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Writing a Good Essay

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By: Please log in to see tutor details
Subject: GCSE English
Last updated: 10/02/2011
Tags: essay planning, essay structure, gcse english, point evidence explain, study skills
GCSE English

Writing a Good Essay

Many of my students find writing an essay a daunting task. Getting to grips with a text is one thing, but when you are studying English Language or Literature, you are also required to write about it in a structured and coherent way. Here is a brief, step-by-step guide, on how to approach answering an essay question. I hope you find it helpful.

What is an essay?

  • Answering a question
  • Putting forward a point of view which is focussed, clear and supported
  • Explaining what you think with evidence from the text

Remember, before you begin an essay, you must know your text well.

 

1.    Introduction 

  • Your response to the question
  • How you intend to answer
  • What your essay is going to say/explore/argue
  • State your point of view
  • Your interpretation of the text
  • Are you aware of different levels of meaning?

Consider: the question, the text and the author

AVOID simplistic and irrelevant value judgments (for example, ‘.... is good...’) 

 

2.    Following paragraphs

 Develop and support your point of view.

 Use your paragraphs to develop your argument using the following method:

Point – make a point/express an opinion relevant to answering the question

Evidence – use quotations and refer to the text to support your view

Explain – discuss this further 

  • Why is this significant?
  • How is it being done (e.g. the poetic/dramatic methods used)?
  • What can you say about the language, style or structure?
  • Why has the author used those words/expressed an idea in that way?
  • How does it affect the reader/audience?
  • How does it affect the themes/meaning(s) of the text?
  • Complexity – could there be more than one interpretation?
  • Does the style alter or develop across the text?

 When using PEE, you should: 

  • Comment on the method used by the author
  • Look at the effect of the language used
  • Analyse reasons why this might have been done

Always work logically through the text, from beginning to end (this shows that you are also analysing the author’s structure). This will also help give your essay a sense of building up to a conclusion.

 AVOID telling the story!

 Instead, discuss the ideas or messages ‘behind’ the text. Aim to show how these are created, developed and revealed. 

 Other things you might want to think about...

  • Consider the genre conventions and how these might shape meaning and interpretation
  • Consider author’s context
  • Consider author’s motivation, intention or purpose

 

3.    Conclusion – summing up 

  • Tell your reader why you’ve said what you’ve said in your essay
  • What are the wider issues raised by your discussion?
  • Leave a final impression – give the reader something to think about

 

Good luck!

 


Laura Evans A-level English Tutor (Brighton)

About The Author

I'm a friendly tutor with a strong academic background and a passion for literature - please get in touch if you need help.



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