How to write an essay?

Writing an essay is a big project and there are lots to say about how to do it. All we can not address here, therefore we have made a list of reading tips at the end of this chapter. Your institution may also have its own thesis guide. Read it carefully!

Since this text is aimed at all students at Stockholm University, we keep our advice very general. Therefore, you have to find out for yourself how exactly your institution wants the paper.

  • What is an essay?
  • Choosing topic
  • Print work
  • The parts of the essay
  • Suggested Reading
  • What is an essay?

When writing an essay, you are involved in creating new knowledge. You simply make a research effort in miniature. Research always begins with a question, or a problem, that captures what you want to investigate. A research question should be objective and be able to lead to a meaningful answer. Often you have to work with the research question in several different steps. From the beginning it can be quite wide and a little fuzzy, but as it is, the picture clears.

Another important point is that your investigation in most cases must be theoretically rooted. There must therefore be a starting point in a perspective and a research that already exists. In other words, there are limitations as to how innovative you can be. If you are unsure of how the research looks within the area you are interested in, you need to ask your teacher, supervisor or other involved person.

Another requirement for research is described with the words validity and reliability. Validity is about your study measuring what you believe. Maybe there are sources of error that affect the result? Reliability is about if your survey is replicable, that is, if someone else can redo it and get the same result.

Reliability is primarily important if you do a quantitative investigation. It is a survey of a larger, often statistical material, where the answer can be expressed in numbers. For example, it may be a large questionnaire survey where a certain percentage of the informants answer yes to a question and others no. The opposite is a qualitative study in which the answer is expressed in words. It may, for example, be about interviews with a small group of people who have received open questions.

Choosing topic

In some institutions there are given subjects to choose from when it is time to write an essay. If you do not get any suggestions on topics, you have to choose one yourself. Then it may be good to choose one

which you are interested in – but not too interested. Writing an essay can be struggling. If you choose a topic that you are interested in, it will be a little easier. However, if you choose your absolute favorite subject that you have been looking for since you learned to read it, it can cause problems in terms of fact selection and objectivity. So just interested is the best!

which is close to what you have studied during any module

as recommended by a previous essay writer. Almost all essays conclude with proposals for continued research in their field. Older papers can therefore be a gold mine. However, go no more than about five years back in time if there are newer essays.

The section often contains wordings such as:

The purpose of this paper is to investigate…

To achieve this goal, I would like to answer the following questions …

Theoretical framework

Here you tell us the theories and ideas you use to seek the answer to your research question.

The theories provide a framework for your investigation – and usually also a premonition of which method you should choose. If, for example, you start from a theory that looks at children’s development from a certain perspective, it is a concept from the theory that returns in your method. The section may contain wordings such as:

I have chosen to start from Larsson’s theories of…

Previous research

Here you tell us what others have found out about this topic or with this method.

Here you go through previous studies that somehow resemble yours. For example, it might be someone who analyzed the same material as you but with another method, or someone who used the same method on another material. Your review of the research need not be comprehensive. You should concentrate on studies that you somehow want to discuss.

Start with summary descriptions of the research situation rather than diving right down in the description of an individual study.

The section often contains wordings such as:

Contemporary research is broadly agreed that…

Method and material

Here you tell how you did to answer your research question and what material you were looking at.

Here you should describe the method you used so that someone else can repeat your examination. That means you have to be quite specific. For example, it is not enough to write I analyzed the texts. How did you analyze them? What did you do with the material then? Why did you just use that analysis method and not another? Method and material can be divided into two parts and also contains a section on how you followed ethical rules regarding research in many places. You can read more about this on the Swedish Research Council’s website

Results / analysis / investigation

Here you tell about the results of your survey – what you found.

As you can see from our headline, this section can be called different things depending on what kind of survey you have done and what is your practice in your institution. The text itself can also look very different. A good general advice, however, is to thematize the text. This means that you divide your material into sub-topics and tell about one at a time instead of, for example, addressing it in the order you did the survey or the like.

Let’s say your study consists of deep interviews with five people. You can then choose to structure the section like this:

  • Question 1
  • Person A’s answer
  • Person B’s answer and so on
  • Question 2
  • Person A’s answer
  • Person B’s answer and so on
  • Conclusions and discussion

In this section, tell you what you are drawing for conclusions from your survey.

What will be the answer to your research question? You also address any objections and compare your results with those of others.

In this final part, the bag is tied together. The conclusions can also be included in the section before, or last in this section, but often three things are done in this section:

  1. Draw conclusions based on his study and link it to the research question, purpose and issues.
  2. Discusses the studies that were raised in previous research. Do you agree? Do you get the same results as previous researchers? Why? Why not? The discussion section is very much about trying to find holes in their own reasoning to show that you thought about everything. Therefore, perhaps you will discuss and criticize your own conclusions, your research question, your method or your material and so on. But you should not just criticize but also defend. The section may therefore contain formulations such as:

Another possible conclusion is that my respondents … Based on my question and Larsson’s view on … the most reasonable interpretation is that …

The selection of respondents can be considered … I did however make the assessment …

  1. Provides suggestions for further research.