Essay Guide

Our comprehensive guide to the stages of the essay development process. Back to Student Resources

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Be prepared to be flexible

What Dr X wants

Just as some tutors are happy for you to use ‘I’ in your essays and others frown on it, so tutors will often have their own ideas about what they want to see in student writing. This can include form as well as content. Here are some examples based on my own experience:

Some tutors like clear introductions; others like students to get straight on with the subject.

Some tutors like a dissertation to start with a literature review; others prefer to see the theoretical background integrated into the body of the dissertation.

Some tutors will just stop marking if you go over the word limit; others don’t mind how much you write as long as it’s a good essay and everything is relevant.

Some tutors like work that just shows good evidence that you’ve read and understood the main points of a subject; others would rather read work that challenges accepted ideas.

Get to know them

Sometimes an individual tutor’s preferences go against the departmental style sheet. It’s just not fair, is it? The only way to negotiate this is to try to get to know your tutors a little and understand what they want. Don’t run away the minute a lecture or seminar is over – why not stay behind and ask a question? And why not compare notes with your classmates about what particular tutors prefer and/or have said they want?