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example essay

basic framework and initial ideas

See our original article on how to approach essay competitions as a medical student here:

Demystified: Essay Competitions

Essay Title: Electroconvulsive Therapy: A shadow of the past or a light into the future?


Initial thoughts jotted down:

  • General public’s views of ECT - movie ‘One flew over the Cuckoo Nest’, surveys of general public’s views.

  • ECT as treatment for severe depression - life-saving treatment in severely unwell patients.

  • Research around effectiveness - ? one of the best treatments for severe mood disorders. ? how does it compare to other treatment methods (medications, therapy).

  • How does ECT work? Can it help us with research for the future on how to manage severe depression?


Basic Framework:


  • Begin with general public’s view of ECT (dark history, unclear how it works, seen as punishment based on media)

  • Scientific view on ECT; seen as one of the best treatments for severely unwell psychiatric patients.

  • Question: who is right?

Main Body

  • Initial paragraph covering history of ECT (who found it, how it was first used, initial effect on patients)

  • How does ECT work?

  • Statistics on how many people have ECT in UK today

  • Research around efficacy of ECT and side effects & compare to medications Highlight how well ECT works compared to other treatment methods.

  • Address concerns from public; side effects very unlikely to result in serious harm, can transform patients’ lives, no other treatment works as well. Given under General Anaesthesia. We don’t know how it works - we don’t know how a lot of medications work in General Medicine.

  • How ECT is helping researchers at present; to help initiate new management for unwell patients such as trans-magnetic stimulation.

  • ECT is one of the best treatments we have in Psychiatry. Main problem is changing people’s perceptions of it.


  • Paragraph on life-saving effects of ECT when medications fail.

  • ECT in the present and future: continues to transform patients’ lives, facilitates research.

  • Answer to essay title: ECT is a light into the future. However, this light can only continue if we have the general public’s backing. More needs to be done to resolve stigma around ECT and increase accurate knowledge of its impact on patients' mental illness.

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