Essay guidance

Word count

1000 words +/- 10%

You must state your word count at the end of your essay.

You will be penalised if you exceed 1100 words – you will lose 10% of your mark.

Write concisely!

What is included in the word count?

All the text, in-text citations and any references to Figures or Tables. If you add long descriptive legends to your figures and tables, these will be included in your word count.

What is excluded from the word count?

The title, reference list, information in tables and figures and the Table/Figure headings. The text stating your word count is not included in the word count.


Font and line spacing

The font should be easy to read – Times New Roman, Verdana, Calibri, Arial etc. are all acceptable.

Font size should be between 10 and 14pt.

Line spacing – your text should not be too squashed (line spacing 1) or too spread out (line spacing 2). This text is typed with 1.15 spacing, which is fine.


There is no need for a title page.

Do NOT add your name or student ID to your essay. Marking is anonymous and we can identify your essay after it has been marked as your submission is linked to Moodle.

You may number your pages if you wish – this is good practice, but is not essential.

Latin terms should always be written in italics (do not underline – you would usually do this if writing by hand). If you use Latin names, remember the genus should begin with an upper case letter and species with a lower case letter. Once you have written it in full once, you can then use the shortened version through the rest of the text e.g. Staphylococcus aureus can be shortened to S. aureus.

Abbreviations – should be defined when first used and the abbreviated form indicated in brackets immediately after e.g. prostate-specific antigen (PSA). The abbreviation can then be used throughout from that point.


All sources must be cited in the text and included in the reference list. Check that all your in-text citations are included in the reference list and that all your listed references appear as in-text citations. You must use CU Harvard referencing. The reference list should be in alphabetical order, not the order in which the citations appear in the text.

The minimum number of references is four. There is no upper limit, but do consider the length of the essay.

You may reference up to two university level textbooks (these do not have to be the ones given to you in your Flying Start package). Other suitable sources include review articles, reliable websites and scientific papers.

Figures and Tables

You may include these if you wish but consider whether they are really needed. Do they add extra information? Do NOT add figures to make your essay look pretty! They should have a purpose.


Remember an essay should have three parts as follows:

Introduction/background – 10-20%

Do not waste text introducing the essay e.g. ‘This essay will present the following arguments….’ – just start the essay. Introduce key aspects that you should have identified in the title.

Main body of text – 60-80%

This forms the main part of your essay so it is where most marks will be awarded. Bear this is mind when writing.

Conclusion – 10-20%

What are the overall conclusions from your research? These should link to the title and to the information you have presented in the main body of the text. Do not include information that has no relevance to the rest of the essay or start to present information that should have been included earlier on.

Follow this structure but do NOT use subheadings in your essay.


You will be marked on your research and writing skills, but the content of your essay must be relevant and accurate. You will be assessed according to the following criteria;

Sourcing the information – have you answered the question set? Is the information included relevant and correct? Have you used appropriate reliable sources? It is important that you have sufficient depth and detail in your essay. If it is too basic, it will not reach the standard expected of a university-level assignment. Have you utilised all the resources available to you or could you have done more? Is there key information missing that is fundamental to the question set?

Referencing – have you cited and listed your references using the CU Harvard format?

Logical argument– have you used a range of resources to create a balanced argument? You should not write a one-sided account. Regardless of your personal beliefs/opinions, scientific writing should be impartial and present both sides of an argument. Do not be afraid to use conflicting evidence, provided it comes from reliable sources. Is your argument presented in a logical manner? The essay should be appropriately structured with a clear, logical progression from the beginning to the middle and the middle to the end.

Communication – is the information communicated clearly? Have you used grammatically correct English? Is your work correctly punctuated? Have you used scientific terms correctly? The text should read well and flow easily from one point to the next.

Proof-read your work carefully before submission.