How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: Step 5. Write the First Draft of the Essay

This article is part of the series ‘How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: The Six Steps to Academic Essay Writing’.

Writing the first draft has never been so easy!

Now that you have completed your research in an organised way and have written a final draft of your essay plan, writing the first draft of your essay will be easier than it ever has been. All of the following decisions about your essay have already been made:

  1. Your answer to the essay question
  2. The main points you will discuss to back up your argument
  3. The order in which to discuss your main points
  4. How long to spend discussing each main point
  5. The information that each paragraph will contain (i.e. the information you will use to discuss each of your main points)
  6. The references you will use to back up your argument

Thus, there is no reason for you to feel lost or to stare at your computer screen not knowing what to write. If you do get stuck for any reason, the best thing to do is to just keep writing. You can always improve something once you have written something down. If you have not written anything, not much can be done until you do.

When you write your first draft following your essay plan and including all the information you have organised in your research document, pay attention to the following things:

  1. Choose the best examples from your research to use.
  2. Use topic sentences to link each new topic back to the question so your essay flows well.
  3. Write in a formal academic style.
  4. Format your essay correctly, according to the guidelines for your particular course (for example, line spacing, font, page margins, etc.).
  5. Include your in-text references as you are writing; do not leave these until the end. Since you will be using information from your research document that provides you with the in-text reference to use, this should not be a problem.

Academic Writing: Some general guidelines

Have you ever been told that your writing style is not academic, or that it is too informal?

Have you ever felt unclear on how to write an academic essay?

Are you not sure what rules to follow, what you can do and what you should not do?

This article contains some general rules and guidelines for academic writing. You will develop your own writing style or ‘voice’ over time, and the more academic sources you read, the clearer it will become to you what academic writing is and how your essays should sound. However, it is important to learn certain academic conventions as soon as you can and this guide will help you to do that. If in doubt about any of these guidelines, always check with your tutor or lecturer since different disciplines and courses sometimes have different approaches or expectations.

Formality

Academic writing needs to be formal and impersonal. This means that your writing should be clear, concise and professional. It needs to follow certain rules (such as those outlined below) to ensure that it meets academic standards.

Supported by evidence

The most significant difference between academic and non-academic writing is that academic writing puts forward arguments and ideas that are supported by evidence, most often in the form of citing other research or studies. Learning how to reference correctly is an important part of ensuring that your arguments and ideas are always supported by evidence. You must remember that you cannot make a claim or assertion in an academic essay without supporting it.

The use of the first person

Although there are exceptions (for example, if you are discussing a field trip that you personally took in order to conduct research or interviews that you carried out), normally academic writing does not make use of the first person. This means you would not use ‘I’ in your essays. The first reason for this is that academic writing must be formal and impersonal.

Consider the difference between these two sentences:

  1. ‘In this essay, I will discuss the reasons why critical thinking is important to the role of registered nurses, including its role in improving the accuracy of diagnoses.’
  2. ‘Critical thinking is important to the role of registered nurses because it improves the accuracy of diagnoses.’

Not only is the second sentence more formal because it does not make use of the personal ‘I’, but it is also more direct and thus sounds clearer, more concise and more academic. Instead of stating that a point will be made, as in the first sentence, the second sentence simply makes the point directly.

The second reason why the use of the first person is discouraged is that it is often redundant (unnecessary). Consider the difference between these two sentences:

  1. I believe that critical thinking is relevant to the role of registered nurses.
  2. Critical thinking is relevant to the role of registered nurses.

It is unnecessary to state ‘I believe’. The reader knows that the statement is what the author believes, because the author is writing it in the essay. Further, which sentence sounds more convincing? The second sentence sounds more convincing because it is direct and straight to the point.

Grammar, spelling and punctuation

Correct grammar, spelling and punctuation are very important in academic writing. To write formally and to a high academic standard, your writing must be accurate. Writing an essay that contains correct grammar, spelling and punctuation can make a significant difference to your final grade. Accurate writing affects not only your marks for presentation. If your grammar and sentence structure is so unclear that your tutor or lecturer cannot understand the point you are trying to make, you could lose marks overall. Handing in an essay that is well written, accurate and highly polished can improve your grades.

It is important to remember that you cannot rely on Microsoft Word’s spelling and grammar checking tool. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, the spell checker will not detect your mistake if you type ‘four’ when you meant to type ‘for’. In addition, the grammar checker will often provide suggestions that are incorrect. This is because Microsoft Word is a computer program and it cannot understand what you are trying to say. While it can be a useful tool, you must remember that it cannot substitute for checking your own work carefully.

There are a significant number of rules to follow when writing academic essays, assignments, theses or dissertations. To ensure that you have followed all those rules correctly, and to ensure that your writing is polished, clear and concise, and free of grammatical and other errors, it is recommended you hire a professional, academic editor. This is the final step of academic essay writing, and it will be discussed in the next article.

The next article in this series is ‘How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: Step 6. Professional Editing’.

For more information on our professional essay, assignment, thesis and dissertation editing service, please visit: https://www.eliteediting.com.au/academic-proofreading-service/


Updated 26 October 2018

Dr Ellen McRae,

Managing Editor,

Elite Editing.

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