Although it is true that conventions differ between disciplines, there are some common expectations for supervision essay writing:
- a coherent and relevant response to the question
- a discussion of issues and ideas that relate to the question
- confirmation that you have understood these ideas
- reference to evidence to back up each stage of your argument
- evidence of reading around the subject (i.e. not just regurgitation of a single set of lecture notes or a single book on the topic)
- evidence of reflection - thinking about the evidence and theories you are discussing and treating them critically
- analysis, not description
- precision, not generalisation
- careful editing- is your material in the best possible order? Are your words really saying what you want to say?
Think about the two questions below and write some ideas down.
How has your experience of writing essays so far been different from your experience of writing essays at school?
Have you noticed any discrepancies between what supervisors are asking you to do and how you were taught to write essays at school?
Take a moment to read this document (pdf) and identify your own strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
How does your own evaluation relate to the feedback you have received so far from supervisors? Focus on one or two of the areas you identified as weak points in your essay-writing, and try to improve these over the next 2-3 essays you write. Ask your supervisor for advice in tackling these points, and ask him/her to comment specifically on whether you have improved in these areas in your next essay.
If you need more help, check out the How can I improve? section of this website.