Departmental style sheets
Many departments now produce style sheets or short guides telling students how to write essays. They can cover everything from whether or not to write in the third person to how to reference in your particular subject. If such things are available, use them. They are not there for fun – they are giving you important information on a plate.
A sports science student was sent to see me by his tutor because he was struggling with his final year dissertation. ‘Have you got any guidance notes from your department?’ I asked. He sheepishly produced three or four crumpled sheets of A4. On those sheets was everything he needed to know about how to write his dissertation. It went into great detail: ‘The first stage of your dissertation is writing a 500 word abstract to be handed in on December 15th. It will cover the following points…’ Once again, key information on a plate. Check if such things are available, and if they are, use them!