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HomeOpinionsFrosh Survival Guide - A foolproof guide to essays

Frosh Survival Guide – A foolproof guide to essays

While essays are common all year, November is usually the time when most, if not of all, final papers are due for the Fall semester. Whether you have already written a paper and did not do as well as you would have expected, or are still in the planning stages for your first, there are a variety of tips and resources.

University essays are not the same as high school papers. High school essays typically followed a five-paragraph system that included an intro, three body paragraphs, each illustrating one supporting point and a conclusion.

In university, while you still have your introduction and conclusion, the body is different. And there’s more variety. Each new paragraph isn’t about a new point, it’s about a new idea concerning a particular point.

Depending on how you structure your argument, your essays and paragraphs will be of different lengths.

Knowing the structure of an essay isn’t enough to write a thoughtful paper, you also have to make sure you know what kind of essay you’re writing.

Persuasive or argumentative essays are not the same as research papers. In a persuasive paper, you are required to analyze a text, present an argument and defend it. In research papers, you are required to do what the name suggests: research.

It’s important to understand what your professor is asking from you. Do you need to have secondary sources? How many? What length does your professor expect?

After you have determined what type of essay your writing, start an outline of your thesis and the arguments you are going to make. This should help you when you begin writing, and if you have questions concerning the paper or your ideas, you have something to show your professor or teaching assistant.

If you’re worried about the quality your paper at any stage of the writing process, visit the Dalhousie Writing Centre. You will have a 30-minute session with a writing tutor who will hopefully put you on the right track.

The writing centre is designed to help with any type of problem – from understanding the assignment and structuring the outline to grammar problems and draft revision. Since the sessions are short, make sure you come with specific questions, as you will be able to get more done in your meeting.

Aside from the essay itself, papers should be accompanied by a bibliography. Not all bibliographies look the same. This is something you must take into account when writing in text and bibliographic citations.

Usually, science papers tend to use APA, while arts papers either use MLA or Chicago style. Although some professors don’t have a preference, it’s a good idea to make sure that you know what style they expect.

There are many resources for bibliographies. In addition to the writing centre, you can also purchase a variety of writing resource books on how to reference everything from a book to an Internet journal. The Killam Library also subscribes to RefWorks, a website that allows you to input the information needed for your references and have your bibliography generated for you.

Although essays are stressful and take a lot of work, it can be easier if you manage your time, make sure you understand the assignment and get help you need from services and resources the university offers.

Frosh Survival Guide is a monthly column about how to survive your first year at Dal. For more information on the Dalhousie Writing Centre, visit

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