Five tips for writing a poor essay

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The favorite season for all graduate students is upon us – it’s essay time! I know I know. You are pumped. Essay season excites me every year, especially now that I am writing them down and no longer writing them.

The MBA essay in particular is a great exercise, designed to test your ability to research, analyze, and synthesize information to answer a specific question or problem. Lucky MBA student that you are, this will likely be a team exercise.

If you haven’t started thinking about yours yet, fear not. To help you maximize your potential, here are five tips for writing a poor essay.


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1.) Skim homework

Don’t read the assignment carefully – after all, that’s just a guideline anyway. The essay is your opportunity to talk about what you want to talk about – your teacher can be sure that he cares about what you want to say, not what he specifically asked to hear.

2.) Don’t sweat the springs

The number one rule for SEO in a poor essay is: Cite Wikipedia. If you are feeling ambitious, quote it verbatim. Any good scholar knows that a reference list full of links from Wikipedia pages is doomed to greatness, and using it to locate primary sources is a costly waste of time. Forget the Harvard Business Review, no one is reading this anyway.

3.) Sell, sell, sell


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Sales pitches are the key to essay success. Focus on the flare, not the content. Is your cover page glossy? Good. The brighter it is, the better. Did you clean up Google images? Perfect. Throw pragmatism and reasoning out the window and don’t worry about the substance of the document (or if it’s riddled with typos). The success of the term paper is all about perception – and that brilliant cover page is it.

4.) Collaboration is overrated

There is nothing quite like reading / grading an essay that has several clearly distinct voices of varying quality that do not match at all. To achieve such a level of excellence, I have two words for you: Do not collaborate.

Ideally, blindly combine the components of your group document with the members of your group, so that duplication, differences in tone and language, and outright contradiction in the document are maximized. And whatever you do (this part is important), don’t reread it completely. It’s for the weak.


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5.) Anecdotal evidence is gold. Use it liberally.

Fortunately, you have followed these other tips to the letter and are now ready for your coup. Here it is: Use anecdotal evidence as frequently and thoroughly as possible.

There is no reviewer who doesn’t like to hear what the breadth of your anecdotal evidence has to say about the particular phenomenon you are writing about. After all, your sample size of one is definitely more convincing than any empirical article could have to say on the subject.

There you have it, five tips for writing a poor essay. Good luck, good writing – and be awesome.

Rhiannon MacDonnell is a PhD candidate at the Haskayne School of Business and teaches in both human resources and marketing. She holds a Masters of Science from the University of Calgary and a BA from the University of Waterloo. Find Rhiannon online at or on Twitter at @Rhiannon.



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