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HSB Preparation 

Understanding the question

This section guides you through the very first steps of thinking about your essay question.

The advice in Understanding the question will be most useful to you if you are starting out on an essay and you need to: 
  • work out what the question is asking you to do
  • plan the research you are going to do.

What to do:

Read the Understanding the question guide which includes a blank template you can download to work on analysing your own title.

Other useful resources: 

For help with how to go about your research, see Collecting evidence. For guidance on how to approach answering the question, see Planning your answer. For help with how to organise your answer from start to finish, see Structuring your essay.

Collecting evidence

The arguments, opinions and conclusions in your essays must be based on a broad variety of relevant, high quality evidence. So good research skills are very important in essay writing.

The UEL Info skills website contains comprehensive guidance on the research stage of your assignment.

Take some time to browse the resources in Info skills. You will find video advice, how-to guides and demonstrations on the key skills of Identifying information, Finding information and Evaluating information.

If you don't know the answers to the questions below, the specific links that follow will be especially useful:
Other useful resources:

If you've collected some sources and need guidance on getting the most from them, see Reading critically below.

For help with using notes, see Making notes below.

If you start research and realise you don't know what you're looking for, go back and think about the question again. Understanding the question above will help you.

The library helpdesk can help you with finding sources. If you have specific questions about your subject area you can book an appointment with your Subject Librarian.

Reading critically

Reading is about much more than just understanding the information in books, journals and other sources. You need to actively question and evaluate everything you read so that you can form well-reasoned arguments in your essays. These are the key critical thinking skills you are expected to develop at university.

In the video, Ian Wells introduces the ideas of critical thinking and critical reading. Think about Ian's advice and ask yourself if you are reading critically every time you go to a book, a journal article or a website to collect information for an assignment.
The Critical reading guide explains more on how to apply critical thinking when you are reading for your essays.

Other useful resources:

Related resources

Planning your answer

This section shows how you can approach organising your answer to an essay question. It looks at two common types of questions: discussion and cause and effect.

The advice in Planning your answer will be most useful to you if you have collected research material but are not sure how to approach answering the question.

What to do:
Read through the Planning your answer guide and complete the two related exercises. You can access these resources in any order from the links on the right if you prefer, but we recommend that you work through the whole guide completing the exercises as directed to get a good understanding of the overall topic.

Other useful resources:
  • For more general advice on different types of essay question and using the question to plan your reading, see Understanding the question above.
  • For guidance on the more detailed structure of an essay, from introduction to conclusion, see Structuring your essay.
  • For detailed guidance on developing an argument within a paragraph see the Developing a critical argument guide.