There are definitely differences between how you’re going to have to write in university and how you did in secondary school. For most students, coming from writing English essays in the Leaving Cert. doesn’t leave us fully equipped to deal with third level essay-writing. This is true for students of all courses and faculties. While learning-off and spewing information onto a page often sufficed for history, geography, etc. essays before now, you’re expected to show different skills and information in university. Here are my seven tips to help transition from writing for secondary school to university level:
1. Don’t Be Daunted By Word Counts
You’re probably not used to writing 1,500 to 2,000 words for an essay, but, as with the style of writing, it becomes more natural to write that much with time. Waffling off-topic will bring your overall grade down, but if you’re short on the word count, you can often find more relevant sources to reference, or add depth and detail to your introduction and conclusion.
2. You Won’t Be Able To Write An Essay In Just One Sitting
You will have to revise and re-write parts of the essay. It’s still very helpful to have a broken down plan of your essay before you start writing, or even just simply ideas, thoughts, or any references you already have together on a document.
3. More Formal Tone
The tone of your writing is more formal than how you may have written before, but still has to be easy for any reader to understand. Just ask yourself if you could have read and understood the essay and argument before you started in university.
4. It’s Gotta Flow!
Your essay needs a logical flow from start to finish. You can still include an introduction, main body and conclusion, following the simple point, quote and explain format. Just make sure to introduce your main argument in the beginning and mention it throughout your essay so that it doesn’t get lost.
5. Your Essay Isn’t Just Your Opinion …
It is your own argument, based on what others have said on the topic. You bring in what others have said on the topic to your essay by quoting and referencing/citing them correctly. You can’t just repeat what’s been said previously, but can give your own thoughts based on what’s already been researched and written.
6. Visit The Writing Centre
The Writing Centre is a fantastic resource for all UL students and staff to avail of to aid their writing. It’s open to all levels of writers. You can book a one-to-one peer tutoring session with an experienced writer to talk about either a specific essay/report, or the style of writing and general tips. The centre is located in the Main Building, just down the corridor from Red Raisins Café in room C1-065. You can book on their website ul.ie/rwc , or simply drop an email to email@example.com .
7. It Does Get Easier
Don’t get disheartened by how academic writing can feel like a different language in the beginning, it does get easier. With each essay and assignment your write, the style of writing becomes more natural and eventually will become normal to you. Essays and assignments may take longer to write in the beginning, but usually they’re expected to be shorter and are more manageable in the first semester, or so.
Remember that if you’re struggling with your writing you’re definitely not the only one. A1’s in the English Leaving Cert don’t necessarily equate to perfect essays and reports in university. Writing is a core part of almost every course in UL and so it’s important to take it seriously, but don’t stress out too much about it. There are supports and resources to help you along the way. University is a different learning environment and the transition process can take time, so be patient with yourself.