Organising an essay

R19–0632 JAPA10031

Supporting materials


  • Group: 60 students
  • Length: 50 minutes
  • Room: small lecture hall
  • Discipline: examples are tailored to Japanese studies
  • Level: UG first years

Learning outcomes

After engaging with this support, you will be able to:

  • Recognise academic writing
  • Structure an essay
  • Constructing your evidence

Suggested online resources

Session content

During this session students will be introduced to the concept of critical appraisal and will practice applying critical skills in a number of activities. The latter half of the session will explore how to construct a critical argument within an academic piece of work, balancing different sources of information with independent analysis.

Introduction (slides 1–2)

Outline that during the session we will cover the following:

  • Recognising academic writing
  • Structuring an essay
  • Constructing your evidence
  • Further support from My Learning Essentials

Activity: what is academic writing?(slide 3)

Discuss the following questions with the person next to you:

  • What are the characteristics of academic writing?
  • What sets it apart from other types of writing?

Answers to be shared via Mentimeter

Breaking down the question (slides 4–6)

Demonstrate how to break down an assignment question, using the example question below:

Compare and contrast depictions of warriors in contemporary Japanese popular culture

When you receive your assignment question take some time to read it and analyse what you have to do. Take notice of instruction words, topic words and limiting words which signal what is expecting of you.

RAFT (slides 7–11)

Once you understand what you are being asked about, you should turn your attention to understanding what you are expected to do. Always check your assignment rubric and marking criteria, as these will include important information to help you.

The RAFT method takes you through four elements you should consider before starting your assignment:

  • Role: What is your role as a writer? What do you need to do in order to make sure the reader understands your argument?
  • Audience: Who is reading your work? How can you make sure that you demonstrate the necessary skills to them? How can you make your argument clear?
  • Formats: Different types of writing/assignment will have different aims and you may need to demonstrate different skills in each. Different types of writing also have different conventions which you need to follow.
  • Topic: Make sure you answer the set question.

Planning your essay (slides 12–14)

Creating an essay plan at the start of the writing process will save you a lot of time in the long run. If your essay is planned well and you know what you want to say, you will spend less time editing at the end of the process. Note that plans can take many forms, and show example mind map.

Structuring an essay (slide 15- 17)

Outline the basic structure of an academic essay, reminding students to consider the “micro” structure of their essay (paragraphs, phrases, words) as well as the “macro” structure (intro, main body, conclusion).

Introductions/conclusions (slides 18–21)

Ask students the following two questions and gather feedback from the group. Afterwards, recap and summarise the purpose of the introduction and conclusion using the points on slides 19 and 21.

  1. What should an effective introduction do?
  2. What should an effective conclusion do?

Constructing a critical argument (slide 22)

In order to get the higher marks you need to demonstrate critical awareness in your assignments. This means, for every source or piece of evidence you use you must provide your own analysis. This is elevates your work from being merely descriptive to critical.

Building a critical argument

Activity (slides 23–28)

The paragraph on the next slide has been taken from Sabine Frühstück’s paper ‘After Heroism: Must Real Soldiers Die?’ This section focuses on the Japanese Self-Defence Force and its links to Japan’s Imperial past.

Working in pairs, discuss the following:

  • Where has the author included a topic sentence or highlighted the main point?
  • Where have they used evidence to back up their point?
  • Where has the author included their own analysis?

Transition sentences (slide 29)

Briefly introduce students to the academic phrasebank as a useful resource which can help them to find transition sentences to include in their essay.

Ballpoint pen writing notes
Academic phrasebank

Next steps and further help (Slides 30–35)
Highlight support which is available via drop ins and provide guidance on useful next steps following the presentation. Demonstrate the location of the My Learning Essentials online resources within Blackboard using slide 33, and highlight the most relevant resources e.g. Being critical: thinking, reading and writing critically and Start to finish: essay writing.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Library for Educators

Library for Educators

Sharing resources for educators, from The University of Manchester Library