Essay writing can be less daunting if tackled in 5 stages

#1 Analyse the TMA Question


Read the question (and student notes)

Distinguish between process and content words/parts of the question

Check the learning companion or an appropriate guide on better essay writing


#2 Read and select relevant material


Include concepts, theories, arguments, useful examples and evidence from all course materials.

Note references for any quotes, evidence etc.


#3 Plan your answer


Organise the selected material into a logical order


#4 Write-up a draft essay


Check relevance, structure and clarity (sentence structure, paragraphs, logical order, ‘signposting’), spelling, punctuation, references, word limit


#5 Checking with ‘checklist’ for:




Is it clear?

Does it identify the main subject of the essay?

Does it set out how the essay will answer the question?


Main Body


Does the main body follow on from the introduction?

Are the paragraphs linked?

Does the essay flow?

Is the essay argument clear?

Is the essay argument ‘signposted’?

Are there useful examples included?

Is there sufficient evidence?

Do points made relate back to the question to bring out relevance?



Are the main points of the essay summarised?

Does the conclusion reflect back to the question?



Check out an appropriate Harvard Referencing guide for more help and guidance.


Open University Tutorial

Sample Open University TMA Question


‘Outline the argument that consumer society in the UK is a divided society’ (in 1250 words)


What are the process and content words?


Some sample Introductions

What is strong and weak in these introductions? NB: Both have strong and weak features!


a) In this essay I will attempt to outline the argument that consumer society in the UK is a divided society. I think that shopping does reflect divisions because some people can afford to buy more than others. I will show this by looking at the course materials.


b) What is consumer society? The term ‘consumers’ refers to individuals or households that use goods and services generated within the economy. Consumer society is a term coined by social scientists to describe a society that defines people according to their patterns of consumption. This can be contrasted with the idea of a class-based society or the knowledge society. Consumerism, it could be argued, is a defining feature of the contemporary UK. Shopping has become a leisure activity for people all over the country and as a Sunday trading laws are relaxed it is a popular weekend pursuit.

But what does this really mean? According to Hetherington, ‘Consuming has never been simply a matter of necessity to meet basic bodily needs. It raises a whole range of important questions that social scientists might want to find some answers for. Some would argue that consuming has become all about individual identity and self expression……….’ (Hetherington, 2009, Section 1.1). This essay analyses these issues and examines evidence to support the claim that consumerism divides the UK.


Some sample conclusions:


What is strong and weak with these conclusions? NB: Both have strong and weak features!


a) Having looked at the argument that consumer society in the UK is a divided society, it is obvious that this statement is true. Some shoppers can afford to buy more than others. But is this the only thing that divides society?


b) Consumerism is argued to be a defining feature of the UK. Consuming raises important questions and claims are made that consumption shapes identity. People who have money can be what they want to be. Those that can’t consume are excluded. There is evidence to support this. Power also enters the equation. ‘Power matters to just about everything we do, and in particular, whether we are able to do it or not’ (Hetherington, 2009, p.94).


These tips were provided by an Open University tutor during a course.

Need more help with your Open University essays? Check out our unofficial study guide.