Students in many subjects are required to write technical essays as a part of their overall workflow. The following guide will cover what exactly a technical essay is and the processes you must fulfill to write a good one. In addition, some general tips for the novice essay writer are included too.
Beyond the main problems of structure, styles, topic, and citations we’ll provide advice on researching for technical essay projects. Although there are numerous ways of writing a successful technical essay, the content of this guide will give an insight into what makes a solid foundation.
What is a technical essay?
The word technical might set some alarm bells ringing, although, for the most part, technical essays form part of the curriculum for subjects that aren’t usually essay-based. That’s all things Computer Science, Engineering, Math, and so on. They’re rather different to comparative, descriptive, or analytical essays favored in the humanities – at least they’re different on the qualitative side of that field.
A technical essay is similar to the kinds of articles published in academic journals. The length is typically 2000 words, give or take 25% of that volume, and this does not include references. The essay will often be framed in the form of a question. You must answer this question to the best of your abilities. Or it could be a statement, which then requires discussion and appraisal. Either way, the method of completing the essay, whether question or statement-based, is going to be very similar.
Questions of style
Academic essays usually conform to very similar styles. There are no additional marks for extra flair, but there is often a docking of marks for improper styling. So make sure you collect those easy points. A general guide for this is to use serif fonts, such as the classic Times New Roman, and font size of 11 or 12. Margins aren’t typically important, but you might have to write with 1.5 or double-line spacing. The spacing makes it easier for the reader to mark it, and also for you if you’re printing out drafts to read and edit.
Think of a good story: what does it have? A beginning, a middle, and an end. Kurt Vonnegut had something interesting to say about the nature of stories. But that’s not super relevant to the academic essay: no surprises or plot twists should be in your piece of work. Lay it all out at the start in your introduction where the essay will go.
Before you write your introduction, there’s another similar bit to write – the abstract. Abstracts give a brief synopsis of the study, including its results.
Some essay guides recommend writing the abstract or introduction first to ground you in the essay, but then advise going back to revise them after the essay is complete. Ideas like this are useful in that they give the essay writer free choice to start anywhere, then work on it again when new information comes to light, just like in Bayesian probabilities.
The rest of the layout is broken down into sections. As part of your essay plan, you can write down some subheadings which will mark the start of each section. These sections should flow together logically. In the beginning, the sections will look quite coarse, but your task is to make them granular. Go into detail on a narrow view of the issue and avoid setting the scope too wide as that will not yield top marks.
As a rough rule-of-thumb, an essay of 2000 words can comfortably handle two or three main content sections, with the introduction and conclusion sections giving us five main sections in total.
Academic essays need to be written in clear and formal English. You should also not use the first person, so don’t use the “I” perspective, and avoid using slang words.
Make sure that the essay flows from one section to another. You can use sentences that show explicitly where transitions are used in the paper. These markers alert the reader that they have just read one component, and now another component will engage with what was just explained.
There are numerous textbooks on essay styles – ask your librarian for recommendations or see if your educational facilities hold some sort of ‘essay writer free drop-in sessions’; they usually do, and they’re usually very beneficial.
The actual content of your essay is, unsurprisingly, the most important part. By content, we mean the words and paragraphs you write must demonstrate how much you know about the topic, and how you can convey this understanding.
It is crucial to provide more than a description of the issues at this stage. You must go into analysis and evaluation, draw your conclusions based on existing work, and situate the essay within the larger body of work – unless you’re writing a Ph.D. dissertation you are unlikely to be on the cutting edge of academic work. Be humble.
When it comes to situating yourself in the literature field, take pains to not go overboard with your literature review. Choose some of the most important and pertinent works to yours and work with those. It is possible to include all the readings you’ve covered in preparation for the essay. This will give credence to your understanding and expertise. The takeaway here is: don’t go overboard, have some respect for the marker or examiner.
About those references: use the best material you can, look in your university library, surf JSTOR and other places. Arxiv is exciting and can be useful, as can Wikipedia – but not as the main source. Wikipedia is a great place to find inspiration, although you cannot use it as your fountainhead.
Your essay brief or some other part of your curriculum will indicate which referencing style you must use, or which one of several. It sounds silly, but don’t mix and match formats. Stick to one and use it. Whether that’s APA or Harvard, make the choice and don’t start with something different halfway through.
Much like your ordinary essay, technical ones require conclusion, not as big as in a full academic paper, but more than some short seminar preparation work. As such, devote appropriate time to research, writing, editing, and proofreading. Only in this way will you manage to get the work done effectively and in time.