Tips and Guidelines for Essay Writing

1.    Essay title.

The title of your essay should encapsulate the main focus of your topic, and the central question that you are discussing.  Avoid 1 or 2-word titles such as “Hacking”, “Wikileaks” or “Social Networks”. Consider fleshing out the main title with a subtitle—e.g. Wikileaks: The Ethics of Internet Whistle-blowing”.

2.    Defining the scope of your topic.

The scope of your topic should not be too broad, otherwise the level of discussion in your essay may be too superficial and lack depth. You should try to focus on specific examples and case studies to illustrate general issues, concepts and principles.  Don’t try to cover too many aspects of your topic. Instead, focus on one or two. Remember, you can always specify the parameters of your topic in your introduction.

3.    Essay structure

Ensure that your essay has a coherent and organised structure with a clear introduction, relevant sub-sections and a conclusion. Keep your introduction brief and concise.  Try to avoid wasting words on sweeping generalisations, padding and unnecessary definitions (e.g. “what is the Internet?”). Consider organising your essay into sections with separate headings, covering social, professional, legal and ethical issues.

Professional issues

If you cite professional codes of conduct in your essay, like those of the British Computer Society, make sure that:-
a)      They are relevant to the context of your topic (e.g. the country that you are looking at). For example, the ACM (USA) code of conduct may not be relevant to a UK case study or topic.
b)      Make sure also that you apply any general codes of conduct to your topic—don’t just cite them, explain how and why they are relevant to practising IT professionals.
Don’t restrict your discussion of “professional issues” to the BCS code of conduct. Look at the implications of your topic for IT practitioners of all kinds (from software developers to IS managers). Consider the codes of practice of other professionals relevant to your topic (for example, forensic analysts or police officers gathering digital evidence). Consider also the policies and codes of practice of organisations and businesses (for example, Facebook’s policies re: privacy and third party access to personal data).