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How To Write An EPQ Essay (Step-by-Step Guide)

In A-Level by Think Student Editor March 29, 2019 13 Comments

Whatever the reasons were for you choosing to write an EPQ, the grade you get is most definitely important to you. That is why I have written this (hopefully) detailed guide on how to write an EPQ.

1. Think Of An EPQ Topic That Genuinely Interests You 

EPQ Topic Idea

It’s important to choose an EPQ you’re interested in, or you may run into some problems . Many students take EPQs each year, and many students fail because they make this mistake.  

If you don’t take an EPQ you’re interested in, you’ll have no motivation to work on it . This will be because you start to want to do other things, anything instead of your EPQ.  

Think about revision, for example. Is it interesting? Nope. Would you rather be playing videogames, watching Netflix, or literally anything else? Yeah, me too.  

If you’re not motivated to write your EPQ essay, then you’ll either not do it or do it badly. If you don’t work hard for it, you won’t get good marks – and therefore there’s less point in even taking it in the first place .  

If you find an EPQ topic to write your essay on that genuinely peaks your interest, you’ll find it much easier to get better grades in it.  

A more interesting EPQ essay topic will mean that your focus is better . This will result in a better EPQ, meaning more marks when you hand it in.  

You’ll also enjoy the EPQ a lot more if you find it interesting . You’ll find the whole experience a lot more fun, and therefore a lot easier too.  

To find an EPQ topic that genuinely interests you, you just have to think about what you like. There are lots of different things you can do, but you only get to choose once – so choose carefully.  

And if you’re really stuck on ideas, take a look at this list of 600+ EPQ ideas that guarantee an A* . Any of these ideas will be great for your EPQ, so just choose one that interests you and that you’ll actually enjoy.

2. Create A Mind Map Surrounding Your EPQ Topic

How To Use Mind Maps Effectively For GCSE And A-Level Revision

A mind map is where you write down everything you know about a topic . In this case, you’d be writing down all the ideas and concepts surrounding your EPQ topic.  

That way you can see everything you need to write about in your EPQ essay. You’re essentially making a mood board for whatever EPQ idea you’ve chosen, and it will help you get in the right mindset for the task ahead.  

Mind maps are most commonly used to identify gaps in your knowledge . Students tend to use them when revising to work out what they don’t know, whilst also helping them consolidate what they do know.  

In terms of your EPQ essay, a mind map will provide a loose structure for you to follow . You’ll come up with lots of different things you can write about, and that will make the essay a lot easier.  

In addition to this, whilst creating your mind map you may even decide to change your topic entirely. You might find that the topic you’ve chosen isn’t giving you any idea inspiration, and so you move on to a different topic.  

To make sure you get your mind maps right, you might want to follow this helpful guideline . It’s mainly about studying, but the same things can be said for planning your EPQ essay.  

Don’t try rushing in to your EPQ essay without first creating a mind map . Mind maps are more useful than most students think…  

Mind maps will help you avoid getting lost in what you’ve written, what you’ve missed, and what you’re planning on doing. You can use your EPQ topic mind maps as a sort of checklist as you write your EPQ essay.

3. Use Your Mind Map To Think Of A Question Related To Your Main EPQ Topic

EPQ Topic Idea Question

Many students forget to think about this, but it’s probably the most important part of your EPQ . If you get this bit wrong, you can say goodbye to a good grade in your EPQ.  

The question relating to your EPQ topic of choice is what you’ll spend your time working on . The 5000 words you write will be about this question, and so it really needs to be a good one.  

If you don’t make it a question that interests you, then you’ll find it harder to write as much about it. Find a question that genuinely peaks your interest (relating to your EPQ of course) and the rest will come naturally.

It’s also important, however, that you choose a question where there’s a lot to write about . If you choose a question with lots to write about, you can use that to your advantage when trying to reach those 5000 words.  

However, if you don’t choose a question where there’s a lot to write about, you’ll find that your EPQ is slow and drains you. Not only that, but it’ll probably be worse in terms of grade too.  

I’d suggest doing a little background research into your question before you start writing your EPQ essay . Just check that there’s lots to write about and then you can avoid starting something you can’t finish.  

As a general rule, you’ll want questions that don’t have definitive answers. If you can find a question that is inconclusive, you’re onto a winner.  

If you can’t be bothered to look up EPQ questions, then there’s an alternative . Take a look at this list of 600+ EPQ ideas that guarantee an A* .

4. Write Down Subtitles That Relate To Your Main EPQ Question

EPQ Structure

Writing down subtitles for your EPQ question means that you’ll have a better idea of what’s actually going into your EPQ essay .  

When you create your subtitles for your EPQ essay, you’re essentially writing down all the mini-topics you’ll write about. You split up the massive 5000 word count into smaller, more manageable parts.  

I’d suggest making as many subtitles as you can that relate to your main EPQ question. Just go for a massive brainstorm ( potentially using your mind map ) to try and come up with lots of subtitles.  

That way you maximize the chances of you making some actually good subtitles. You’ll have lots of options to choose from, and your EPQ will benefit from having such a varied range of points.  

You also put yourself in the right mindset for your EPQ essay . You’ll be much more open to different ideas and approaches whilst actually writing the EPQ, and examiners will see this and give you extra credit.  

However, you need to make sure that the subtitles you’re writing actually relate to your EPQ question . If they don’t, you could run into some serious problems.

If you choose to work on a subtitle that doesn’t wholly relate to your EPQ question, you risk filling up your word count with irrelevant information. That means less room for the important stuff, and less marks for you.  

Make sure you check all your subtitles before you start writing . Work out what the plan is before you start writing, so that you don’t have to rewrite a large portion of your EPQ essay.  

So grab a pen and paper, sit down, put on some nice music, and get to writing those subtitles.

5. Triple Check That Every Subtitle Question Actually Relates To The Main EPQ Topic

Check Your EPQ

By this point, you should have around 16 subtitles that you want to include in your EPQ essay . 16 subtitles will give you a nice 300 word per subtitle guide, give or take a few.  

Any more subtitles, and you run the risk of overcomplicating your EPQ. Any fewer, and you’ll struggle to reach that gargantuan 5000 word count.  

It’s essential that you break down your EPQ essay into smaller modules like this, to make it easier for you in the long term. 16 subtitles will mean the best productivity for you when you actually come to write your EPQ essay .  

The next step is to order your subtitles, for easier reading. You’ll want to make the layout of your subtitles as sensible and as easy to follow as possible for your examiner .   

If you please your examiner like this, they’ll be more inclined to give you more marks. They mark you on your written communication, and therefore you’ll want to make sure you’re communicating the most effective way.  

Try ordering your subtitles by the order of most important to least important . Laying out your subtitles this way will show your examiner that you’ve really thought about your EPQ and understand what they want to see.

Alternatively, you could lay out your subtitles chronologically . What I mean by this is that you start with your question, move onto research, then explanations, and finally a conclusion.  

This is probably the best way to lay out your EPQ essay subtitles . It’s the easiest way to follow the process you went through, and examiners like to see EPQ essays that are laid out like this.  

It’s how I laid my EPQ essay subtitles out, and I got an A* – so I’d suggest doing the same.

6. Allocate A Word Count To Each Element Of Your EPQ Structure

EPQ Word Count

You’ll want an introductory paragraph to start with, and that should only take about 200-300 words . Don’t go overboard with your introduction, as you should aim to make the bulk of your essay about your EPQ question.  

I’ve already mentioned it, but you want to write about 300 words per subtitle . This is the perfect amount of words to write if you want the EPQ essay to go as smoothly as possible.  

16 subtitles at 300 words each will put you at just under 5000 words – 4800, to be exact. That will leave you just enough room to add a short introduction too.  

You can go for less subtitles, but that means a higher word count for each individual subtitle . If you make your word count per subtitle too high, then you’ll struggle when it comes to actually writing your EPQ essay.  

You could also try more subtitles if you want, but that then means you’d write less per subtitle . That means there’s less room for all your explanation, and less marks when you hand it in.  

I’d recommend keeping your subtitle count between 14 and 18 . That way you give yourself the best chances of your EPQ being easier to write.

You also make it easier for you to enjoy, too. Making your EPQ essay subtitles this long means you’ll find it easier and less monotonous, and therefore you’ll enjoy it more.  

The word count of each element in your EPQ essay has an impact on your productivity and focus, too . Generally, the shorter the piece of writing you have to do, the more productive you’ll be.  

Setting yourself short-term goals like this will help you stay focused and make your EPQ that little bit better. It’s worth setting effective word counts for your EPQ essay elements for those extra marks .

7. Research, Research ( And A Little Bit More Research )

Using YouTube For Revision

Research should make up about 40%-50% of your total EPQ essay . That’s a lot of research, and you can see from this figure that quality research is crucial to your success.  

The reason research takes up so much space is because you need to explore all opportunities within your question. Research will help you develop ideas and improve your knowledge of the subject, helping you to better answer your EPQ essay question.  

And besides, who doesn’t want help reaching the massive 5000 word count?  

There are many ways to research, with the most common being the internet, and books . Both ways of researching are valid and useful, but you still need to be careful.  

Especially with the internet, you may come across facts and information that isn’t entirely accurate. This is because anybody can access anything, and usually the information you see online is edited by people who aren’t professionals.  

Try to stay away from websites like Wikipedia, where anybody can change the information you see . There are much better alternatives out there, like Google Scholar for example.

Whereas with books, they have to go through a long-winded process to ensure they’re accurate . Books tend to be slightly more reliable than the internet, especially if they have an ‘exam-board approved’ label on them.  

I’d also recommend keeping track of all the sources of your information, as you’ll have to write a bibliography at the end of your EPQ .  

What that basically means is that you have to reference each individual source of information after you’ve written your EPQ essay. That’s just so examiners can check to see if you’re plagiarising any content, in case you were wondering.

8. Check That Your EPQ Structure Still Makes Sense

EPQ Structure

You should have around 16 subtitles ready to go, in chronological order or order of importance . I’d suggest chronological order, but that’s up to you.  

You should also have space to add an introduction and conclusion paragraphs . They shouldn’t take up too much space, but still leave some room for you to add them in.  

You’ll actually want to wait until the end of your EPQ essay to write either of these paragraphs, so it might help to add placeholders until you get to writing them.  

Around 7 of your subtitles should be based on research . You’ll want to leave yourself a nice amount of in-depth research, whilst also allowing room for all that explanation.  

If you don’t give the right proportions for your research and explanation subtitles, your EPQ can become lopsided. Examiners will easily spot this and take away precious marks.  

You’ll want your conclusion to be longer than your introduction, as you’re essentially summing up all that you’ve written . Your conclusion should be about the same size as your subtitles, but maybe just a little bit bigger.  

If all else fails, just read through your structure and think about it from an examiners’ point of view. Does it all make sense? Are the subtitles in a sensible order? Have you left space for your introduction and conclusion paragraphs?  

If you reckon you’ve got all these elements in the right order and the right sizes, you should be good to go. Just keep a clear focus on your EPQ essay question, and you can’t go wrong.  

9 . Write Down The Answers To Each Of Your Subtitles

Writing An EPQ

Start with your subtitles to get the main bulk of your EPQ essay underway . The quicker you get your subtitles done, the sooner you can finish your EPQ.  

Starting your subtitles first is a good idea, as they make up most of your EPQ. You’ll want to get them done first, and then you have time after that to work on the finer details.  

As I’ve said, your subtitles should be around 300 words long . This will allow you just enough space to answer the subtitle, without repeating yourself or going overboard.  

If you go too far over 300 words, you risk either repeating yourself or just extending your points so much that your words become empty. Empty words = no marks, which is what you definitely don’t want.  

If you don’t write 300 words, the points you make are likely to be underdeveloped. This means you can’t get into the top band of marks no matter how good what you’re saying is – there’s just simply not enough of it.  

Of course, if you think you can express yourself in more or less than 300 words, go for it . Everybody’s different, and some people have better writing skills than others.

The amount of words you write per subtitle can also depend on how many subtitles you have . If you have less subtitles, you write more words per subtitle, and vice versa – simple maths.  

Try to explore every possibility within your subtitle. The more routes you go down and the further the detail you go into, the more marks you’ll get from the examiner.

10 . Write The Introduction And Conclusion Paragraphs

Intro And Conclusion Paragraphs EPQ

Your introduction paragraph needs to be slightly shorter than your average subtitle paragraph . Usually about 200-300 words, the introduction will basically talk about what’s to come in your EPQ essay.  

If you make your introduction too long, you waste space that you might need for your research/explanations. You also take up space that could be used for your conclusion, which is very important.  

It’s a good idea to write your introduction paragraph after you’ve written all of your subtitles . It may sound odd, but there’s method to the madness.  

If you write your introductory paragraph last, it’ll be a lot more accurate than if you’d have done it at the start. You’ll know exactly what’s in your EPQ, and therefore your introduction can accurately ‘introduce’ your essay .

Your conclusion paragraph should be slightly longer than your average subtitle, and definitely longer than your introduction . I’d say about 400 words, your conclusion should sum up everything you’ve talked about in your EPQ essay.  

Your conclusion should essentially answer the question you asked at the start of your EPQ essay. You should aim to include everything you talked about in your other subtitles (that’s why it’s a little bit longer).  

You’ll obviously want to write your conclusion paragraph after everything else, or you’ll have nothing to conclude. Once you get on to your conclusion, you’re on the home stretch.  

11. Get Someone To Proof Read It To Make Sure There Are No Errors

Get Someone To Proof Read Your EPQ

Proof reading your EPQ essay is so, so, SO important to your success . If you don’t proof read your EPQ essay, you may miss some pretty crucial mistakes…  

I’m not just talking about the spelling mistakes you may have made (although you might want to fix those too). I mean the mistakes where you contradict yourself, go off topic, or even just get your facts wrong.  

I’m sure I don’t need to explain it, but these mistakes will cost you dearly when your EPQ gets examined . Sometimes just a few marks can be the difference between an A and an A*, so you need to maximize your chances of success.  

A good way to ensure your EPQ essay is perfect is to get someone else to look through it. Having a second opinion ensures that everything you’ve written is accurate and concise, and it’s better than just checking through it yourself.

If you rely on your own methods of checking through your work, you’re more likely to miss mistakes . Having a fresh perspective on your work broadens the chances of catching every mistake you make.  

It doesn’t matter who you get to check your work . You can ask friends, family, or even your teachers/tutor – just get it proof read before you send it off to be marked .  

If you need to check through it for spelling mistakes or wording issues, there’s a handy little trick I used for my EPQ essay. Paste your entire essay into google translate, and have it read out to you .  

That way you can listen and check for anything that’s not quite right, and sort it out in time for your EPQ essay to be examined.


Thanks so much for the help !

Alec Jones

This is so, so helpful, thanks so much!

Drew Peacock

very epic gamer moment thank you epic

Tom Bell

dab on it wagwan


How many resources should I have for my EPQ?


20-25 should be the right number


Hi, thanks for the cool tips! I will definitely keep it for myself


Hello, thanks for the cool advice, but the most difficult thing for me is 1 point – to think through the topic itself. Therefore, already at the first stage, I give up and turn to the college essay writing service. This service helped me more than once or twice. My friends also use it. Also, it is difficult for me to create a mental map, which is in point 2. Therefore, I would rather spend my writing time on purposes that are useful to me.


yaba daba dooo


This is so useful! I have been working on my EPQ over the past few weeks and have had a few big quandries about how I should go about forming an answer to my question and this has made it much clearer. Thank you!

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epq essay checklist

So, this is it. You’ve decided to do an EPQ and now you’re sitting at a blank computer screen with the entire spectrum of human knowledge at your disposal. You could write about any topic on any subject in the dizzying realms of the known universe. But there’s just one problem… how do you begin?

An EPQ (Extended Project Qualification) allows A-Level students to write either a 5,000 word essay on any question or subject of their choice. Alternatively, students can create an artefact or product, and write a shorter essay explaining it. The EPQ is equivalent to half an A-Level.

EPQs are a fantastic way of proving to universities that you are the best prospective student for them, and that you deserve a place on one of their courses. An EPQ requires a huge amount of independent research (which proves that you can handle university-style work) and allows you to showcase your original thoughts and academic rigour, which is exactly what universities are looking for.

Even more importantly, an EPQ counts for extra UCAS points . This means that if you don’t get the grades you expect at A-Level, a strong EPQ grade could help you meet the conditions of a university place offer. Feeling inspired now? We’ve got 600 EPQ ideas for multiple different subjects, to get those ideas rolling.

What are some top EPQ ideas for a guaranteed A*?

Some strong EPQ ideas for a guaranteed A* are specific and original topics like “Should parents be allowed to genetically change their child’s gender” for an EPQ in medicine, and “Is the media making suicide aspirational?”, for a psychology EPQ.

You could also consider EPQ questions like, “Was the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki justified?” for History, and “Should we legalise human organ trade?” for Economics.

We’ve got a list of 600 EPQ ideas for a guaranteed A*, so scroll down and get inspired. We’ve searched all over the internet and interviewed students to get the most pressing topics for each subject. You should just use these EPQ ideas to give you an idea of what you could research, and it’s up to you to come up with your own title.

EPQ Ideas For Medicine

EPQ Ideas for Psychology

EPQ ideas for Law

EPQ ideas for primary school teaching

EPQ ideas for Secondary School Teaching

EPQ ideas for Biology

EPQ Ideas for History

EPQ Ideas For Economics

EPQ Ideas for Business Studies

EPQ Ideas for English Literature

EPQ ideas for Art

EPQ Ideas for Foreign Languages

EPQ Ideas for Sport

EPQ Ideas for Architecture

EPQ ideas for Maths

EPQ ideas for Physics

EPQ ideas for Chemistry

EPQ ideas for Engineering

EPQ ideas for Computer Science

EPQ ideas for Ethics

EPQ ideas for Politics

Sociology EPQ ideas

EPQ ideas for Geography

EPQ ideas for Religious Studies

So, there you have it. 600 EPQ ideas to enhance your passion and imagination for this exciting qualification. Now get ready to kickstart your academic future with an amazing EPQ idea of your own. Don’t forget to fill out that activity log as you go along!

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Life More Extraordinary with Lucy Parsons

How to Write an EPQ essay (including lessons I’ve learned from writing my book)

How to Write an EPQ Essay

Having just finished re-writing my book,  The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take (due to be published in February 2017)   I thought now was the perfect time to share the lessons I've learned from doing an extended piece of writing like this so you can apply them to writing your EPQ essay.

How to write an EPQ essay – 9 Steps

1. your idea.

How to write an EPQ essay

I did exactly this with my book. I want to become known as an expert in study skills and exam skills. The perfect way to do this is to write a book about it. Hopefully lots of new people will find me as a result of reading my book and want to work with me . My book is furthering my long-term aims (as well as being something I've always wanted to do – yippee for being a published author!).

2. Brain dump

Once you've come up with an idea brain dump everything you already know about it. This is important because your current knowledge is the foundation of where you're going to go next. It will also enable you to identify the gaps in your knowledge and therefore what further research you need to do.

Believe it or not, over the last eighteen months or so my brain dump has been my blog ! As I've listened more and more to my readers to hear what they need help with and what problems they have I have learned more and understood more about the field of study skills. I've researched, thought and read to improve my knowledge and understanding and put all that knowledge into my blog.

3. Identify your title or question

The next step is having some idea of what your title might be or what question you want to answer with your work. Throughout your research you need to ensure that you're finding information that will help you to answer this question.

With my book, the title dictated the structure that the book would take. It helped me to stay focused on what I needed to include as well as exclude.

4. Create a structure for your finished piece

From what you know already and the title you have identified you can create a draft structure or plan for your finished piece of work. Again, this structure will help to keep you focused on what research you need to do to properly answer your question. However, remember that you can always change your structure if what you find in your research deems it necessary.

When I was writing my book I had the overall structure which started with four parts and the ten chapters were divided up between those four parts. When I sat down to write each chapter I wrote a list of what I wanted to include in each of those chapters and decided in what order it was logical and sensible to write about each of those things. Doing this made the actual writing part easy – the book almost wrote itself!

5. Do your research

Now is the time to fill in the gaps in your knowledge by doing your research. Make sure you stay focused on your title and structure all the time that you're doing your research. It's also really important to keep a clear record of where you've gained your information for your references and bibliography. I remember in my early days at university writing endless notes that then got in a muddle and I could never identify the source text which meant I couldn't use that information in an essay because I couldn't reference it. I learned my lesson and soon put a system in place so that I could always identify where my notes, ideas and quotes came from!

With my book my research was listening to my readers and clients and reading books that helped me to solve the problems that they were dealing with. For example, I read a book called ‘Mini Habits' by Stephen Guise – and used that book as the basis for a blog post. I have now incorporated those ideas into the book.

6. Review your structure

As you're doing your research, and particularly once you've finished it, you'll need to review your structure. Your structure is essentially a summary of the argument you want to make in your essay. If the information you've found has lead you to an opinion that you can't express through your original structure then the structure needs to be altered or changed. This is the time when you need to be 100% sure that your structure provides with the framework to say exactly what you want to say in answer to the question or title you have set yourself.

I have found this to be particularly important with my book. The original version of my book was written before I even started my blog. The ten steps I included were all the clearest things I'd learned from my own experience as a student and from teaching geography in schools. However, through my blog, reading and coaching I gained more insights about my own experience and what really helped others. This meant that when I came to re-write the book I had more to say so that I had to change the structure to accomodate all this new understanding and knowledge.

7. Allocate a word count to each section of your structure

You know your essay has to be 5,000 words long and you know which sections you want to put into it because you've planned your structure. To make life easy for yourself you should now allocate a word count to each section. This means that you won't fall into the dreadful trap of writing way too much and having to cull all your hard work to be within the word limit.

I did this for my book. My publisher said that he'd like a 30,000 word book. The original book was about 14,000 words so I had to more than double it. I knew that I had ten basic chapters plus an introduction, foreword and other bits and pieces. So, I set myself the target that each chapter should be approximately 3,000 words. In the end some of the chapters are slightly shorter and others are slightly longer than this but I easily hit the 30,000 word marker by making sure I was reaching the word count for each chapter as I went along.

Can you believe we got to number eight before you actually started writing? Well, this is because all the planning and research you've done up until now will make the writing process really, really easy. The essay should almost write itself!

This is what I found with my book. My plan was so detailed and I'd done so much research over the preceeding eighteen month period that the writing bit was just easy. I sat down for between one and two hours a day for just eighteen days and the first draft of the book was written. It was utterly painless. I then spent two weeks reviewing and editing as well as writing the introduction.

9. Get feedback

The final step is to get feedback on your work. Give it to a friend, parent or mentor to read it through and give you some feedback. The more they know about your subject and academic writing the better. Listen carefully to the advice that they give you and incorporate it as best you can into your work.

The first person to read my book after I'd finished it was my editor. She was thrilled with it and said that ‘it reads wonderfully' and that there was very little she had to change. I credit my thorough planning process for this praise. I hope that your thorough planning leads to the same type of praise.

Some useful EPQ resources from the web

This information from The Student Room gives some really useful background information about the EPQ:

This post from the UCAS student blog helps you with where to start with your EPQ:

You can download this essay guide from the TES website:

If you know of any other really useful EPQ resources then leave a link in the comments below.

Over to you

I hope these tips really help you to write a brilliant EPQ as easily as possible. I've learned how to structure and organise my work in this way through years and years of experience researching, writing, reading and marking essays. Hopefully you won't have so much trial and error!

Leave me a comment below to tell me what you're studying in your EPQ and what challenges you're facing with it at the moment. I'll be sure to reply to every comment.

Get on the wait list!

My book,  The Ten Step Guide to Acing Every Exam You Ever Take , will be published by John Catt in February 2017. If you'd like to know when you can pre-order make sure you're on my mailing list – you'll also get a free exert from the book when you sign-up.

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EPQ Guide: Expressing your ideas

Expressing your ideas

epq essay checklist

This is the stage you have been building towards - writing your report. Although that is largely the focus of this page , it is not all there is to the EPQ.

Your EPQ will be assessed on:

Am I ready?

Am I ready to start writing my essay?

Before you start writing, think:

You should use the Oakham APAv3 Academic Writing Template (below) rather than a generic Word template to set up your essay.

(The image below is taken from the EE LibGuide, but the template is just as useful for EPQs)

epq essay checklist

Citing and referencing

There are many different ways to acknowledge the sources you use. These are called referencing styles . You are free to use any recognised referencing style you wish for your EPQ, but Oakham's 'house style' is APA. We suggest you use this because we already have a lot of support in place for it. APA is an 'Author-date' system, meaning that you show which source you have used by putting the author and date in brackets after it in your text, and then put the full reference in an alphabetical list at the end of the essay. The Library does not support 'footnote referencing', where you put all the information in a footnote at the bottom of the page. If you want help with this then please talk to the member of staff who suggested that you use it.

For detailed information and guidance on how to use sources in your writing and how to cite and reference them accurately using the tools in Microsoft Word, consult the Citing and Referencing LibGuide . This site includes information about how to reference all sorts of different kinds of sources, including videos and works of art, and what to do if you are using a source written in a language that is not the language of your essay. It also gives some examples of how to use in-text citations , whether quoting, paraphrasing or just referring to a source more generally, and how to use the automatic citing and referencing tools in Word .


Academic writing

Stages in an academic essay


Your thesis is the point you want to make. It emerges from your research and your task is to use the evidence you have found to establish it as the most reasonable response to that research.

In both approaches, you must state the research question in your introduction, and make sure you return to it in your conclusion .

Sections required in your essay

Have a look at the Formal Presentation guide in the sidebar for a guide to laying out your essay.

Paragraph Structure

Paragraphs themselves have a structure - the most common you will have come across is likely to be PEEL. The letters often stand for slightly different things in different subjects, but the idea is largely the same - introduce your main idea for the paragraph ( Point ), justify it with Evidence and/or Examples , and Evaluate this evidence. Finally, Link back to the Research Question and/or Link forward to the next paragraph.

This is not the only way to write a paragraph and, with experience, you will soon find that your argument develops a flow of its own that does not require a formula - indeed, your essay would be very dull if every paragraph followed exactly the same structure. However, this structure can be a useful scaffold to get you started and make sure you don't miss anything important.

Paragraph structure

The structure of academic writing

Note that the following graphic was originally produced for the IB Extended Essay, but is equally applicable to the EPQ.

epq essay checklist

Planning your essay

It is vital to plan your essay before you start writing. An essay plan provides an outline of your argument and how it develops.

What sections and subsections do you need?

Although this might change as you write your essay, you should not start writing until you have your overall structure. Then think about roughly how you are going to divide your 5000 words between the different sections. 5000 words seems like a lot before you start writing, but it is much easier to write to the limit, section by section, than to try to cut your essay down once it is written.

What will the reader will expect to see and where?

Look back at your checklist and think about where in your essay you are planning to include the required information. Make sure the flow of your essay makes sense to a reader who may be a subject expert but knows little about your topic. Have you included background information? Details of experimental methods? Arguments and counter arguments?

Now get writing!

You've read all the guidance. You've made your plan. Now you have a blank screen in front of you and you just need to get started! Start with the section you think you will find easiest to write and work outwards from there, or follow the steps below to get started. Don't forget to write with the word limit in mind though.


What if you are writing lots of paragraphs but your essay just doesn't seem to be coming together?

1. Condense each paragraph into a short statement or bullet point. This is the skeleton structure of your essay.

2. Look at the order of the statements.

3. Add, subtract and rearrange the paragraphs until your structure makes sense.

4. Redraft using your new paragraph order.  

Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay

Willard, D. (2003) My journey to and b eyond tenure in a secular university . Retrieved from: . Accessed: 9th May 2020

Oh no! It's too long!!

If you haven't managed to write to the word limit and are suddenly faced with cutting down an essay that is over the word limit, try these tips on concise writing from Purdue Online Writing Lab.

epq essay checklist

Use the menu on the left of this page from Purdue OWL to browse the four very practical pages on writing concisely and one on the Paramedic Method for reducing your word count.

AQA Guide to completing the Production Log: Expressing your ideas

epq essay checklist

AQA copyright notice

The presentation above contains slides from the AQA presentation  Teaching slides: how to complete the production log  (available from the AQA EPQ Teaching and Learning Resources website ).  These slides are Copyright © 2020 AQA and its licensors. All rights reserved.

A downloadable copy of the Production Log can be found here , on the Home tab of this guide.

Formal presentation

epq essay checklist

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What is the final essay, table of contents, the product or artefact, the rest of the series.

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