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Writing an assignment
The structure of an essay

Because different subjects use different skills, there are a few different kinds of assignments that you will do at Trinity. The most common of these, however, is an essay-style of question, and the following section gives some guidance on how to approach an essay.

A coversheet must be included with every assignment submission, unless otherwise directed by your lecturer. If you are unclear on which cover sheet to use, speak to your lecturer. More information on coversheets can be found in the “Assignment Policies and Procedures” Handbook.

At the top of the first page of the assignment, you should print the title in full (usually this will be the essay question). This is followed by the abstract, unless your lecturer has told you that an abstract is not required.

Although it forms the first part of your assignment, the abstract will be what you write last. Why is this? Because it is not the introduction to the assignment but a brief summary of your argument and your conclusion concerning the question being answered (or the text being explained). An abstract should be about 150 words and written in the present tense (unlike an introduction, which may use the future tense: “In this essay I argue …”)

For example, if your essay answers the question “How did Calvin view allegorical exegesis?”, then your abstract might read:

Calvin lived within a context in which allegorical interpretation formed one pillar of the fourfold exegesis of Scripture. Yet he strongly critiqued this method as one which allowed readers of Scripture to “play games with the Word of God.” Calvin gives his clearest statements on the nature of exegesis in the prefaces to the first volumes of his two commentary series: Romans (the first of his biblical commentaries) and the Homilies of Chrysostom (unpublished; it would have been the first in his commentaries on the Church Fathers). Within these prefaces Calvin critiques allegorical exegesis on the bases of its method, its outcome, and the character of those making the allegories. This does not, however, mean that Calvin completely rejects figural exegesis, as an examination of his exegesis of Jacob’s deception of Isaac in his Genesis commentary demonstrates. In this way Calvin continues to provide a strong example of a well-considered and faithful reader of the Scriptures.

Next comes the essay, book review or exegesis paper itself, starting on a new page. Your writing should show logical, clear thinking and organisation. Careful attention should be given to spelling, grammar, and punctuation because these help you communicate clearly.

The structure of an essay is usually as follows:

Introduction: giving a brief indication of why the topic matters and how you are going to deal with the topic.

Body: setting out in a clear, concise and ordered way the subject under discussion.

Conclusion: summarising your argument and drawing your conclusions.

You may use section headings or simply divide the essay into paragraphs, so long as the argument and flow of the essay is clear.

The last part of your assignment will be the bibliography, again starting on a new page. This is a list of all the books and articles you used in preparing to write the assignment, in alphabetical order of surnames. You may choose to include sources in your bibliography that you haven’t referenced. If you do this, separate the bibliography into 2 sections: the first section should have the heading “Works Cited” and be a list of those sources that you have used in the footnotes of your essay; the second section should have the heading “Other Works Consulted” and contain sources that you have read and thought about as part of the research for your assignment but which don’t appear in the footnotes

Creating a bibliography is greatly simplified by using bibliographical software, such as Zotero (free bibliography software) or EndNote (available free of charge to students at Trinity and other ACT institutions, but not free after you leave college; see There is a module in the assignments section of Moodle that covers the use of Zotero.

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