how to find, analyze and organize the information you need to answer an essay question.

  1. Time Management
  2. Together alone: The Benefits and Hazards of Group Work
  3. An Essay in Three Parts: The Game Rules
  4. Making the Logic Flow: Micro-essay Paragraph Structure
  5. Choosing and Interpreting an Essay Topic
  6. The Art of Analysis
  7. Arguing Your Case
  8. Muckraking: How to Find What You Need
  9. Making Sense of It All: Effective Reading
  10. Taking Notes: Three Easy Steps
  11. Doing Essay Drafts
  12. Creating Versus Editing
  13. Atmosphere: Setting the Scene
  14. The Impasse: Time to Seek Help
  15. Word Limits: Quality, not Quantity
  16. Easy Grades: The Unwritten Rules of Academic Writing
  17. Key Features of Good Academic Writing: Write, Don’t Speak
  18. Write it Right: Handling the Nitty-Gritty
  19. Referencing Demystified
  20. Book and Article Reviews
  21. Abstracts and Summaries
  22. Reports
  23. Exam Essays
  24. Proofreading: The Last Important Task
  25. Marker Expectations: How Your Work is Assessed
  26. Web Resources and Further Reading