Study Skills Writing Essays

Study skills refer to the variety of activities, techniques or behaviors that support effective learning.

They help us to discover, process and remember new information.

Some well cited examples are reading, note taking, essay writing.

As they are essential for academic success it is worthwhile to ask yourself these questions.

Are you missing any of these skills?

Which are already well developed?

Can I improve upon those you already have?

To help you answer these questions here’s my list of essential study skills:

1# Succinctness – useful for both note taking and essays

2# Organisation – aids effective study

3# Self-disciplined – needed to meet deadlines and achieve your academic goals

4# Numeracy – Being able to cope with at least basic level mathematics is important for most courses

5# Writing skills – Being able to write essays, papers and reports to the required academic standard is one of the most common and difficult study skills to master.

6# Computer literacy – An essential skill if you want to produce high-quality reports and essays or to use the internet for research.

7# Self-improvement – Being able to learn from and remedy your mistakes and weaknesses will help you  to realise your academic potential

8# Determination – Determination to succeed will help you through the difficult times in your course. This requires motivation and a strong work ethic.

9# Problem solving – Strong problem solving skills are a valuable asset. They can help you to choose a suitable course, complete an essay on time or find information and advice

10# Reading skills – It is self-explanatory that being able to read and retain information quickly is important. There are many online resources and books that can help you to do this.

11# Able to concentrate – To study effectively in your studies you will probably  need to concentrate for long periods of time. This will improve with practice. Create time and a quiet space for yourself to do this well.

12# Willing to ask for help – everyone needs help sometimes, so don’t be afraid to ask for it.

13# A good negotiator – this might help in group work or when you need to come to an agreement about deadline extensions.

14# Oral communication – Many courses might require you to give presentations or take an active part in classroom discussions.

15# Creativity – This might help you to present original arguments in your essays, or help you with any design elements in your course.

The other 11 study skills can be found here…26 essential study skills…continued

Writing an essay at university can be a very scary experience even if you are used to writing essays at school or reports at work. Every task has it's own rules to follow, traps to avoid and rules for success. At the end of the day there is no substitute for going straight to the person setting the task and asking them to explain what exactly it is they are looking for. As in all things, asking questions is the key to understanding.

That said, there is some general advice that will always help in the production of a university essay no matter what subject you are studying. This is not everything that can be said about producing an essay by any means but it does represent some important first steps in successful academic writing.

Checklist Guide

  • Plan your essay – time spent thinking about the question, organising the order you want to present your information in and considering the points you want to make is still working on the essay. Actually writing up is only the final stage.
  • Explore the question – what is it actually asking you to do? How many parts is it in? If the question is in 3 parts and you only answer one of those parts then you can only get 1/3 of the grade no matter how brilliant your answer is.
  • Structure your essay - Make sure your essay has an introduction, middle and conclusion. Your introduction should explain what the essay is about and how you plan to tackle it. Make sure the main body of the essay is written clearly with evidence of reading, remember, you are being marked as much on the information you have been able to find and the evidence you are able to present to support your argument as on your own opinions. Finish your essay with a conclusion summarising what you have done and what you have learned – don't just let your essay stop abruptly. 
  • Reference your work thoroughly; you need to show your readers exactly where all your information has come from. The referencing method preferred by the university is known as the Harvard method.
  • Proofread your essay before handing it in. Don't just check for typos and spelling but check that you haven't made any claims that are unsupported by reading and evidence. As you read your work be self-critical, if you see a claim or statement of fact ask yourself the question "How do I know this?" then add a reference making this clear to the reader.
  • Always use your own words – it's easy to think that the books and websites you have read say everything so much better than you can but your tutors want to hear your voice. You will get more credit for expressing things in your own words, however rough this may sound to start with, than simply using somebody else's.

Final Comments

As you can see putting together an essay is no different to any of the other tasks you have to do every day – you need to plan, organise and gather the right resources to get the job done properly. You wouldn't expect anybody to accept your opinion just because you say so, you need to be believable and credible. If you are in a job where you are trying to convince your boss to invest £50,000 of the company budget in a new project simply smiling and saying, "I think this would be a really good idea" is unlikely to get you very far. Presenting a thoughtful case with evidence of how other companies have successfully run the same project will be much more convincing.

For Further Information

There are a number of really useful sources available that will give you much more detailed information about essay writing. Here are a few of them:

Link to article Study Skills: Structuring an essay transcript

Link to article Study Skills: Structuring an argument transcript

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