Essays - Preparatory reading
Advice leaflets originally produced for the Study Advice Service in the University of Hull, which holds the copyright:
It is good if you already know a lot about what you are going to write, but in most cases you will at least need to find out more - either more facts or more ideas and arguments. Your first task must therefore be to read as much as you can about the topic. Ideas, arguments and concepts are born from an understanding and a consideration of the facts. Do not begin an essay until you have enough knowledge at your disposal to support what you will say. This will also help to avoid any bias in your argument. Reading is probably the most important academic task you can do at university. One word of warning, however: it is possible to read about a topic in too much detail or to attempt to read from too many works. You will need to develop the skill of looking at the contents and/or index pages of a book and of skimming a selection of pages to see whether or not it will be of use to you. You want the right amount of information before you start so you need to achieve a balance between reading too much, which carries the risk of overload and confusion, and reading too little, which leaves you with a lack of material and ideas about which to write. Make notes as you read and record works and page numbers so you can refer back to them later. You will also need this information to reference and acknowledge authors you have cited. Try to make these notes in your own words so as to avoid unintentional plagiarism by noting something verbatim and then copying it later when writing the essay as if they were your own words.