Critical Approaches to Information Law

From Good to Great Essays: A Checklist
This checklist (and the guidance which follows) is intended as a guide for students who
typically produce good essays (say, in the high 2:2 or low 2:1 range), but who want to
produce great essays (a high 2:1 or first class mark). Students often struggle to make the
transition. And yet, writing a great essay is within the capability of nearly all students. We
wouldnʼt have admitted you if we didnʼt think you were capable.
Writing a great essay always involves taking risks: it requires you to step beyond the
safety and comfort of repetition of textbook knowledge, and expressing your own ideas
and undertaking your own analysis. That said, always set your ideas/analysis in the
context of what others have said on the topic.
This checklist is therefore a tool for you to manage this risk. Check your essay against its
criteria, in order to get a sense of whether your essay meets the standard of a great essay.
Not all the criteria will apply equally to every essay you write—the type of assessments we
set are too varied for that. But if you canʼt tick nearly all of the boxes below, you are
unlikely to have written a great essay.
If, when you have completed a draft, you only tick a few boxes, donʼt panic! It just means
that you havenʼt finished yet. Go back and address the areas where you have identified
that you have fallen short, and make such changes as you can until you feel that you have
done your very best. A great essay will almost always be the product of several drafts.
1. Content
a) Have you explained the relevant legal issues, and put them in context?
b) Have you made good use of primary source material?
c) Have you engaged with the most important and relevant scholarly literature?
2. Argument/Analysis
d) Have you minimised the amount of superfluous descriptive material?
e) Is your essay focused around one or two clear and relevant points of
f) Does your argument have a clear, logical and well-flowing structure?
3. Language
g) Does your use of language follow accepted rules of spelling, grammar and
h) Does your use of language clearly and succinctly communicate the argument
you want to put across? Do you make good use of stylistic elements?
4. Originality/Independence of Thought
i) Can you identify some element of your essay that is clearly ʻyoursʼ, that is not
wholly derivative of what you have read or heard in lectures or seminars?

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