As a social policy student, the majority of my coursework and exams were in the form of written assignments – usually essays. In my experience, the word count for the papers I turned in were usually between 1,500 and 3,000 words. Although I came to LSE feeling like I had a lot of experience writing papers, I learned so much throughout my time at LSE about how to write an essay that LSE markers will be impressed with.
Be mindful about the word count – it’s there for a reason. If you’re way over, that may be a sign that you’re doing too much describing and not enough analysis. Or, if you’re struggling to make the word count, you may not have gone into enough detail. Knowing the upper word limit can help you plan your essay so you know how much detail you can go into for each aspect of the paper.
Use LSE LIFE – I can’t overstate how helpful I found LSE LIFE when writing papers. I went to LSE LIFE for both formative and summative assignments, and I always left feeling better about what I was writing and how I could improve it. It may seem tedious to fit another meeting into your schedule, but it’s worth it. I’ve found going in with specific questions was more productive than just asking for a quick review of the entire paper.
Utilize helpful documents from your department – This is a tip I wish I had learned earlier in the year. My department sent out emails sporadically throughout the terms and would include relevant and helpful links to articles about writing essays and planning a dissertation. There is an LSE LIFE page titled ‘Writing Essays LSE Markers Want to Read’ that I wish I had read before I started! It’s never too late to get some tips – I’ve used the advice in that document to structure my short answer exam questions!
You can never know too much about essay writing – As a master’s student, it is easy to think that there’s nothing new to learn in regard to writing a paper. After all, we just spent 3-4 years at university writing papers. But just like anything else, you can never know too much or have too many people review your paper. Sharing your paper with LSE LIFE, a mentor, or a friend can help you get new perspectives on your ideas and hand in an even stronger final product.
Give yourself enough time – I’ve gotten better at this one. Essays need a lot of revising. Every time I re-read an essay that I’m working on I think of something I can add or realize a sentence does not make sense. And after working on a paper it’s a good idea to give yourself a break and take a fresh look the next day. Essays get better every time you revise them so be sure you have enough time to do so!
Read it out loud when you’re done – This was a piece of advice I got from my high school English teacher and I’ve read every essay I’ve turned in out loud before turning it in. When you read something in your head that you’ve read several times already, your brain knows what you mean to say. So, for example, if you leave a word out of a sentence, your brain could miss it because it knows what the sentence is getting at. Reading it out loud allows you to hear the words you’re writing and makes your brain more likely to notice if something is missing or does not sound right.