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Essay writing

Research for your essay

Think carefully about what reading you need to do for your essay. A focussed approach ensures that you stay on track and know in advance where to find the sources you need.

To focus your reading, try using a mind-map or spider diagram to note down some initial thoughts and ideas. What do you think should be in the essay? What limits are you setting?

Make sure you know how to locate appropriate sources, such as academic books and journal articles.

When you start reading, you should make meaningful notes.

Make sure that you:

  • add your own thoughts to your notes and critically engage with the texts you are reading
  • don’t copy out the text word for word
  • have your essay question in mind: what information is important and relevant; what evidence do you need to build your argument?
  • note down any particular phrases or sentences that you might find useful in quotation marks. Take note of the page numbers and full details of the source you are reading.

See our critical reading page for more advice on engaging critically with your texts, and our note making pages for guidance on how to make effective notes from your reading.