Structuring a HE essay [Lesson]

The Question – What is it asking?

  • Discuss or debate, exploring both sides
  • Chronological account (biography, history, how an event panned out)
  • Report of practical work or experiment
  • Review (event, book, class)

Check the learning outcomes of your brief or assignment instructions – that is what you’ll be graded on.

Who is the essay aimed at? How do you treat them? ALWAYS bear them in mind.

  • Actual reader (assessors, examiner, employer, tutor at interview)
  • “Fictitious” reader – who is this person and how should you talk to them?
  • Justify yourself
  • Transparency: references to avoid plagiarism or “cheating” – and to be an academic too

Ensure that the tone of voice is academic

  • Intelligent person who understands your topic
  • May not know all the details, so explain them
  • Expects that you do not know it if you don’t state it yourself
  • Is a busy person – so make their life easy
  • Likes clarity
  • First person: “I will explore this issue…”
  • Third person: “This issue will be explored…”

Before you begin…

  • Check the question one more time
  • Look back to previous tutor feedback
  • Reflect o what your strength are
  • Reflect and action your plan to help you wish your essay

How to research:

  • Start with easy texts and videos so that you understand
  • No Wikipedia buy can you start by looking here for an overview
  • Build up your bank of references in more detailed documents
  • Cheat! If appropriate find a good article or video that has a structure that you like and think is useful – use that as a basis of your own structure

Essay Structure

  • Front Page (Name, Module, Essay Question etc.)
  • Introduction
    • Think of it as a map so the reader knows where they are going – overview
    • Say what you are going to say in the essay
    • Write this last
  • Exposition (Explaining)
    • What information do you need your reader to know before they can understand the main points of your essay?
    • Set the scene
    • Review the literature
    • Aims & Objectives
    • No rhetorical questions
  • Paragraphs
    • One idea per paragraph
    • More and shorter paragraphs
  • Conclusion
    • Like politely leaving the podium after a speech – you don’t just walk off
    • Reiterate your ideas
    • Emphasise any conclusions your essay or report makes
    • No questions or ideas, just finalise
  • Bibliography
  • Images (within the text)
    • No fancy layouts – no wrapped text (unless this is in the brief)
    • Label as Figure 1
    • Maker, date, title of image, where images “lives”
    • Reference (Where you got it from) in the bibliography


  • In the text with quote marks and reference
  • “Quote Marks” (Not Italics)
  • Longer quotes as indented & smaller font point (10pt) paragraphs



Homework – Essay writing Dadaist Commentary

Die Butter ist alle! – John Heartfield

butter ist alle

To the left is the poster of ‘Die Butter ist alle!’ and this poster could be perceived as a very “normal” image, until one looks closely. Originally it could be seen a German family having a family meal, however there are many different objects within the picture that could change the meaning totally. For example the Nazi swastikas are embroided on the wall, the large centralised photograph of Adolph Hitler and the cushion on the chair of Hindenburg. It could be seen that this German family are Nazi followers.

The translation of the text at the bottom says “Ore has always made an empire strong, but butter and lard have made people fat at most”. This phrase is essentially saying that in order to become strong you should be eating fatty foods but instead eat iron as it is strong and will make you stronger. Of course this point is invalid however it makes the German’s seem superior to the other nations at this time period.

This poster could be seen as normalising the extreme, the reason for this is because the main things they do, such as having a family meal, sitting in the dining room etc are all very normal things. However they are extreme due to the extra’s such as Adolph Hitler, the Nazi swastikas and of course eating iron!

Cut with a kitchen knife – Hannah Hoch

cut with a kitchen knife

This collage depicts all the issues that were on-going throughout the war and post-war. There were so many different groups that were trying to get their views across and one unique group was called the ‘Dada’ and Hannah Hoch was trying to promote the anti-establishment ideology of, “the deposed Kaiser and new president Friedrich Ebert in the ‘anti-Dada’ section” Juliet Jacques, 2014.

From using VTS one can see there is a vast usage of machinery, seeing the likes of cogs, wheels and ball bearings, this suggests that the industrial revolution was a key issues around the post-war chaos. The limited use of women in this images also tells us that women were not as ‘powerful’ as men in this time era. The men would go the factories and do the ‘hard work’ whilst the women stayed at home looking after the children – this has obviously changed drastically compared to nowadays for the better.