Decide what you want to argue and assemble your evidence in support of your argument.
A common mistake made by students with early essays is to take the reading list, actually do a large part of the suggested reading and then allow your essay to simply summarise all of the viewpoints you have just seen.
However, this is not a good way to demonstrate an active engagement with the subject matter. It is an understandable behaviour in moments where your confidence dips, but in order to do well in your essays you need to take a stand, be brave and show that not only have you read around the subject, but have formed an opinion on it - and are prepared to defend that opinion!
The way to do this is to:
- do the reading
- take note of the various points of view
- stand back and reflect; decide what you think and why you think that way. Take lots of time over this part - don't rush into writing as soon as you have finished the reading.
Make it clear from the outset of your essay that this is your view, your informed opinion. You don't necessarily need to spell out in the introduction everything you plan to say, but the reader does need to know what views you share and which you are going to refute.
How can you easily do this?
If you agree with an opinion expressed by someone else in the reading, just say so!
'As Professor Whatsit wrote in her influential work...'
If you disagree with an opinion or viewpoint, then try to distance yourself from it:
'Professor Bloggs has argued that...'
Try to dispose of rival readings (that you disagree with) briefly and in one go. If you alternate between 'right and wrong' viewpoints it can make you sound like you are dithering, even if you are not. The trick is to demonstrate active engagement with alternative viewpoints whilst privileging your own opinion - weaving your voice out of what you dismiss and what you agree with and defend.