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Writing an Essay in your Second Language

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Writing an Essay in your Second Language

During your time studying in the UK, you will be set a variety of essays by your teachers, which will help them to ensure that you understand the material you have been studying. You will also show that you have the ability to formulate and convey a coherent argument that accurately answers a specific question.

Students studying a degree in England should expect to write essays on a variety of different topics, all of which will test your ability to construct arguments and write formally, using the appropriate academic conventions.

Here are the simple steps to planing, organising, writing, revising and editing an essay.

Research and Planning

Ensure that you spend time researching and establishing a plan for your essay before you start writing. This process will help you to collate your ideas and form a strong argument that answers the question and demonstrates the knowledge you have gained throughout your studies. It is likely that you will find it helpful to conduct your reading and research in the language in which you will be writing your essay because it will help you to establish the right style and tone for your own work. If, however, you are unable to locate an important resource in your second language and reverting to your native language will help you to secure the information you need, you should take these steps, as they will strengthen your argument and improve the end result.

TIPS: Gather ideas by keeping a working journal

Structure and Organisation

Two of the most important things to remember are that you should only make one argument per paragraph and you should include references to key pieces of research that support and reinforce your ideas. You might find it helpful to write every argument you want to make on a separate card and then arrange them in front of you to find the structure that presents your ideas in the most logical and coherent way.

TIPS: An outline is a structured method of exploring your thoughts on a subject.

Writing

When writing your essay, it is important to demonstrate your ability to use the appropriate vocabulary to accurately communicate your ideas, hence you must demonstrate that you understand the key areas of your subject. Use formal and academic language, and use accurate sentence structures throughout your work. You may find it useful to try thinking like a native speaker, which should help you to engage more deeply with your subject and ensure that your arguments are fully developed and well informed. Then write a list of questions about the argument and answer them. Write as many questions as you can (what kind of . . . , under what circumstances . . . , whose . . . , what cause . . . , what effect . . . , and so on).

TIPS: Do not try and write the entire paper the night before it is due - leave time for writing.

Editing

Accurate spelling and grammar will vastly improve the readability of your essay, help you to precisely convey your arguments and secure a much higher grade than a piece which contains a lot of mistakes. English spelling and grammar can often be quite complex, which is why it is important to use the tools within your word processing software to help you to identify and correct errors before you submit your essay for marking.

Running a comprehensive grammar and spellchecker will help you to identify most mistakes during the completion of your first draft. Microsoft Office and Google Docs both have effective spellcheckers, which you will almost certainly find very helpful. Grammarly is another useful and free tool, which, in addition to identifying both common and complex grammatical errors, will also help you to identify words that you have spelt correctly but have used in the wrong context.

You may also find it helpful to have a native speaker read through your final essay to double check for errors.

TIPS: You want to avoid jargon - replace stuffy words with simple ones.

Submission

You have finished your essay and you are ready to submit it… now might be a good time to step away from it for a few days and come back to it with a fresh perspective. You will often find that time away from your work will help you to identify and correct any errors that you may have missed first time – a break means you can conduct your final read-through with fresh eyes before submitting it to your teacher for marking.

 


Academic Writing Course in London

At SGI English school in central London, our popular Academic Writing Course​ is to improve their formal writing skills. This 4 or 8 week evening course is held twice a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays) from 18.30 - 20.30. To find out more about our English writing course, or to understand which academic courses is best for you, email your question to us now.

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