How to Keep Your Essay Relevant to the Question

One of the most frequent mistakes in student essay writing and academic essay writing, whether you are tackling a weekly essay or an undergraduate dissertation, is a habit of drifting away from the question. You can write a brilliant, carefully argued essay and still get low marks if it is not altogether in every part relevant to the question.

Some assignment writers make a strong start when they essay write, but begin to wander away from the question, whilst others tend to allow their argument to veer off in completely the wrong direction altogether.

When looking at students' essay examples, you can see that most essay writers deserve much higher grades for their essay writing and undergraduate dissertations, but are simply being marked down for the failure to show strong connections between their essay and the original question, not because their essay writing is deserving of low grades at all.

Below you will find a comprehensive list of tricks to ensure that your academic writing is always on target, and avoid losing those crucial extra marks for good!

Essay writing: planning

One very successful method to make sure you will stick to the question throughout your task is to write a clear, comprehensive plan before you commence writing and then make sure you stick to it.

Map out your four or five central points and underneath each jot down the arguments you will use to convey them. Then read through each section and ask yourself whether it answers the question directly. Get rid of any points that aren't relevant, and make sure that you stick firmly to your plan when essay writing.

Essay writing: referring back to the question

This is a simple method that can really make a huge difference. Use a signpost sentence when you begin each new essay paragraph or idea, which connects it strongly to the question and proves to the marker its relevance to the overall topic.

Don't be afraid to use the wording of the question itself in your essay writing - as long as it's not too repetitive it will greatly enhance the sense of cohesion and relevance of your argument when the marker subjects it to essay analysis.

Essay writing: developing your argument

Often students start out with a very clear introductory discussion that addresses the question, but when their essay develops to branch out into more detailed or tangential lines of debate they fail to prove that they are still focusing on the main topic with which the question is concerned.

One clear way of creating this focus is to make the relationship between the various parts of your essay argument clear using attention grabbing separators like 'firstly' and 'secondly' or 'conversely' and 'furthermore' in your essay writing. This might sound easy but it really does encourage the essay marker to link your different ideas together and see how they all fit into the overall argument instead of disregarding one of your paragraphs as irrelevant to the question.

Essay writing: conclusions

The most successful essays always have one thing in common: a strong, clear conclusion to provide a clear summary of your essay argument. You can use this essay paragraph to really prove to the marker why each paragraph of your essay was relevant to the question.

In your essay conclusion, refer back to the topic, even quoting the question itself to make it really clear, and briefly mention each of your main essay paragraphs in concluding your argument. This essay writing technique will ensure the reader is reminded at the end of your essay that everything you have written was contributing (and relevant) to your answer to the essay question.

Final essay writing top tip

As you are writing your assignment, constantly remind yourself of the question. Simply re-reading it as you write should really help you to keep on track and make sure that your essay stays relevant to the exact topic you should be focusing on.