Students Help – Analysing Your Essay – Form and Transcript.

This is the transcript of the Youtube video which I put up here today. It is primarily aimed at students, but be aware that the same approach works for any writing. Whether you are an aspiring author, a journalist or a business manager trying to write a report, the same disciplines apply.

At the bottom of the page is the diagram which I used in the video. It should also be here as a pdf: Students Help 2 – do please let me know if it doesn’t work for your machine. I hope this transcript and the associated video will help you with your essays. If they do, please like it, subscribe, and share it with your friends.


HELLO! And Welcome to another Writerly Witterings.

I am Michael Jecks, and this is the second in a series of videos for students at university.

Today I am talking about planning and writing your essays.

I spoke a little in the first video about how to start writing an essay. I suggested that you should first consider the question and decide what you think the conclusion should be. Write that conclusion in outline, and then go to the library and find the sources that will support your initial view. It may be that you find there is little evidence for the conclusion you thought up, but that is fine. Now you have evidence that is pointing to a fresh conclusion.

Now, I am an author. I’ve written some 45 novels and collaborated on another ten. But I was trained as a mathematician, so I like analysing writing with numbers because it makes sense.

So you begin to write. You have an essay of 1,500 words. Ten percent will go to the Introduction, another ten percent will go into the Summary. Ten percent is 150 words, so that leaves you with 1,200 words for the body of the essay. You need to break down the logic of your argument. Here I’ve taken an example of 8 main paragraphs to lead to a conclusion because there were 8 main points I needed to make. That means I have 1,200 divided by 8 words per paragraph: 150 words. 

It is important that your essay should flow. It is like an algebraic proof. You begin with an accepted start point, which leads to a statement. You then use references, quotations, or other forms of validation to develop your theme. This development leads to another step, and so on, with link after link moving your thoughts logically onwards to the conclusion.

It is the logic that is important. Your tutor wants to see your thinking, wants to see how you develop an argument, and to understand how your thinking works. To do that, they need to see how you formulate your thoughts on paper.

So, when you have written your essay, you need to assess it.

It is very easy to get stuck into an essay and be pulled along with your own brilliance as you type. You can become convinced that your argument is just so beautiful, your prose so perfect, you can sometimes miss the fact that you didn’t answer the question itself.

I have produced a form to try to help you. Here it is

When you have written your essay, get a sheet of paper, and summarise, in one short sentence, what each paragraph is saying. This is the column with A, B through to H. Each stands for a different proposition or concept you’re introducing. Be ruthless and be honest with yourself here. Is that really what your paragraph is saying?

In a second column, make a note of the evidence, and in a third, note where each source came from.

The point of all this is to give you a quick and easy reference to see how your argument is developing through your essay.

The first thing you will notice is that you can see if there is a lack of balance. Ideally you want to have a balance of sources and references in each paragraph. If you suddenly have to have multiple sources in one paragraph, like paragraph 3 and paragraph 6, then it means you have an unbalanced argument. Perhaps you should consider removing some references at 3. There is no point over-emphasising a specific piece of evidence. One, maybe two references should be enough. Could Sources 3, 4, 5 or 6 be moved to support point A, B, or, better, D or E? Because E has not support whatsoever. Whoops! That has to be fixed.

There are also other areas to look at. If you look at the first column here, you will see that I have put in arrows to show how the paragraphs are developing. But there are two problems. First, it shows that C does not lead to D. In fact, D is a better link to C, reversing those two paragraphs. At points like this, be grateful for copy and paste!

There will be some little writing to adjust the position of these two paragraphs.

The second point is that E does not lead to F. There is a complete break in the logical flow. However, E+ does provide a working solution. So perhaps you should ditch E in favour of E+, if you can’t find a source and quotation to support E? 

Now this is all representational. It’s difficult to understand, perhaps. However, give it a try. You will find it will vastly improve your essays. As an example, when I was working with students at Exeter, I had one who was distraught, because she kept getting C or D for her essays, and she could not see why. I showed her this method, and the next mark she got was an A. 

Do please contact me if you have any problems. If you have some specific questions with your essays, if I have time, I’ll be delighted to look at them for you and make comments based on the work you send to me. All will be treated as absolutely confidential. I won’t tell your university!

In the meantime, I hope this was helpful. Please, if you liked it, give it a thumbs up, like it, share it and subscribe to future videos on essays and writing. And if you have your own ideas about subjects you’d like a professional author to look at, let me know in the comments section. 


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