The format, objective, and assessment criteria of essays written for British institutions are somewhat different compared to that from any other parts of the world, especially Indonesia. During the pursuit of study in the UK, the first semester is both the most critical and challenging chapter for Indonesian students since they have been ‘raised’ in a completely poles apart education system. Even for those whose English comprehension is already above average, getting a Distinction or Merit is never a guarantee.
In British essay writing, being straight to the point and following the rule of arguing coherently and analytically are key, and failure to recognize these and act in accordance with them is one of the factors obstructing perfectly capable and bright students from reaching their academic potential. The main objective, therefore, is to be clear and concise so that your readers can follow your arguments smoothly, and are not distracted by superfluous padding.
Therefore, before submitting a mid-term or final paper, make sure your essay:
- has a position on the essay topic, which is derived from these four steps:
- 1) Reflect on your personal outlook
- 2) read widely and diversely on the topic and surrounding issues
- 3) Reconsider your views on the topic in the light of what you have read
- 4) Take a position and give logical and articulate validation for it.
- starts by presenting the issue and question (usually, British essay topic starts with a question) and gives the readers a signpost of what they should be expecting from the essay. Thus, in the beginning, it is important for the writer to also provide the outline structure of the essay, including; some explanation of what you understand by the title, which issues would be discussed first, theories used, the analyses part as well as where they are leading you to (this can be your guide to compose a good thesis statement in the introduction part!)
- takes each of the main points in the thesis statement and develops them with evidences, using clearly defined paragraphs. It is highly recommended to finish by comparing and contrasting the different arguments and making a choice with the supporting facts and findings.
- gives a firm or tentative answer to the question posed in the beginning. In the conclusion, try to draw out the most significant points that have been made in the essay. This is where writers re-state their position in the writing in regards to the findings, analyses and facts discussed in the body paragraphs.
- does not include any new materials at the concluding part. Instead, try to propose ideas and areas highly suggested to be further consideration.
- acknowledges the source of any ideas included in the essay. Plagiarism is strictly unacceptable everywhere in the academic world. Harvard style of referencing is usually most preferred in British universities.
- uses clear, straightforward language and avoids the use of obscure or complex words and phrases that might potentially confuse the readers, but shuns away from slang and abbreviations.
- includes only materials relevant and explicitly linked to the essay title. Keep descriptive writing to a minimum and do not digress unnecessarily no matter how sophisticated you think your essay would sound with it. In British essay writing, the how, why and significance of an issue is always more important than the what.
All in all, preparation and enough research are profoundly crucial in the making of an eloquent, British-styled essay. However, if you think about it, the secret formula to winning British essay writing is actually very simple; you adopt a position, tell the readers what you want to do, and do it! And as long as you wind up with a beginning (the introduction), a middle (the body paragpraphs), and an end (the conclusion), you cannot go wrong. A lot of students are concerned about their writing style, but keep in mind; your words reflect your thoughts and if you have a clear plan and a solid grasp of the material, then you will have very little trouble writing with intelligibility and coherence.
Academic Development Directorate of SOAS, University of London – www.soas.ac.uk/skillforsuccess
Image courtesy of Najwa Abdullah Sungkar.