Royal Literary Fund Essay Writing

Writing Resources

Writing is an essential part of studying literature. The department offers many opportunities for one-to-one, individually-tailored support, helping you to develop your writing at all levels of study. This includes everything from technical aspects of grammar to the development of rhetorically powerful arguments for your written assessments.

Writing assessed essays

Much of your assessed work over the course of your degree will take the form of an essay.

Our main focus is upon essay writing, because it best demonstrates the crucial skills of critical thinking, sustained analysis, clear argument, a detailed engagement with primary and secondary materials, and persuasive prose.

The most comprehensive information about essay writing can be found in the department's‌ Guide to Assessment (PDF , 561kb). Look especially carefully at sections 8, 9, and 10.

You might find the information below useful too, although it doesn't replace what's in the guide to assessment:

In addition, Ian Small, recent research graduate and former headteacher, is available to see students individually about their essay work during term time.

Please find more information here for specific guidance on written assessments, and see below for more information about the different kinds of support available. 

Royal Literary Fund Fellows

Everyone at every level can always improve their writing style. Paul Mills and Paul Sayer are Royal Literary Fund Fellows based in the department. Professional writers themselves, they are here to provide a free and confidential consultation service to help develop your writing. If you would like detailed practical advice about how to write more successfully, whether an undergraduate essay, postgraduate dissertation or PhD thesis, please do get in touch with them.

P‌aul Mills‌ 

Paul Mills was RLF Writing Fellow at the University of York from 2012-15, and returns again this year.  As well as five poetry collections from Carcanet Press and Smith Doorstop, his other publications include  Writing In Action (Routledge 1996) and The Routledge Creative Writing Coursebook (2005).  He has also written two verse dramas performed at The National Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse.  He was Gregory Fellow in Poetry at Leeds University from 1978-80, and then for many years taught Literature and Creative Writing at York St John University.  From 1986-7 he and his family lived in California where he held a Fulbright Teaching Exchange Fellowship, an experience reflected in his fourth book, Dinosaur Point, overall winner of the Poetry Business book and Pamphlet Competition.  A recent work, You Should've Seen Us, is a series of poems presented as voice-overs to accompany an edited selection of films from the Yorkshire Film Archive.  His latest pamphlet Out of Deep Time, Wayleave Press (2016), with poems on human evolution, forms the basis of his current work in progress.  He is also an RLF Consultant Fellow.       

Paul Mills is available on Mondays and Fridays during term. To contact him, email

Paul Sayer

Paul Sayer has been a writer for 30 years. He is the author of eight novels, including The Comforts of Madness, a winner of the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year, the Booker Prize 'long-listed' The Absolution Game, and most recently the historical novel The True Adventures of Richard Turpin.  He has also written for The Sunday Times, The Times, The Independent, Time Out, Nursing Standard, and numerous other publications. In addition, he has been a tutor for the Arvon Foundation and was the RLF Fellow at Leeds University for two years, specialising in human geography and environmental studies. A former psychiatric nurse, he retains a particular interest in all nursing and health sciences. Whilst he is open to writing enquiries on most subjects, essays or other samples of work-in-progress would be gratefully received in advance of any meeting.

Paul Sayer is available on Thursdays during term. To contact him, email

The Royal Literary Fund Fellows office is D/L/140, Derwent L Block (ext. 4217).

Please note that there is sometimes a great demand for these meetings. Be sure that when you make an appointment you are able to keep it.

Workshops in basic grammar, seminar skills and essay writing are organised by Jonathan Brockbank.

The University Writing Centre

The Writing Centre is a free service, based in the Harry Fairhurst Building (LFA/102), open to all undergraduate and taught postgraduate students interested in discussing and developing their academic writing.

They offer one-to-one drop-ins (20-30 minutes) and appointments (30 minutes and 50 minutes) during which they help you work on all aspects of academic writing.


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