Institute of Communications Studies - Study Skills
THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
In a subject like Communications Studies, much of your university work will be assessed by
essay – whether that’s an essay you prepare in your own time over a period of days or weeks,
or one you concoct in an examination hall in the space of an hour. It therefore follows that if
you learn how to prepare, organise and present essays, you will do much better in your degree
overall. So this document might also be called:
HOW TO GET BETTER MARKS WITHOUT (NECESSARILY) DOING MORE WORK
We’ll assume that you’ve read widely about the particular subject of your essay, and have a
good understanding of the broader area within which that topic is located. Broad and deep
research is the essential basis of an essay. You will have lots of notes on the subject – see the
ICS Study Skills Guide to Note-Making for tips on how to do this.
So now it’s time to write the essay. You sit down in front of the keyboard and start typing: you
put the title, you try to group some similar bits of information or argument together, and then
you put a conclusion on the end saying that there are many interesting points of view on this
No, of course you don’t. You’ve got to start off with an essay plan. By designing this you’ll
come up with the structure. A well thought-out structure is at the heart of every good essay.
What is a good structure?
It isn’t enough to make sure that you have an
introduction at the start, a conclusion at the end, and
the other stuff in between. So what do you need?
1. You do need a solid introduction. It will probably
contain something about how you have interpreted the
question, and it is often a good idea to state a thesis
(an argument) which you are going to illustrate or
explore in the body of the essay – although you may
prefer to save the ‘findings’ of your exploration to the
end, in which case you have to introduce the question
carefully at the start.
2. And you need a tight, powerful conclusion which is