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Starting the writing process: A short guide

Stage 2: Gathering ideas and research

A few weeks before your deadline, start eliminating some of the titles you initially chose, to find the one which best addresses your interests. Choose the topic you feel most excited about!

  • Analyse the question. What concepts are mentioned? How can they be defined? What approaches to the question could you take? What is the assumption made within the question, and can you challenge it?
  • Brainstorm anything you know about the concepts in the essay title, and try to provide an instinctive response to the question, as well as definitions of these concepts. 
  • Do not be concerned with finding the most suitable wording or having the best grammar, at this stage. What is important now is to jot down your thoughts. Once you have your initial responses, it will be easier to develop a plan of action. 
  • After 20 minutes of brainstorming, read what you have written, identify any gaps in your knowledge, and ask yourself whether you already have a potential argument. Don’t worry if you haven’t, as you will develop it whilst reading the literature.
  • Use your resource list as a starting point for your research, but try to seek out other relevant sources to show independence and originality. Identify the broad arguments, approaches, positions, and debates within the literature.
  • Consider how you could comment on, challenge or add to these debates: this intervention is your argument.
  • If possible, try to order quotes and ideas according to where you think they might appear in the essay. As key themes start to emerge, you could create a planning document and begin recording references in appropriate sections
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