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Step 1: Analyse the brief

Reading the essay brief seems a very obvious and straightforward process, but the many students who lose marks for misreading essay briefs suggests that this is actually a process that needs careful thought.

Consider the following seven points when reading an essay brief and deciding exactly what’s required of you.


Although the most heavily weighted component is ‘evidence that the topic is understood’ (25%), it is clear that the lecturer also wants you to give evidence that you’ve understood and can apply to your own work the scholarly conventions of citation and referencing. This is typical of the emphasis in marking guides for first-year essays, as lecturers encourage students to engage with the basics of writing in an academic context.

Some lecturers use a more holistic marking scheme that evaluates the essay as an organic whole rather than in terms of its individual parts. The following identifies the characteristics of essays that score the lowest, average, and highest marks.


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