The basis of most academic work is the ability to construct a good essay. Although this sounds obvious, it is a skill which most students need to develop as none of us are born with the natural ability to write an essay. None of us are born with the ability to write an essay that will address a given topic effectively and adequately support an argument with evidence, either.
The first and most important aspect of writing a good essay is to examine the essay question. The importance of close analysis of the question as the basis of a good essay cannot be overestimated. Despite this, it is surprising how many students simply write down everything they know about a subject without reference to what the question is actually asking them to do.