As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.
Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.
“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”
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The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.
“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”
But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.
“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?
“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”
Critique your own arguments
Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.
“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”
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Fine, use Wikipedia then
The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.
“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”
Focus your reading
Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.
Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.
You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.
“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”
There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.
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Look beyond the reading list
“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”
And finally, the introduction
The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.
“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”
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One of the most common essay topics is the issue of environmental pollution. We can find many examples of works on it that have been done before, so it might be pretty hard to discuss it and discover something new.
Anyway, there is no reason for disappointment. Please, find an example of the essay on the pollution problem that can be used as a guide for your future works on this topic.
Essay on a Pollution Problem
Environmental pollution is one of the main threats for our planet. Pollution destroys the living environment and endangers human existence on Earth. No doubt, the economy finds many benefits in technological development. However, toxic emissions due to the work of factories, transportation, construction sites pollute the environment substantially. As the environmental pollution is a broad topic consisting of many sub-issues, there may be many approaches to building the consistent pollution essay. For instance, the pollution essay may concentrate on the various types of pollution, like sound pollution (noise pollution), water pollution, air pollution, soil pollution etc. Each paragraph of the essay will describe the separate type of the environmental pollution. Another suggestion is writing the pollution essay that highlights the consequences of pollution problems including the global warming effect, natural resources extinction, health problems of people and animals, the destruction of natural ecosystems, etc. The essay may also describe the causes of the pollution problems. Each paragraph, then, will be dedicated to one of the five main causes: industrial and technological development, transportation, agricultural activities, trading activities, and residences of people. Once you have selected the issue for the essay, you may draft the outline and move on to the analysis of the research and literature. The statistical data and approaches to pollution examination transform and improve over the time. So it is significant that you base your essay on credible and up-to-date sources. You may also look online for the essay sample on the pollution topic. However, you are encouraged to perform the research and develop your own paper first. The essay sample may be used as a practical tool and the structural example to follow.
Pollution Essay Sample
The population of our planet is increasing constantly. The population growth, unfortunately, has many adverse effects, one of which is the pollution problems. Pollution is a process of contaminating the environment in a way that it becomes unsafe to use. The contamination usually occurs through the chemical substances; however is not limited to tangible effects. The pollution can also take the form of the light, sound (noise pollution), or heat. The effects of pollution are devastative. The report of the NGO Pure Earth suggests that one of the seven deaths occurs due to pollution. Another comparison shows that pollution kills 60% more people than malaria, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis combined. In this light, it is important to explore the various types of pollution and its effects on the environment and human beings.
One of the pivotal issues nowadays is the water pollution. The enlargement of the population means more trash and garbage. The rubbish dumps decay and the toxic substances permeate the soil going to the rivers and oceans. Moreover, tons of garbage are thrown directly into the water. There are even special islands for garbage in the oceans.
Even though the technological development offers various approaches to garbage utilization, most of the poor countries do not utilize innovative technologies. Thus, pollution becomes the leading cause of death in underdeveloped low-income countries. Nevertheless, water is contaminated not only due to regular garbage utilization. The plants, factories and mills are the key pollutants of the water. The process water from factories goes to the rivers and seas in neighborhood areas. In some rivers, the water is contaminated to the critical level and is banned from using. The fish and living environment of natural ecosystems are contaminated by dangerous chemicals that causes either the death of the entire ecosystems or hurts the consumers of the contaminated products (seafood, fish, water, salt).
Additionally, water is polluted by pesticides and fertilizations used in agriculture. The devastating effects of water pollution may be decelerated by installing the water purification mechanisms at factories and plants. These efforts should be promoted and enhanced on the governmental level. Moreover, states should develop the global programs of the environment protection as the problem is not limited to a particular territory or state. It is a universal hazard that requires combined efforts.
Another big humanity’s challenge is air pollution. Air consists of nitrogen, oxygen, water vapor and inert gases. When the typical structure of air is altered, we can observe the effects of air pollution. The primary reason of air contamination is the effect of the burning fuels. The smoke floats in the air and most people breath it in. Further, it affects the health resulting in respiratory diseases, cancers and other problems. Another type of air pollutants are dangerous gases, such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, and chemical vapors. Those gases undergo the reactions in the higher atmosphere layers and return to the surface in the form of the dangerous chemicals (acid rains) that ruin the living environment. Moreover, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide create the so-called “greenhouse effect” when the radiation is absorbed while the heat is prevented from escaping. It is a natural process.
However, the high concentration of the gases makes Earth warmer and affects the natural processes on the planet. Thus, air pollution is one of the contributors to the global warming.
One of the least discussed problems is sound pollution. People tend to underestimate this problem because it is not possible to smell, see or touch it. However, noise pollution also has negative effects on the environment and people. The research shows that many illnesses are connected to noise pollution, such as hearing loss, high blood pressure, coronary heart disease and speech interference. The industrial noises also affect the lives of animals. For example, whales’ navigation system breaks down due to the sounds of ships. Besides, the industrial noise makes wild species communicate louder which requires additional efforts and decreases their life spans.
The growth of population and technological progress have imprints on the ecological stage of Earth. The extraction of natural sources, work of factories and plants, and other products of human activity result in various environmental problems. The pollution of water, air and sound have extremely negative effects on our environment. The effects of the pollution include acid rains, detrimental diseases and illnesses of people and animals, and global warming. The environmental pollution is the global problem that calls for radical actions for environment protection and rehabilitation. More than that, the problem should be resolved on a global level by the united efforts of the global community.
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