How to write a Geography essay
For some students writing essays is easy, a doddle. For others, it is the stuff of nightmares. At the Leaving Certificate level, all students can write, it is just that some find it easier than others. Writing essays is an essential skill if you are to achieve your full potential. Fortunately, it is a skill that can be learned. All you have to do is follow some simple guidelines and practise a lot. Getting a teacher or friend to review your work will also help. All you have to do is put the words that you know in an order that makes sense.
As a general guideline to essay writing I use the abbreviation WWW, WHAT, WHERE, WHY. These headings should form the skeleton upon which to build the body of your essay.
WHAT: This is a series of statements or facts with a little development.
For example: Climate Change refers to the overall changes in temperature, rainfall, wind speed etc in the atmosphere largely as a result of human activities. These activities have resulted in a global warming although changes on a local level may be cooler.
Each paragraph should one or two statements that clearly define the topic. Each statement should build logically from the one before. This will give you marks for coherence.
For example, the burning of fossil fuels, such as peat, coal, oil or gas, in energy production, factories and transport vehicles, has released large quantities of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The carbon dioxide acts as a greenhouse gas i.e. it traps heat in the atmosphere. The increasing levels of Carbon Dioxide has led to a Global Warming.
WHERE: This is an example or location
This should be an example of the topic under discussion. If the question involves a map or photograph, location must be given as a six figure grid reference or compass point.
If possible get into the habit of giving Irish examples. This may not always be feasible, for example There is a Tidal Power station at La Rance in France.
WHY: This is the crucial element of your answer and the one where most students lose marks. Many students fail to fully develop or explain their points.
Any explanation must be developed logically. For example: The use of Biofuels as an alternative energy source may not be the panacea it is made out to be. While this fuel produces less greenhouse gases than fossil fuels it can lead to a lowering of food production. This is due to farmers growing the more lucrative biofuel crops in preference to food crops. In 2008, the lack of food crops such as rice and wheat was responsible for food riots in countries like Haiti and the Philippines.
How to Write an Essay for Geography
A few key points to note:
- Divide the number of marks for the question by two and this will give you a rough guide to the number of points or SRP’s that are needed. For example, the 80 mark option question would require approximately 40 points of information.
- Remember the marks for coherence. This means that your essay must follow a logical sequence and must make sense.
- In an academic essay never use ‘I’ or make personal statements e.g. I think poverty is terrible.
- Keep the essay objective. This means that you do not use phrases like Nuclear Power is a bad thing.
- Only attempt an essay on a topic that you truly understand. Waffling or making up stuff is not clever.
- Always refer to diagrams in the text e.g. As you can be seen in the diagram above/below…….. Do not colour in your diagrams – it just wastes time.
Some technical hints.
- Keep your sentences short. There is more chance of grammatical errors in longer sentences. Your are more likely to get more SRPs for three short sentences than one long sentence.
- Keep your paragraphs short. Make it easy for the examiner by keeping to one topic in each paragraph. This topic should be developed clearly. A topic may be spread over several paragraphs.
- Skip a line between paragraphs. This makes the essay easier to read and , therefore, to mark.
- Keep your writing legible and clear. Always use a blue or black pen. Do not use coloured pens.
- Do not write in the margins.