Essay Guide

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

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Why are you writing?

Why are you writing? 1: assessment & memory

The short answer to this question is because you have to. You have to write essays so that they can be assessed so that you can get enough credits or a good enough mark to progress to the next part of your course. However, thinking about writing like this means you only see it as a terrible chore. Instead, try thinking about writing as an integral and fundamental part of learning and studying. Think about other sorts of writing you do in your everyday life – like shopping lists or reminder notes you stick on the fridge. In both cases, you write things down in order to remember them and you remember them because you’ve written them down. As you progress through your degree you’ll find that the things you’ve written down – lecture notes, notes from course books – and things that you’ve written about – essay topics, seminar presentations – are the things that have lodged in your brain.

Why are you writing? 2: learning, exploring & expressing

Writing and writing essays is an integral and fundamental part of learning and studying in other ways. Writing is a way of learning. If you are taking notes from a book, you have to understand what you are reading in order to make sure you’ve noted all the key points in a particular chapter or passage. Writing is a way of exploring ideas. If you’ve had to describe what someone else has said or written you have to understand it in order to do so accurately and usefully. Finally, writing is about expressing yourself clearly. Writing is about developing your communication skills. One way that you know you have learnt something is when you can use it to make a convincing verbal argument or a persuasive piece of writing.

Why are you writing? 3: learning a skill

Another answer to this question is that writing at university is a unique opportunity to learn a valuable skill that you can use throughout your life. Writing at university will teach you how to organise your thoughts, how to analyse information, how to argue persuasively. Even if you never write another essay in your life, you will certainly have to do all those things again. Here are three places the skills you learn through writing at university can be applied later in life: a job application letter, a supporting statement as part of an application, reports you have to write as part of your job. The skills you learn through writing at university can be applied to speaking as well. Imagine that at some point in the future you have to make a fifteen minute presentation to work colleagues. Your writing at university skills can be applied here too so that what you say is in the best possible order to have maximum impact.