Essay Advice Checklist for Students

Essay Content:

  • Introduction? (stating the main approach and position to be adapted in this essay)
  • Logical structuring of the major ideas?
  • Supporting quotation from, or reference to, the detail of the primary texts for each major idea?
  • Quotations / references shown to be clearly purposeful?
  • Close reading skills demonstrated?
  • Major points are developed so they can address contradiction?
  • Counter-arguments considered and integrated into analysis so that they deepen rather than collapse the overall position of the essay?
  • Secondary criticism used to develop and support (not replace) your own ideas?
  • Evaluative descriptions are specifically assessed? (for example, a “good” novel; “real” Ireland)
  • Plot description used only very briefly (if at all) in order to situate a point of analysis?
  • Your active understanding of the points raised has been demonstrated?
  • The implications of the local points of argument, for the essay’s main argument, have been thought through?
  • The internal tension in texts has been registered as an aspect of your argument?
  • All major points in the essay clearly relate back to the essay title (as understood by you and presented in your introduction)?
  • Superlatives and slang avoided, unless specifically required? (for example, “incredible,” “massive,” “she is a wreck”)
  • Conclusion? (stating what has been achieved in this essay, by way of bringing its major idea once more into focus, and possibly suggesting the implications of this idea for further study of this material / field / idea)
  • Total word count adheres to required word count (within a margin of 10% above the advertized word count)?

Essay Presentation:

  • Punctuation full and correct? (check your use of commas, capital letters, full stops, question marks, apostrophes [distinguish singular from plural possession], dashes, etc.)
  • Essay’s page numbers included, top or bottom?
  • Titles italicized? (for all plays, novels, books of poetry, books of criticism or theory, etc.)
  • Titles of poems, essays, etc., in double quotation marks? (i.e., anything that has not been published on its own as a single volume)
  • Spelling accurate?
  • Sentences all are sentences (each has a verb?), and are not over-long?
  • Double-space your essay?
  • The font should be a minimum of 11 point in size.
  • The font used should be one of following:
  1. Arial
  2. Calibri
  3. Helvetica (not supported by MS Word)
  4. Tahoma
  5. Times New Roman
  • Quotes longer than three lines of poetry or four lines of prose indented in doublespace format, without quotation marks?
  • Quotes of three or less lines of poetry or four or less lines of prose integrated into the main text of your analysis, using double quotation marks?
  • Grammar and syntax accurate? (Tutors and Seminar leaders will offer advice if you need special help with this)
  • Submitted electronically in .doc or .docx format, and not as .pdf 



  • Works Cited section included at the end of the essay, in un-numbered, alphabetical order, and organized (where possible) by surname of author? (All essays must include at least the primary text[s] treated)
  • Page numbers (or equivalent) of quotations from primary and secondary texts included in brackets immediately after the quote is used?
  • Indication of where you have begun as well as finished using a secondary critic is clearly evident? [for example, use formulations such as quotation marks, or if referring to ideas, introduce the section as follows: “As Collins argues, . . . . ” You complete this reference by including the relevant page number(s) in brackets immediately after the quotation or reference]
  • All of the work cited in your Works Cited has actually been used in the essay and shown there as such?
  • Full details of all materials used have been included in the Works Cited?


Presentation, Referencing and Works Cited:

For detailed advice, see the School’s ‘MLA Style Sheet – A Brief Introduction’ on the School’s webpage and on Blackboard, and consult the MLA Handbook itself.