What is good writing?
What is good writing?

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What is good writing?

3 What is a good essay?

3.1 A sharper focus

So far, we have been analysing essays in a practical way, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of some actual examples, rather than at formal rules or abstract ideas about essay-writing. Now, though, we need to summarise.

I suggest this because I think you already have a fairly good idea of what effective writing is. I don't think the point of a course like this is to tell you much that is devastatingly new. It is to bring into sharper focus what you ‘know’ already, and to help you apply these intuitions as you develop your own writing. It is one thing to be able to see when someone else's writing is ill-planned and confusing, but quite another to be able to pinpoint why and to avoid making the same mistakes yourself. So have your notes on the final part of the Activity in Section 2.1 in front of you and compare them with mine which are set out below.

Key points

Criteria of good essay-writing

When a tutor reads your essay, she or he will be asking the following questions.

  • Have you answered the question in the title?

  • Have you drawn on the relevant parts of the course for the main content of your essay?

  • Do you show a good grasp of the ideas you have been studying in the course?

  • Have you presented a coherent argument?

  • Is the essay written in an objective, analytical way, with appropriate use of illustration and evidence?

  • Is the essay clearly written and well presented?


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