Welcome to the latest from the BrainTree Podcast! This week we have a very special episode, where Rocky vacates the microphone to allow Prue to talk to Bron Hall of The Research Den, which gives students support for essay writing.

[02:25] Prue asks Bron about the best way to plan and write an essay. Bron sets out her 3-step essay strategy, before breaking it down.

Plan. Research. Write

[03:44] Prue asks out the planning stage, Bron explains that planning an essay is about understanding the purpose of the essay and having a clear goal and focus for the essay. Bron recommends looking for the key verb in the essay question and making sure you know exactly what is meant by that word.

[07:58] The next step is to look at the topics and themes in the essay question and make sure that you understand them and know what they are. Prue suggests you should be brainstorming ideas at this stage, but Bron stresses that you must fully comprehend the question first. Bron suggests a combination of brainstorming and free-writing to create and note ideas.

[11:12] Prue asks about the next step and Bron tells us to look at the random ideas sourced from the brainstorming/free-writing and grouping and categorising them. Prue gives us an example of how she uses this technique. Bron suggests a trick of titling the groups of ideas once you have made them, which allows you to give a preliminary structure to your essay and key points for further research.

[15:43] Prue and Bron discuss the importance of planning as a precursor to research, to be able to give yourself focus rather than having to research everything and being direction-less. Prue asks about the sources for research, including libraries rather than just searching online.

[19:15] Prue introduces the idea of “window shopping” in libraries, where you may look up a specific book, but also looking at the books/references around that one to find related material. Prue outlines the steps for research, which involves titling your free-writing groups, searching for those terms in a library catalogue and then browsing around the results.

[20:25] Bron defines the use of boolean operators when searching online. The words “not”, “and” and “or” help you narrow your results by focussing or excluding certain results. Prue and Bron discuss the downsides of not focussing your research and highlight the importance of planning.

[27:28] Bron outlines that the three-stage process listed above is a process of exploration. You should not expect the essay to come out perfect first time, because your essay will change and hone and improve as each draft of the essay is written. Prue highlights the importance of notating your sources to have a comprehensive bibliography once you are finished.

[31:49] Bron’s final tip for the research process is that you must know when to stop. Stressing that you must be able to identify when you have gathered enough information and can start writing the actual essay.

[33:47] Prue remembers the quote that usually starts off the podcast and asks her guest to give her quote. Bron gives us a quote about growth and learning.

“At life we have only one chance, but in life we have many.”

[35:00] Prue wraps up the podcast. Don’t forget to give any comments or questions for Prue or Bron!