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How to write a Business and Management essay
As always, there are THREE main parts to writing an essay.
1) To read and understand the QUESTION in full and exactly. The golden rule is always READ THE QUESTION (then reread it, again and again, so you know what it is asking for so can ANSWER THE QUESTION in full).
2) To prepare â€“ search for material, understand and evaluate it, select the material and resources you will use.
3) To make a PLAN. This involves constructing an effective argument, developing and exploring it, and arriving at a well-supported conclusion. When this is done, you are ready to write your essay, using correct and complete referencing (usually Harvard).
A business or management essay is no different â€“ although, of course, dissertations may require primary research (interviews, questionnaires etc). Some assignments (for example, in accounting) may also ask for calculations or spreadsheets in addition to text â€“ and accounting assignments may mostly consist of such numerical tasks and calculations.
Business essays often require all references and sources used to be as recent as possible, often from the last ten years, so it is recommended to look at journals, magazines and websites which will include the latest business developments and be up-to-date. Industry-wide sources are helpful as are relevant publications such as the Financial Times, Management Today, CIPD magazine, Business Week, Fortune etc. Having said this, and even though many developments in the field are from the USA, students in the UK should ensure they write within a British context if that is what the assignment requires.
So, the three stages for a business and management essay are:
1) Read, understand and analyse the ESSAY QUESTION in full.
What EXACTLY is the question asking you to do? Many questions have two or three parts within them, so be sure to understand this if the question is complex. Often, a business and management essay will ask you to analyse, review, interpret, examine an issue. Often, such an essay will require a focus on real companies and questions which ask a student to COMPARE AND CONTRAST two companies or sectors are popular, as are case studies.
However, merely being descriptive is not enough â€“ and one of the most common criticism by tutors is that an essay is â€˜too descriptiveâ€™ with â€˜not enough or any analysisâ€™. In other words, the essayâ€™s argument should not simply be explained but EXPLORED â€“ in detail and in depth, using example and often with reference to various business and management theories. That means you need to examine and EXPLORE an issue with regards to a company or sector IN THE LIGHT OF such-and-such a theory (for example, change management, relationship marketing etc).
Sometimes, you are asked to create your own question about a certain business and management sector. It is always best to select a topic of particular interest to you, but it is also perfectly legitimate to do some research to see what other essays are out there (free online) and use them as examples from which to draw your own ideas and title. It is always best to start with a large subject area (e.g. online marketing) and then narrow it down, then narrow it down again, to create a specific question you will be able to answer well. An essay written in such a way is likely to get a high mark.
2) Do the RESEARCH for your business and management essay.
This important second stage is often underemphasised or even skimped by students who cannot see the point of it. But be sure, the more work is put in here, the better and more thorough your final essay will be, and the higher marks your essay would get. You can use a library or go online to one of the many websites available: www.questia.com, www.emeraldinsight.com and www.scholar.google.com . These websites have a vast array of resources for students to read, explore and use â€“ though some of these website may charge a subscription.
Initially, itâ€™s best to just freewheel a bit â€“ brainstorm, surf the net, freely explore what is out there, trying out links, and just taking it all in. Then, when you have seen what is available, you can closely read articles and website, journals and magazine articles. Some students consider it a waste of time to read articles they wonâ€™t actually use in a final essay. But NONE of this is a waste of time at all â€“ it is time well-used to research your business and management essay. Narrow the sources down as much as you can until you have a list of resources you will use. But REMEMBER always to make a note of your resources: the title, author, publisher â€“ and page number or URL link. This is to use in your essay and the bibliography or reference list, but it is also so you can revisit these websites and resources at leisure, and also show your tutor, if asked to show how you did research. Many a student wishes they had made a note of page numbers and URLs of their research when they have to revise an essay after tutor feedback!
3) Make a PLAN for your business and management essay
Always have a plan. ALWAYS HAVE A PLAN. Itâ€™s easy to say but itâ€™s amazing how many students spend so little time on this crucial essay writing stage. An essay will often â€“ though not always â€“ have a simple BEGINNING (Introduction), MIDDLE (main body) and END (conclusion). This is a logical sequence that mirrors story-telling. Bullet points or arrows are useful to list main points. Some students use mind maps or other planning techniques. It is really up to the individual â€“ some like to list when planning; others prefer more visual plans.
Writing the essay is possibly the easiest bit â€“ and will be if the RESEARCH and PLANNING stages have been done properly and adequately. Of course, you need to use academic language, and need to explain any new business terms you may be using (often it is best to provide a reference here).
Writing IS rewriting â€“ so essays and dissertations should ALWAYS improved, rewritten, edited and revisions before submission. This is the way any piece of written work evolves. I can assure you that all professional writers write and rewrite and revise many times before the reach the stage of having a manuscript that can be published as a book or a magazine article. Professional writers never ever submit a first draft!
The first draft is where the writing proper starts, and it should roughly follow these logical steps:
INTRODUCTION â€“ state how you are going to address the essay question and how you understand it. Itâ€™s always worth stating the essayâ€™s aims and objectives here â€“ and stating the destination (conclusion) you aim to reach. The introduction to an essay is also where you can give definitions of business terms as you understand them, and also state if primary research was conducted.
BACKGROUND â€“ this is where to address any theory used in the essay, or to outline any company you are focusing on if you are doing a case study.
FINDINGS â€“ This is the real â€˜meatâ€™ of the essay â€“ where you discuss the issue you are investigating and where you analyse your topic in detail. You should draw on your research here, using a wide range of fully-referenced sources to add to your logical and structured argument. The planning you have done will pay off here, with each new paragraph being the next step in a logical sequence, so the essay flows towards the conclusion.
CONCLUSION â€“ Your whole essay argument should logically end up at your conclusion which is where you can pull together all arguments and discussions explored in the essay. Show here how you have fully answered the essay question, and state your opinion. Often, recommendations go here too. Do not simply repeat the introduction in the conclusion, though you can use it as a guide.
Then, after the main essay, you need the following:
REFERENCE LIST/BIBLIOGRAPHY â€“ Usually, this should be in alphabetical order (in Harvard, the most common reference style for business and management essays). As a basic guide, use 10 references her per 1000 words of the essay.
APPENDICES â€“ Many business essays need graphs, tables and other supportive material and this is where to put that, unless otherwise specified in the essay brief.
Finally, you need to read through and check your essay. Most importantly, you always need to ask yourself if you have answered the question in full. Are parts of the essay irrelevant? Is anything under-developed? Can anything be deleted or replaced? Is content up-to-date and relevant? Have you supported all the main points? Have I done that with examples and arguments? Is there a logical progression in the essay? Is the conclusion adequate and complete? Have I given recommendations if the question asks for them? And most importantly: have I answered the question?
REMEMBER: FAILING TO ANSWER THE QUESTION IN FULL IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE ANY STUDENT CAN EVER MAKE
A final proof read for typos and language errors (spelling, grammar) should be done, and the referencing double-checked. A final reread of the whole essay before submission is also recommended â€“ and submitting well before your deadline is also a must!
Essay writing is something you will get better at with practice, but if you follow the above guide, you canâ€™t go far wrong.