Writing Better University Essays/Glossary

The following is a glossary of some of the technical words used in this book.

Body: The main part of your essay is sometimes called the body. It’s the essay minus the introduction and conclusion.

Citation: A citation is a reference to the work of somebody else. You put a citation whenever you use the ideas of somebody else. Citations are not the same as quotations.

Conclusion: The final part of your essay is the conclusion. It is the part where the essay is brought to an end. A conclusion often summarizes the main arguments of an essay, and presents a view or opinion that is reached after considering different aspects.

Content words: These are words in the essay question that tell you what to write about. They often also tell you (sometimes indirectly) what sources or texts to use. They are not the same as the process words.

Definition: A definition is a short explanation of what a term or concept means. It focuses on the main aspects or components.

Essay: An essay is an analytic piece of work. It is usually divided into an introduction, the main argument (body), and a conclusion.

Example: see illustration

Full references: see reference

Heading: This describes the style of a line that is set apart from the rest of the text. The heading indicates what the section immediately following is about. Smaller headings are called subheading.

Illustration: These are examples that you include in your essay to make the text more approachable. Illustrations link the abstract argument with practical examples. Illustrations in this context don’t normally refer to pictures.

In-text reference: see reference

Introduction: The introduction of an essay is the opening section. It outlines what the essay is about, and serves to indicate how the essay question is answered in the remainder of the essay.

Linking word: Linking words are words and phrases that join different parts of the essay. They can link sentences, paragraphs, or even sections. Such words include however, in contrast, on the other hand, but, or furthermore.

m-dash: This is a long dash used in printed works (— sign).

Marker: Your essay is marked and graded by a person. Depending on the course and institution, this may be your tutor, your supervisor, or a teaching assistant.

Memo: This is usually a shorter piece of writing with specific content. Unlike an essay, a memo is geared towards highlighting certain aspects, such as the social mechanisms involved in a chosen topic.

n-dash: This is a long dash used in printed works (– sign). It is shorter than the m-dash, but longer than a hyphen (- sign).

Outline: An outline is a short and tentative overview of what the essay is about. Only the main points and arguments are included.

Paragraph: This is a distinct subdivision in a text. In your essay, you should break up the text into several paragraphs. Each paragraph develops a separate thought, and makes one statement only.

Process words: These are words in the essay question that tell you how to approach and structure your answer. For example, discuss is a process word. Process words are not the same as content words.

Question: The essay question is a short indication of what your essay should be about. It outlines the subject and often gives instructions how to approach the answer.

Quotation: A quotation is the use of the exact words of somebody else’s words. Quotations are usually put between speech marks to indicate that they are not your own words. They are also known as quotes, but are not the same as citations.

Reference: This is a short note included in the text indicating to the reader where a citation or quotation originates. A common form of referencing is a note in brackets where the author and year of publication are given. Full references are given at the end of the essay, providing further information. An in-text reference allows identifying the full reference at the end. The full reference, in turn, allows identifying the work used.

Report: A report is a piece of writing that differs from essays. It is usually more focused in making points and outlining the findings, and less on developing the arguments. Sometimes bullet points are used.

Structure: The structure of an essay describes how it’s built, how the different parts of the essay link together to create the complete essay. Your essay should include an introduction, a section defining key terms, a main part (body), and a conclusion. Within these parts, your essay should be divided into logical sections, consisting of separate paragraphs.

Subheading: This is a heading that is of lower importance than a heading. Technically still a heading, a subheading is set apart from main headings, such as by being set in a smaller font.

Summary: A summary is a brief statement of the main points or arguments of your essay, or the section summarized.

Next: References cited