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An essay is a piece of structured writing on a subject which often requires references to previous publications in the area. Students are generally asked to produce a written response to a prompt or question which may be written by an academic or self-determined in conversation with an academic. Referencing is used to get a sense of whether a student has engaged appropriately with ‘expert voices’ in their discipline.   

Typically used to…. 

  • assess your capacity to select key information and build an argument with reference to relevant literature. 
  • assess your ability to link and develop lines of argumentation with relevant references to the field.  
  • assess your ability to be concise and to summarise and organise your thoughts coherently (e.g. via tighter word limits). 
  • evaluate your engagement with scholars/experts in your discipline. 

Key considerations when writing essays for assessment

When writing an essay as part of an assessment, always refer to the guidelines and requirements provided by your lecturer, keeping the following points in mind:  

  • Is the essay being used for formative or summative assessment purposes (or both!) 
  • If your essay contributes to your final grade (i.e. is being used for summative assessment), how much is it worth? 
  • What criteria is being used to assess your essay? Has a rubric been provided? 
  • Are there any Trinity guides/supports that might be useful to review before starting the essay? For example on essay planning, referencing or critical thinking? 
  • Dissect the title of the essay. What is it asking you to do? What are the ‘action words’? (For example, compare, examine, explore). 
  • What readings/resources should you use? Have you been given a reading list? Do you need to find your own extra sources? 
  • When writing notes make sure to include what source you are citing from, so you don’t have to go searching later on! 
  • Write an essay plan before starting the essay. Each paragraph should be a new idea. 


Trinity-supported tools:  

The VLE Assignment Tool and Turnitin are accessible through Blackboard.
Google Docs and MS Word are accessible via myzone


Academic and essay writing  

This presentation from Student Learning Development at Trinity provides a concise overview of  the writing process, including phases of writing, essay structure and characteristics of academic writing.  

A guide to essay writing  

This video from the Disability Service at Trinity outlines a five-part model for academic essay writing which is frequently used in Arts subjects. 

A helpful guide to essay writing  

This student resource from Anglia Rushkin University provides a comprehensive overview of key considerations when writing an essay, focussing on structure, organisation, style and clarity.   

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