The PDFs below represent what I think makes good essay writing and best practice. However, a disclaimer: Always check for local conditions and divergent approaches, as other teachers/markers might have slightly different preferences.
Essay Writing Essentials [PDF]. This paper lays out the basic parameters of how to write an essay in the social sciences. I’ve kept it as short and concise as possible, to cut through the noise and focus on the most important bits. Students in more advanced years will find some of the information slightly basic. However, even on a more advanced level, some points might still be new to you, and the paper could still help you further enhance your essay writing. Two pages. Current version uploaded 21/04/2022.
Essay Writing Advanced [PDF]. This paper is a midway point between the Essentials paper above, and the Descriptor Guide below. In fact, the Descriptor Guide evolved out of this paper and in many ways is more advanced (no pun intended). However, Advanced still has its place, as it focusses more specifically (albeit less comprehensively) on how to improve essays, and reach the next grade band. Five pages. Current version uploaded 24/06/2021.
SPS Essay Marking Descriptor Guide [PDF]. This paper is the core piece of this website, and to some extent its raison d’être. It deconstructs Edinburgh University’s School of Social and Political Science essay marking descriptors, and derives from them a comprehensive guide to what makes good essay writing, what mistakes to avoid, and how to do well in the different categories. 18 pages. Current version uploaded 24/06/2021.
All these papers are work-in-progress, and reactive to new insights. If you have any feedback on any of the papers, for example you think there’s something that works really well or needs better explanation, let me know in the comments below. This will help me improve the papers over time.