Find out what life is really like at Durham University

Student experience

Writing an essay, from start to finish

Going from sixth form to university is a big change in many ways, you have to learn to live independently and navigate living with complete strangers. While you may have honed your essay writing skills previously, university requires a different approach to writing essays. 

Planning is essential

To write a good essay, you need to plan your time well, as they say ‘the early bird catches the worm’, so as soon as you get the essay title, make sure to dedicate some time researching and writing it. Before beginning to research the question, a key step is to analyse the question and pick out exactly what it is asking for, whether you are being asked to ‘discuss’, ‘evaluate’ or ‘describe’ could make a world of difference.

Planning at an early stage is really helpful.

A good way of keeping on top of your references and reading materials is to make a research log or table with your key quotes and references at the side. For me, this process can take a week, but sometimes I like to dedicate more time if it’s a topic I’m particularly interested in or need to research more. 

Remember to take a break

After reading, I like to give myself a little break, so I can reflect on the topics more with a fresh outlook on a different day or even a few days after. I’ll talk to my friends or watch a movie and tidy my room as it tends to get messy while I’m writing an essay.

Starting to write

Once you’ve gathered all your research, you can begin to write your essay, which can be the easiest part of the process, if you’ve done enough research. When writing your essay, ask yourself whether the points you are making relate to the question and how you can bring across your own opinion without going off on a tangent. Personally, I enjoy this part the most as it means I can engage with different academics and also show my opinion on the topics. 

Don’t forget to proof read!

I like to spend at least two weeks writing the essay, spending half the time proofreading and making adjustments. When proofreading, I print out a copy of my essay and annotate it, which allows me to look more critically on my work and then improve it. When you finish writing the main part of the essay, it is time to add in the bibliography, which is easy as you would have already written your references in the research portion. Essentially, to write a good essay without stressing too much, you have to plan your time carefully and keep up with the references as you go along. 

You’ve earned a reward

After writing an essay it is essential that you congratulate yourself and take a rest, as the process can be tiring. I like to watch Netflix and do some self care; knowing that after writing thousands of words I can do this, is very motivating, although there’s never a bad time to put on a sheet mask! 

Find out more

Download our latest prospectus here.

Follow our students on Instagram and YouTube.

Kimberly Chitifa

Hi, I’m Kimberly and I’m a first-year student at Trevelyan, currently studying Law. I spend a lot of my time reading, making artwork and playing guitar.
Related posts
FeaturedStudent experienceUndergraduate

My top tips for revising for exams

FeaturedStudent experienceUndergraduate

I’m a mathematician on a budget, here’s what goes in my shopping basket!

CollegesDepartmentsStudent experienceVlogs

What's it like studying Classics at Durham?

Student experience

Moving out in 2020

Sign up to our Mailing List