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The University of Southampton
English for EngineersUnderstanding assessed tasks

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

In an essay, you will write about a topic in depth, presenting a clear argument which leads logically to your conclusions on the topic under consideration. You will need to provide evidence from academic sources (journals, books, reports) to support your argument.

How long should my introduction and conclusion be?

Normally, these should each be about 10% of your essay.

How much referencing should I include?

Every time you make a statement that a reader could question, you need to put a reference.

Reading lots of scientific books and papers will give you a good idea of what needs referencing as opposed to what is considered common knowledge in your field and therefore does not need referencing.

Are references included in the word count?

Normally, in-text references and citations are included but the reference list/bibliography is not.

How can I improve my essay before I submit it?

Come back to your essay after a break and read it aloud, preferably to a friend in another discipline. Listen for parts that are repetitive, don’t say what you intended or don’t make sense.

A good final proof reading technique (which you can do by yourself in the library), is to read each paragraph in turn, from the end of the essay. Since the flow of the essay is now lost, your attention is focussed on what you actually wrote rather than what you intended to write, which is good for spotting missing words, grammar problems and other small errors.

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