The Secret of Writing an Essay – How the Professionals Do It

What is good essay writing? How can we write the best essay? Well written – what does that mean? These are challenging questions that students around the world put to themselves every year. Certainly, to write an essay is not the easiest thing to do. Like any apprentice, we have to learn our trade the old-fashioned way. How? First, by writing. And second? We need to seek out books and essays we can learn from. It is necessary to read some good writing before to write your own essay. Surely good writers can inspire you by way of example. Here we will examine some techniques and strategies that can easily be applied to writing assignments.

One of the most important things is to learn that you should always plan your essays before you write them. Recall that writing is a process: it consists of a series of steps. Before beginning, you should answer three questions:

A) what is the primary objective for the essay? That is, to inform, to persuade, to entertain, to argue, to question or to inspire;

B) what is the question of the essay? Notice that you can state the question you want to answer in the essay itself;

C) what is your answer? Present your answer in a strong and clear thesis statement: a one-sentence summary. This thesis statement should clearly indicate the specific subject of your essay.

That was easy, wasn’t it? So, having answered these questions, you are now ready to jot down ideas and then list them in complete sentences. Basically, we have the following steps: choose a topic (theme), narrow the topic (be sure to address only one main idea), research the topic, analyze the question, and make an argument. The theme or idea is the abstract subject of a text. Okay, it is important to work with this template, thus avoiding starting with a blank page.

We all know that careful organization is a key point in writing a college-level essay, but for now get the ideas without regard to structure. This is because you are creating a rough draft outline. Further you will need to make some decisions about organization. The writing trainers always recommend that your writing style should be lively and engaging. But how? Be sure that your writing excels when you use direct style, strong verbs, and simple vocabulary. Besides, remember to vary your sentences structures by alternating short and long sentences and dependent and independent clauses.

It is now time to define the chief sections and subsections of the essay. Notice that each part serves a distinct function. The introductory paragraph is the strongest paragraph in the essay. It sets the mood: it should deliver what the first sentence promises and to synthesize information, establishing both a historical context and a deep personal connection to the theme presented throughout the essay. Keep in mind that the first sentence of the essay is punchy, essential to grabbing reader’s attention.

The second and third paragraphs organize the ideas. What arrangement will you use to organize your ideas? For example: chronological order, point by point, categorizing, deduction/induction, most important to least important or vise-versa, a single cause leading to a single effect or multiple effects/multiple causes leading to a single effect or multiple effects, spatial order, etc. Be careful not to cede to the pitfall of telling instead of showing; the trick is to choose relevant details and use examples, analogies, quotes, statistics, stories, images, etc. In other words, your idea should be effectively supported with examples. Remember: be very convincing in explaining your views. Then, for each point: introduce it, explain it, and discuss how it is connected to your thesis/claim.

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How to Write an IB Economics Evaluation Essay

Economics evaluation essays are often regarded as one of the most difficult assessment components of the IB Economics program. Students often struggle with structuring their evaluations and applying their economic knowledge to the question. However, evaluations do not need to be difficult and students often overcomplicate their thinking when writing evaluations. In this guide, we will examine first, the wrong way to approach evaluation essays and then how to correctly structure an evaluation. For this, we will use this question to demonstrate the essay writing process:

“Evaluate the extent to which a depreciating exchange rate may benefit or harm an economy.”

The wrong way

Many students adopt this approach when writing evaluation essays:

1. Define

2. Descriptions and analysis

3. Evaluate

Evaluation should not be the “icing on the cake”. Rather, the evaluation should be the cake itself. Writing an economics essay using the above approach can easily lead to the mistake of describing everything about a depreciation and leaving only a small part of the essay for evaluation.

The next problem is that, when reading this type of essay, it is unclear as to what the student is evaluating until near the conclusion. As the student, it’s also easy to get sidetracked.

Some students using this approach may often run out of time and not do any evaluation whatsoever, which will make earning even a 6 difficult.

Finally, this with this approach, it is difficult to effectively tackle different types of economics essays. With the approach in this guide, evaluations can be tackled almost systematically which means that less thinking time is required, leaving more precious writing time.

Note: This approach can work and I’m sure there are students who have scored 7s with this approach. But it is much more difficult to learn if you are unfamiliar with economics evaluations. What I recommend, is to use a systematic strategy and structure that can be applied to almost all types of essay questions.

The correct way

First, let’s think about what evaluation actually is.

This can be found in most economics mark schemes:

Effective evaluation may be to:

· Consider short-term versus long-term consequences

· Examine the impact on different stakeholders

· Discuss advantages and disadvantages

· Prioritize the arguments.

The third description is the one that we recommend as it can suit the widest range of possible examination questions. Stakeholder and long run versus short run analyses are often subsets of a discussion of advantages and disadvantages, i.e. the advantages and disadvantages to different stakeholders, or in the short run and long run. Regardless of the question, there will always be advantages and disadvantages. However, there may not be enough to discuss regarding short run versus long run, or regarding various stakeholders.

You should prioritize your arguments anyway, listing the most important advantages/disadvantages first.

The approach I recommend can be used for almost all types of evaluation essays (With some minor tweaks). The key here is that with practice, you can do evaluations almost systematically, which saves on planning time and keeps your essay focussed.

So, the 5 steps to getting full marks in your economics evaluation essay (Using the advantages and disadvantages approach):

1. Define key terms in the question

This is fairly straightforward. The mark scheme awards a few easy marks just for defining the key terminology. It also helps to focus the essay and for the student to get into “essay writing mode.”

2. Answer the question in 1-2 sentences

Essentially what this means is, summarise the entire essay into 1-2 sentences. This sentence is crucial and is designed to focus your essay. All of your future paragraphs from here will support this.

It is also important to demonstrate your intention to evaluate here. Your 1-2 sentence summary must have elements of evaluation – i.e. useful phrases to use include, “it depends on” or “there are advantages and disadvantages” or “there are many costs and benefits associated” etc.

This sentence can be fairly vague. What’s important is clarification on the direction you will take with your essay.

3. List and explain advantages

Note: For policy choices, this can be replaced with “benefits” and for questions where you are required to evaluate a statement, simply replace this with “arguments supporting the statement”

The more detailed the explanation of the advantage, the fewer advantages you need to discuss and vice versa. Aim for at least 2 and at most 3, although in rare instances you may only have one advantage that you discuss in length.

With practice, you will intuitively work out how the length and detail that each advantage needs to be discussed in. Ideally, include one diagram per advantage discussed.

As you become more advanced in your essay writing, it is often useful to qualify these advantages as well. Rather than simply writing “One key advantage is that the policy will reduce unemployment,” write “Given that the economy is likely to be experiencing a deflationary gap, an key advantage of the policy is that it will help to bring the economy closer to full employment.”

4. List and explain disadvantages

Note: Replace with “costs”, or “arguments against the statement” as appropriate to the question.

The principles behind this are the same as for advantages.

5. Weigh up advantages and disadvantages

It is often the case that the advantages and disadvantages do not carry equal weight. Depending on what is being evaluated and the economy in consideration, it is often more appropriate to lean one side or another rather than simply writing “it depends.”

This is essentially your conclusion. For the vast majority of evaluations, this should be a tentative conclusion, i.e. “It is likely to be advantageous overall” rather than “It is definitely advantageous overall.”

For evaluations of policies, it may be powerful here to consider some alternative policy options. Remember also that doing nothing is a possible policy choice.

Key things to remember

1. Your essay’s purpose should be to evaluate. Evaluation should not be the “extra” part you add on for bonus marks.

2. Answer the question and only the question. But use the question as an opportunity to show off your economic knowledge

3. Diagrams should always be “sandwiched.” Relevant text should always be used to introduce the diagram and subsequently to explain the diagram. Do not have a diagram hanging at the end of a paragraph or randomly inserted before a chunk of text.

4. Diagrams must be labelled accurately and titled. Diagrams should also show a shift of some kind. This can be done by using an arrow. I also recommend labelling diagrams Figure 1, Figure 2 etc. This makes them easier to refer back to.

5. Use real world examples. Tackling this is easy. Go on Google and find a statistic for:

a. A country that is experiencing rapid growth (Hint: China)

b. A country that is experiencing very slow growth

c. A country experiencing high inflation

d. A country experiencing low inflation or deflation (Hint: Japan)

e. A country with low GDP/capita

f. Countries with high and low income inequality (HL)

g. Countries with fixed and floating exchange rates

h. A country with high levels of debt

i. A country that is a net exporter

j. A country that is a net importer

The list goes on. Basically, you can get some quick and easy marks just by having some real world knowledge handy.

6. Have some original thought

Original thought is essentially using your creativity to add a little extra flavour to your response. Try to go a little beyond what is mentioned in the text book. The easiest way to do this is to qualify your advantages and disadvantages to the question specifically.

For instance, if the country has high debt levels and you are evaluating depreciation, it may be useful to include something like: “Given that the economy is experiencing high debt levels, a depreciation is likely to make it more difficult to service debt repayments.”

Your essay should not be generic. To achieve the highest marks, it needs to be targeted to the question. This is especially true for the 8 mark data response evaluation question.

7. Explain concepts linearly

What this means is don’t have your analysis jump from A straight to D. Explain your reasoning in a step-by-step manner, as if you are an economics teaching explaining the concept to a student.

For instance, if you are trying to explain that lowering interest rates is likely to increase aggregate demand, your explanation should look something like this:

“Lower interest rates represent a lower cost of borrowing. As such, firms more likely to invest in capital, which is likely to increase the level of investment in the economy. Furthermore, a lower interest rate results in a lower return on savings, which is likely to result in a lower marginal propensity to save and thus a higher marginal propensity to consume. All else being equal, this is likely to result in higher consumption. Since investment and consumption are both components of aggregate demand, lowering interest rates are likely to lead to an increase in aggregate demand.”

The wording could probably flow a little better, but you see the point. Explain concepts in a linear fashion or the examiner may get lost, or assume that you don’t fully understand what you are writing.

8. Practise, practise, practise!

Write as many economics essays as possible before your final exam. This is the only way that you will be able to master the art. After you have written each essay, ask for feedback from your economics teacher. If you are doing past paper questions, look at the mark scheme to see what you may have missed.

In your final exam, do not expect to have much time left remaining. Through practice, you will be able to write faster and not need to commit as much time to thinking. In your final, planning time should take no more than 5 minutes and for the most part, if you have this structure memorised, you should be able to think ahead as you are writing.

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Step by Step Guide to Effective Essay Editing

Like any other form of written output, essay writing must end with editing. There must always be a careful examination of the essay in order to find flaws in structure and errors in grammar and other technical aspects of writing. This is to ensure that the final piece is at its best form and that it succeeds with its objectives. However, the process of editing can be foreign to many writers, especially to those who do not perform it regularly. If you are one of those who are yet to understand how editing works, here is a comprehensive step by step guide on how to effectively edit your essay.

Step One: Evaluate Overall Quality

Right after you finish writing your essay, you need to read the raw draft. In this initial reading, you must carefully study the overall quality of the essay. This means that you will determine whether or not the essay delivers to the goal that you have set. If you intend the essay to be persuasive, for instance, you should determine if the essay left enough points that will move the readers and if these points were expressed in a convincing fashion. In addition, you should also evaluate the general quality of your writing. Is your essay stiff, bland, or enjoyable to read? Typically, a convenient reading indicates that your writing is satisfactory. However, there are more factors to consider in the following steps.

Step Two: Analyze the Structure

While evaluating the overall impact of your essay, you should also analyze its structure. Pay attention to the fluidity of the writing or the lack thereof. Likewise, analyze whether the paragraphs come together seamlessly or if they are rather disconnected. One way to identify whether ideas in the essay are flowing smoothly is to locate transitional cues that connect every point and argument. Apart from this, you must also check if your essay has the appropriate introduction, conclusion, and other essential components, such as the thesis statement.

Step Three: Note the Mistakes

After reading and evaluating your essay draft, you must list down all the mistakes and shortcomings that you have detected. You can prepare a different document for these notes or simply incorporate them on the draft itself. For this, you can use the tracking feature of the software you are using or print out the essay and write the notes alongside the problematic parts. You can then use these editing notes for the next step.

Step Four: Apply Corrections

Using your notes as basis, you must now decide the necessary editing strategy for your essay. If your notes suggest that your essay suffers from multiple major problems, then you may want to consider rewriting it completely. On the other hand, if there are only minimal errors, then you can proceed to respectively correcting each one. Problems with transition, for example, can be easily solved by adding a transitional statement to the paragraph. Issues with tone and style can meanwhile be fixed through simple revisions in word use and sentence structure.

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