Ace Your Assignments: Undergraduate Essay Writing

Hello! I am back with another installment of my ‘Ace Your Assignments’ mini-series. Previously I have shared my top tips for presentations and handling assignment feedback, so today I will be revealing my advice for undergraduate essay writing. When I was waiting to start university, and during my first ever essay, I was really worried about how best to approach essays so here is what I wish I had known.

  1. Reference as you go
    PLEASE don’t worry about referencing, you will be shown what to do in your first semester and before long it will be second nature. However, get in the habit of referencing as you go or at least having your reference list ‘almost right’ as you go. Getting to the end of a 3,000 word essay and then realising you have a list of 20 articles and 10 books to go back and reference is soul-destroying.
  2. Make rough notes in another colour as you type
    As I start writing my essay based on my plan or draft, I will get new ideas or angles to use. I have learnt the hard way that you will not ‘remember that later’, so quickly switch to another colour and type your new idea next to the point it sparked from. Once you’ve typed the bulk of your essay, you can go back and add in those in.
  3. Get the nonsense out of the way first
    At college, I got away with never planning essays properly or doing drafts but my best work at university has stemmed from a solid plan that was talked through with a tutor followed by submitting a draft to check my style was a good fit for the assessment. Plans and drafts get the bad ideas out of your head and into the bin, leaving you with the good bits. Even after the drafting stage, I combat writer’s block by just typing all my thoughts onto a page and then deleting the nonsense.

If you have any pearls of wisdom to add, feel free to share them below!

Sam xo

Learning New Skills: Summer Edition.

At university, you learn many new skills. From cooking, to socialising, and then more academic skills like how to reference, cite, quote, work your way around different platforms like Blackboard. I know I certainly learnt lots of new skills in my first year. However, now as I’ve been relaxing for exactly a month since I finished my final assignment, my passion to learn something new had arisen, so in this blog post, I’m going to discuss exactly what I’m teaching myself at the moment, and provide some idea for yourself.

Photo editing is an important skill related to my chosen area, marketing, and therefore when I saw all my friends with great capability to do so, then looked at my skills, I did often feel like this was an area I was lacking in. Therefore over this summer, I’m going to self-teaching myself how to use a photo editing software called Affinity. Affinity is a cheaper alternative to higher-priced software on the market, and only charges you once, so it’s perfect for students. Affinity offers in house tutorials developed by themselves, and then beyond that, there are a plethora of YouTube offerings on how to get started. If you decide to give their free trial a whirl, I suggest this video as a good starting point on how to use their exciting editing tools.

A screenshot of my Affinity workspace

Beyond what I’m doing with photo editing, there are several other things you can do over stuff to either prepare to come to university, or strengthen your CV if your placement has been cancelled due to ongoing world events. Simply taking sometime a week to read relevant and up to date journal articles will bulk up your academic knowledge. Or perhaps you can take time to go through old pieces of work, and refine your reference style.

Learning Edge has the capability to easily find mountains of Journal Articles for yourself to read.

Ultimately as students, we have to identify our areas of weakness and improve upon them, beyond what a tutor may find in your coursework. I hope my account of what I’m doing over this summer to better my skillset has inspired you to consider doing something similar.

Alice