Essay Writting Guidelines

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Essay Writting Guidelines

Post by Liz944 » Sun Dec 31, 2006 12:33 am

Essay Writing

What is an essay?
Essays are a very common form of written academic assignment at university. Other types of written assignment include reports, reflective journals and dissertations. Despite obvious important differences between these types of assignment, they are all written and might be used in assessing you on your programme. Written assignments require you to conduct systematic analysis of complex issues and to present your ideas in a logical and coherent way.

Why do you have to write essays?
An important aim of higher education is to develop your skills of analysis and critical thinking, and your skills of organising information and communicating it clearly. Researching and writing essays helps you develop these skills. Essays are a chance for you to demonstrate to your lecturers what you know about your subject and what a good student you are.

Who should you write for?
Always have a reader in mind when you write. The type of reader that you should write for depends on your level of study.

If you are an undergraduate, have an intelligent and interested non-specialist reader in mind. This type of reader will not know about specialist terminology or important events in your field, so you will have to explain them, and justify why they are important.

If you are a postgraduate, you can assume that your reader has some specialist knowledge of the basics of your area. However, you will need to explain the relationships between important terms, people and dates. You will need to be confident but critical in the way you deal with the important concepts, and up-to-date with recent developments.

The writing process – a brief overview

♦ Read the question (very carefully).
♦ Think about what you know about the subject already.
♦ Re-read any lecture notes you have on the subject.
♦ Research in as focused a way as possible. Do you need an introductory text on the subject first? Use recommended texts wherever possible. Always keep reference information about the texts you read.
♦ Draw up a plan. What is the answer to the essay question? Does everything in your plan address the question? Do not worry too much about language at this stage. Keep information in note form.
♦ Keep reading and thinking as you write. Review what you write, and read for information to supplement and challenge what you already have.
♦ Say what you want to say as clearly as possible. Do not over complicate your writing.
♦ Observe the word limit and follow the guidelines of the discipline for citing footnotes and references.

Do not expect to produce your essay in its finished state at your first attempt. Build it up gradually; begin with a rough draft and make revisions. Essay writing is a creative process; the skills of reading, thinking and writing all play a part in helping you produce a final version.

Essay questions
You have to read the essay question very carefully. It contains all the instructions that your lecturers think you need. How well you respond to these instructions decides your grade.

One way of making sure you analyse your question very closely is to identify three key parts of it:

♦ a topic (or broad subject area),
♦ a focus (a specified part of that subject area), and
♦ a comment (an instruction about how you are expected to analyse the focus).

e.g. Evaluate Labour government policies on arts funding in the years 2001-2003

Topic - Labour government policies on arts funding
Focus - in the years 2001-2003
Comment and evaluate

Below are some common comment words and their meanings:

• Analyse - Consider the various parts of the whole and describe the inter-relationship between them.
• Compare - Examine the objects in question with a view to demonstrating similarities and differences.
• Contrast - Examine the objects in question for the purpose of demonstrating differences.
• Define - Give a definition or state terms of reference.
• Discuss - Present the different aspects of an issue and draw a reasoned conclusion.
• Evaluate - Examine the various sides of a question and try to reach a judgement.
• Summarise - Outline the main points briefly.

When you have interpreted the instructions, consider the essay question again, its possibilities, scope and limitations.

Define important terms used in the question. You could use these definitions as tentative headings for your research. Essay questions at the university level can be testing, subtle and controversial; if you are still unclear about what is wanted ask your tutor for clarification, or contact an English Language and Learning Support lecturer at your campus.

Research. You cannot write an essay at university without reading. It will save valuable time if you understand how books and other resources are organised. Information on what resources are available at the University is provided in a variety of ways: catalogue, indexes, abstracts, etc. If you need help, a librarian will show you how to locate information for your essay.

Always make a note of what you read – author, title, date, publisher. It is your responsibility to provide references and a bibliography.

Reading and notes. Initially you may want to obtain an overview of the subject area to enable you to determine what issues are important. The bulk of your reading should be focused on the issues you have decided are important to your essay with the express purpose of obtaining evidence, opinions, explanations, which may be used in your essay. Continually check your reading against your initial questions so that you do not amass material haphazardly. Your subject may redefine itself as you become more familiar with the material.

You might find it helpful to note ideas, facts, quotes, on separate cards. This can make it easy to organise your materials, especially when you write your second or third drafts. Sort your information into a pattern that will answer the question as effectively as possible. This is a very important part of your work.

Being analytical. It is rarely enough to summarise what you have read, even at undergraduate level. You will be required to use techniques such as:

♦ detecting unstated assumptions
♦ seeing interrelationships between ideas
♦ distinguishing facts from hypotheses

♦ arranging ideas or information in such a way as to build a pattern or structure not clearly there before

♦ making judgements about the value of material and methods for given purposes

Essays can usually be divided into three main sections; the introduction (where you tell the reader what you are going to say), the body (where you say it), and the conclusion (where you tell the reader what you have said):

♦ What is your essay going to prove?
♦ Why should the reader be interested? What is the significance of this issue?
♦ How are you going to organise you essay?
♦ Develop your line of argument through several main ideas.
♦ Support each idea with examples and illustrations drawn from the books, articles and any other sources you have used.
♦ As you develop your essay make it clear how your arguments in one place relate to others you have made or will make.

♦ What did your essay prove? Summarise the arguments you put forward.

Paragraphs are the building blocks of your essay. An essay with clear paragraphs, will probably be a clear essay. You might find it useful if your paragraphs follow these rules:

♦ There should be one topic per paragraph.
♦ There should be a clear topic sentence that explains the main point of the paragraph.
♦ There should be support that expands on the topic sentence and backs up any proposition with data and quotes, etc.

Tom fod
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Joined: Thu May 12, 2011 9:05 pm
Location: SW UK

Re: Essay Writting Guidelines

Post by Tom fod » Fri Aug 26, 2016 4:08 pm


Anyone posting advertising links for essay writing services will be banned permanently.

Whilst this is likely below threshold for Law Enforcement, using such services may constitute attempted fraud !
Last edited by Tom fod on Sat Jan 06, 2018 10:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: perfectionism

With a foot full of bullets I tried to run faster but I just hobbled on to the next disaster.
(from Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Foot Full of Bullets)