Just one look…
Anyone who, like me, spends a lot of time reading student essays will tell you that they can tell whether or not an essay is going to be any good without even reading it. If I see an essay that does not have proper paragraphs but just pages covered with single sentences so that it looks like a collection of notes, I will know that the writer has struggled to write a coherent answer i.e. a well structured argument leading to a logical and justified conclusion. If an essay looks right, then there is a good chance that the writer will have thought about how to structure her argument.
Coherence – but what else?
Here’s a quick checklist of other things tutors look for and are pleased to see in undergraduate essays. Many of these are covered in other parts of this guide.
- Clear English
- Ability to answer the question
- Use of evidence to back up each stage of your argument
- Evidence of reading round the subject i.e. don’t just parrot information from one lecture or one course book
- Evidence of reflection i.e. think about the evidence and theories you are writing about and treat them objectively and critically
- Discussion of the issues and ideas that relate to the question
- Demonstration of your understanding of those issues and ideas
- Evidence that you know who said them and when, where, why and how
- Analysis not description
- Precision not generalisation
- Evidence of proof reading i.e. don’t hand in work that’s full of grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes. The person reading and marking it will just assume you couldn’t be bothered with your work.
- Evidence of editing i.e. is your material in the best possible order? Are your words really saying what you want to say?