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How to write a Politics Essay

The complete guide to writing a 2:1 standard university essay

Background Reading

Time constraints and strict deadlines may make you want to begin writing your politics essay as soon as possible but before you commit anything to paper you should first conduct a process of preliminary reading on your chosen topic. If you have been free to choose the subject of your essay, or have had the opportunity to choose from a set list of questions then hopefully you have opted for a subject on which you have at least some degree of prior knowledge and learning. However, it may be the case that you have been set a particular question on a topic that is rather new to you. If this is the case then obviously you will need to conduct some research in order to familiarize yourself with the subject. Even if you are already familiar with your subject area then you should not neglect this important stage of the essay writing process, as there may have been new developments that you were previously unaware of.

The idea of conducting background or preliminary reading is that it should enable you to identify the key concepts and debates on an issue so that you can begin to construct an argument for your essay. You ought to try to access material that is as up to date as possible. Broad or general overviews can be useful in providing you with an introduction to a topic but you will also need to be familiar with more specific works that can offer greater insight and detail. Remember to note down the details of all books, articles, newspaper articles and suchlike that you read so that you can cite them in your references and bibliography. Doing this now will not only ensure a greater degree of accuracy but will also save you the time and bother of doing all this all over again later on when you have completed your essay

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Choose Your Sources Carefully

The quality of your essay can be determined to a significant extent by the quality of your sources and the material you cite in support of your arguments. An essay that is lucidly written but is reliant upon poor quality source material to back up its claims will win few marks whilst an essay that is written with less flair but uses good source material will achieve higher marks. With this in mind you should try to ignore sources of information that are considered less valid – such as outdated textbooks, encyclopedia entries, less prodigious websites. The best sources for your work are articles from reputable academic journals, material from the ‘quality’ (i.e. broadsheet) press, government publications and works by noted and well-established political writers, commentators, analysts and so on.

Quoting the opinions and views of well respected and learned historians, academics, economists and politicians etc is a great way of supporting your own arguments. However you should be warned that too great a reliance upon the views of others, especially as direct quotations, could lose you marks as your essay is seen as an opportunity for you to express your own individual thoughts, ideas and opinions. Merely substituting the views of others in place of your own is not sufficient so you should strive to provide a balance between articulating your own ideas and providing supporting evidence via the conclusions of others.

The Importance of Planning

Your background reading should have given you some ideas for the arguments you are going to make in your essay. With these ideas in mind it is always wise at this stage to draw up an essay plan that sketches the structure of your essay. It ought to be comprised of the key points that you wish to make along with brief details of the supporting evidence and information that you will use. A good plan is helpful in that it helps to organize your thoughts and ideas but it can also show you which particular areas need further investigation or research.

Your essay plan can be formatted however you wish; some find that a list of bullet points is best whilst others say that diagrams or flow charts work well for them. Regardless of how you set it out, your plan should give a form and structure to what you propose to write. It is easy to spot an essay that has not benefited from the advantage of prior planning – it will be badly structured, with some arguments given disproportionately more weight than others, the points that it makes will seem haphazard and ill-formed and it will often seem rather rambling and inconsistent in its tone and style of writing.

Writing Tips

The knowledge gained from your background reading and the guidance offered by your essay plan should put you in good stead for the act of actually writing your essay. You should aim to make your work interesting to the reader while at the same time ensuring that your language remains formal, concise and factual in its tone. Do not use colloquialisms or jargon and try to avoid the use of cliché. Be sure that you have a firm knowledge of grammatical rules; misusing or confusing ‘there’ and ‘their’, or saying ‘would of’ in the place of ‘would have’, to give but two examples, will not impress the reader and can cause you to marks.

Once completed it is highly advisable that you read through your work in order to check for spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Such things can be costly but are so easily remedied. A couple of things that you may wish to consider when checking your work are, reading it aloud to yourself and/or getting a friend or college to read through your essay. Such tactics can help weed out any errors that remain. Reading aloud also helps to confirm that your sentences flow well and hang together coherently and should also identify any passages of writing that might need touching up or rewriting. Having a fresh pair of eyes look at your work can also be a great benefit and they are more likely to pick up on things that you may have missed first time around.

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