Academic Essay Writing Tips | Study Coach UK

How to go about writing an academic essay is a question that concern many students, in this Study Coach blog post, we will focus on ideas given by Stella Cottrell on writing for University. The content of this blog post is also relevant to College students submitting assignments for an Access to Higher Education Diploma.  


You should expect to feel anxious about writing the essay, so don’t beat yourself up, in fact you should feel proud of yourself for wanting to produce a good standard of work. Do expect to write a number of drafts and don’t ever despair if you find yourself deleting writing and having to start all over again, it’s all part of the process. Here are 13 steps according to Cottrell (1999: 135).  


  1. Decide how you would do better next time
  2. Make an outline plan
  3. Put the ideas in order
  4. Research the subject (reading, interviews, experiments, etc)
  5. Examine the title and decide what is required
  6. Write a rough draft
  7. Take notes from your reading (or interviews or experiments etc)
  8. Select the relevant information to include
  9. Write the final draft
  10. Write out the references (books and other sources of information)
  11. Read through the writing, checking for sense and small errors; make corrections
  12. Check if your text is within the word limit
  13. Separate main ideas from supporting detail and examples


Academic Essay Writing Tips – Study Coach
Educational Consultant: Morel Benard

Firstly, you should realise that the 13 steps will require re-ordering since step 1 says: ‘Decide how you would do better next time’. Step 1 is clearly something that should be considered towards the end of the writing task as opposed to being the first thing for consideration. I would therefore like to invite you to now re-order the 13 steps in view of planning to write an essay. Rearrange the steps in what you consider to be a logical sequence, keep the aim of the exercise in the forefront of your  mind. The aim is to create a great approach to writing an assignment. If you find it difficult to create a logical sequence when re-arranging the steps, then do spend time to reflect on what is going on with your thinking process and learn from your errors. 


In order to give some direction with re-arranging the steps do bear in mind that even if you feel that you have a great understanding of the essay topic you cannot reference yourself. For example, if you’re writing a reflective essay on the effectiveness of your own communication skills, you must provide research evidence on communication in order to apply to arguments on the effectiveness of your skills. This should indicate to you that research evidence is crucial to your essay and should be at the top of the hierarchy as opposed to lower down the list.


When you have re-ordered the steps, please check below to see if your suggested list is in agreement with Cottrell. Please try to refrain from peeping at the list. Firstly, create your own list and then look at the either or suggestion sequence, you will find it below. 

CONTACT: If you have a question about Essay Writing, do get in touch with Study Coach UK. Email: Morel Benard 


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Oxford Dictionary

Essay Planning Suggested Sequence (either or) 

5, 4, 7, 8, 3, 13, 2, 6, 12, 11, 9, 10, 1

5, 4, 8, 7, 3, 13, 2, 6, 10, 11, 12, 9, 1

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