Tag Archives: writing

How to Write an Essay: Tips for ESL (English as a Second Language) Students

This month’s guest blogpost is provided by Grace Carter:

Essay writing can be challenging for ESL students. Essays can be hard enough in your native language, but trying to organise and argue ideas in an unfamiliar tongue is even more difficult. Essay writing can be made more approachable if students follow a few simple tips.

Thesis statements

The basis of your essay will be your thesis statement – this is the point you will be arguing in your essay. Put some careful thought and planning into your thesis statement; it is the most important part of your essay. Try brainstorming some ideas, write down everything that comes to mind when you think about your topic. You can also try mind-mapping. A mind map is a diagram that starts out as one idea, then you branch out into words that come to mind when you look at your idea. Write out some arguments and connect them together, making sure they are directly related to your main idea.

Your introduction

Here is where you will introduce your topic and thesis. You will also want to get the reader interested in reading more and orientating them on your topic. You should also briefly outline the points you will be arguing in your explanatory paragraphs. Short quotes can be a good way to engage your reader, so as you do your research keep your eyes peeled for a quote you might be able to use for this purpose, and make sure that you take down details of your sources so that you can reference any quotes you use.

Explanatory paragraphs

A basic essay structure is the five-paragraph essay, which includes three explanatory body paragraphs. Each one of these should argue one of your three supporting points. State your point, explain it and expand on it, and then back it up with evidence and references. Prioritise clarity by breaking down complicated ideas into short, simple sentences. Supporting with evidence is important. Use different kinds of sources such as book references, statistics and quotes.

Concluding paragraph

Your conclusion should contain a summary of your main points and a repeat of your thesis statement. This is your final opportunity to make your case and drive your points home. Be careful not to add any new information in your conclusion; you should just be summarising and restating.

Try out some online writing resources for help

Writing an essay can be challenging enough when it is in your native tongue, but it can be especially tricky when you are writing in a new language. There are plenty of resources available that can help make the process more accessible. Here are some good sites to get started with:

  • ViaWriting, AcademAdvisor and StateOfWriting – Grammar is a common topic for ESL students to struggle with. English has many grammar rules, and they can be confusing. These grammar resources can help you to improve your knowledge of grammar, so you can use this knowledge to improve your writing.
  • WritingPopulist and LetsGoandLearn – These are blogs devoted to proofreading. Proofreading is a critical step in any essay writing process, but it is one that is often rushed. Read some blog posts and see what other writers have done to improve their proofreading process. You learn a lot from other writers’ successes and failures.

When you come to the UK to study, you will be expected to use UK English spellings so it is important that you are familiar with these.

Conclusion

Essays can be tricky, but hopefully these tips will make essay writing a bit simpler and more approachable. A good thesis, some well-argued main points, and a conclusion that summarises and restates the thesis make for a well-rounded essay.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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Should I employ an English tutor to help with my university studies?

ProofreadingThis month’s guest post is provided by Henry Fagg, founder of UK tutor directory The Tutor Pages:

It is becoming increasingly common for international students to hire a private tutor to help them with their studies at British universities. But what are the advantages of this, and are there any pitfalls?

Check what your university offers first

Most universities these days provide very good additional support for students in all areas of academic life. Courses are generally offered in how to develop academic English and your communication skills for the academic environment.

Other courses may be offered in further study skills such as critical thinking, presentation skills, revision skills and exam technique.

Consult with your supervisor or tutor about employing a proofreader

If you do not think that the support you can access is adequate for your needs, you should discuss this with your supervisor or tutor.

If you are concerned that your written English may contain grammatical mistakes, then your supervisor may suggest that you employ a proofreader to help you check your work. It may not be appropriate in all circumstances, and so you should check with your supervisor beforehand.

The role of a proofreader is to identify and correct errors in your written work, and it is likely that you would have to pay for this yourself.

Do not stray into plagiarism

Be very clear that a proofreader must not substantially change the meaning or content of a piece of work. For example, they must not correct factual errors or rewrite your work to improve the arguments you make, or re-arrange paragraphs to improve the structure of your work.

If you ask someone else to write something for you, or if someone makes substantial changes to your work, this is classed as plagiarism. Other forms of plagiarism include copying another student’s work or including a quote from a book or website without referencing your source or using quotation marks.

Universities take plagiarism extremely seriously because the point of university study is to develop the ability to think for yourself. There are serious consequences if you are caught plagiarising, ranging from the loss of marks to being expelled from the university.

The problem of ‘essay mills’

In recent years, there has been an increasing issue of students purchasing essays, often online, to submit as their own work. Companies which provide this service are called ‘essay mills’, and the UK university exams regulator has recently asked the government to introduce laws to ban such services altogether.

What about employing a tutor?

Employing a tutor is entirely different to plagiarising. Tutors will typically offer a range of services. These will include proofreading as mentioned above, but also other guidance which will improve your academic writing overall.

A tutor can help you with such areas as expanding your vocabulary, structuring an essay, developing a convincing argument or improving sentence structure.

You can sometimes find a tutor or proofreader through your university. Other ways to find a tutor include searching for a local or national tuition agency. Finally, a tutor directory – where tutors advertise their services – is another straightforward means to find a tutor suited to your needs.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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Where can I find more activities to practise academic writing?

A student writingWelcome to the first blog post from Prepare for Success! In the blog we try to answer questions that students and other users of our website ask through the Question Wall or Feedback form. Today’s question is from an international student who has asked: “Where can I find more activities to practise academic writing?”

A useful website to help you learn about the complete process of academic writing needed for study in UK universities and colleges, with exercises and self-tests, is Using English for Academic Purposes: A Guide for Students in Higher Education developed by Andy Gillett in the UK.

Another website to help you learn about academic writing in your discipline and including practice activities is Writing for a Purpose on the British Council LearnEnglish website.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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