Introduction

Writing essays

Welcome to Writing Essays, the RLF’s online guide to everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about writing undergraduate essays.

The guide is a toolbox of essay writing skills and resources that you can choose from to suit your particular needs. It combines descriptive and practical elements. That is, it tells you what things mean and what they are; and it uses examples to show you how they work.

Writing Essays takes you through the whole essay writing process – from preparing and planning to completion. Writing essays is structured progressively and I recommend that you use it in this way. However, you will see from the sidebar that the guide is divided into a number of main sections. Click on any one of these and you will see that it’s divided into shorter sections or subsections. So you can either read it straight through from start to finish or you can go straight to the area that’s most relevant to you.

Writing Essays does not cover every type of writing you will do at university but it does cover the principal types. So you will find guides to essay writing, dissertation writing, and report writing. You will also find a section dealing with the differences between writing for the humanities and writing for the sciences and social sciences. The information and guidelines in these sections will provide blueprints you can apply elsewhere.

You will see in the topbar options above that there is also a glossary of terms used in this guide; and a list of suggested further reading and online resources.

It is important to say here what Writing Essays does not do. It does not offer detailed advice on general study skills although it does cover some aspects of reading for writing and how to write a literature review. Unlike some guides, this one does not have anything to say about using computers except: use them, and save your work often.

Writing Essays does not deal with grammar and punctuation. This does not mean that I think that these things are not important, or that you don’t need to pay attention to them – all writers do. However, my experience of working with students has taught me two things. First, that the most common difficulties in writing essays are to do with areas like understanding the question and making a logical structure. Second, that when these difficulties are fixed, problems with grammar and punctuation are easier to see and fix.

Don’t just use Writing Essays once. Make it your constant reference point for writing essays. Make it the emergency number you dial if you breakdown or can’t get started!