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Essay writing

Essay writing

Information and Study Skills University of Portsmouth

July 2001 1

Essay writing Information and study skills workbooks cover areas such as:
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navigation of and services offered by Frewen and Eldon Libraries how to find information sources in a variety of media using a range of sources including databases and the World Wide Web referring efficiently and accurately to the information used (bibliographic reference and citation) evaluating sources you have found how to take notes effectively preparing for and sitting exams how to work in groups how to give presentations

For a full list of available titles visit the Information and study skills website http://www.port.ac.uk/infoskills/ Or contact Martin Hampton Telephone: (023) 9284 5562 Email: martin.hampton@port.ac.uk Written by Sarah Boynton Edited by the Information and Study Skills Editorial Board Acknowledgments and thanks are due to Rod Jeffcote, Louisa Coglan and Victoria Edwards Telephone: (023) 9284 3027 Email: sarah.boynton@port.ac.uk First Edition July 2001 ISBN 1 86137 246 9 Revised August 2002

All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be photocopied, recorded or otherwise reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any electrical or mechanical means, without the prior permission of: Learning Media Development University of Portsmouth Portland Building Portland Street Portsmouth PO1 3AH Telephone: (023) 9284 2462 Email: lmd@port.ac.uk
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Essay writing

Contents

1 Learning outcomes .................................................................................................... 5 2 What is an essay? ...................................................................................................... 5 3 Why do I need to write essays?.................................................................................. 6 4 How much of the essay should be my own work? ..................................................... 7 4.1 Primary research .................................................................................................. 7 4.2 Secondary research ............................................................................................. 7 4.3 References and citations ...................................................................................... 8 5 The process of essay writing ...................................................................................... 8 5.1 Where do I start? ................................................................................................. 8 6 Planning ..................................................................................................................... 13 6.1 Gathering information ........................................................................................... 13 7 Organising your information ....................................................................................... 14 7.1 Brainstorming and mindmaps .............................................................................. 14 7.2 Clustering your ideas............................................................................................ 15 7.3 Structuring the essay ........................................................................................... 16 7.4 Drafting ................................................................................................................ 17 7.5 Re writing and improving your draft ...................................................................... 20 7.6 Using feedback .................................................................................................... 20 8 What makes a good essay? ....................................................................................... 21 8.1 Are essays supposed to get better as I progress through my course? .................. 22 9 Using computers to produce essays .......................................................................... 22 Key skills .................................................................................................................... 23 Bibliography ............................................................................................................... 23 Appendix one ............................................................................................................ 24 Feedback form .......................................................................................................... 27

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Essay writing

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Essay writing

Essay writing
All of the exercises within this workbook are for your reference only. The benefit to you in completing them is that you will remember more if you actively engage with the material rather than just read through it. Your tutor may also ask to see the completed workbook.

By now you may have had some experience of essay writing. How do you feel you are coping? No problems Ok Some problems Have not written any This exercise will be repeated at the end of the workbook. See if you tick the same box after completing the workbook.

Learning outcomes

At the end of this workbook you should be able to:


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describe what an academic essay is and the elements it should contain explain the need for writing essays for academic purposes produce an essay which is your own work but that acknowledges the contribution of others explain the need to draft and revise your work use the tips provided in this workbook to improve your essay writing What is an essay?

According to Dunleavy (1986) there are three main types of essay:


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Descriptive - Reproduction of what you have read but with little thought to meaning or relevance. This can reflect poor academic ability or lack of effort. Analytical - Shows that you have mastered the subject area and are able to discuss material. A good analytical essay will be well sign posted and basic narratives will be avoided. Argumentative - Structure will revolve around two or more competing positions examining strengths and weaknesses of each. Most lecturers would encourage you to state your own view within such an essay.

At its simplest an essay might be described as a piece of writing on a specific topic. It normally takes the form of an argument, or series of arguments, that lead the reader through the topic from introduction to conclusion. Sometimes students ask what the difference is between an essay and a report, since report writing is also a common form of assessment for undergraduates. Reports have a more
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Essay writing formalised structure, split into discrete sections and tend to be more objective and factual in their approach and subject matter. Whereas essays tend to be more discursive (ie proceed by argument and/or reasoning) and flowing. It is easier to see the differences than to describe them, and you can usually tell at a glance whether you are looking at a report or an essay. Reports tend to be more common in the Sciences. However, much of the information presented here is also relevant to report writing. In addition, although you may write reports for coursework assignments you will probably have to write some essays in your exams. There are certain conventions (rules and traditions) about how to construct academic essays and this workbook will take you through the most important ones and should enable you to avoid the most common pitfalls of essay writing. Note down three reasons why you think you need to write essays: 1

Why do I need to write essays?

This question is often asked by students, most commonly by those on courses that are technical in nature. There is no single answer to it, rather there are a number of reasons as to why students are asked to write them. Writing essays:
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enables tutors to assess your progress in a particular subject deepens your learning in that subject strengthens your powers of expression helps to facilitate research skills develops your general academic scholarship enables you to communicate your views and ideas to others

Writing helps to discover your ideas as well as clarify them. You are more likely to remember something you have written than something you have read.

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How much of the essay should be my own work?

There are two common, but completely opposite, assumptions about studying at university that run as follows:
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Students simply learn knowledge and then reproduce it in examinations or coursework assessments.

or
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Students at this level must always produce original, creative work.

As is often the case, the reality lies somewhere in between. Students need to assimilate knowledge built up over the years in their study areas, and be able to demonstrate in a variety of ways what they understand. Students must also show that they are able to analyse and criticise this knowledge in a variety of ways, and in the process develop it by means of critiques, re-interpretations, finding new data, new insights and applications, etc. So whilst academic work at undergraduate level does involve creativity and original thought, this mostly occurs during a process of exploration, criticism and building upon the work of others. It may be useful to understand something more about the way in which academic work proceeds, and in order to do this one can consider any piece of academic work that you do as a piece of research. Research is generally based upon either primary sources or secondary sources, or a combination of the two. 4.1 Primary research Primary research is obtained through first-hand observation and investigation including conducting an experiment, undertaking a survey, analysing a document or text (written, audio or visual - including photographs and advertisements), creating a new theory or hypothesis. By your final year some of your work will be based on primary research but secondary research will always be the basis of undergraduate work. 4.2 Secondary research Secondary research is the examination of existing work on a subject made by other people. Your key task is to select the most relevant information and ideas that you find in the work of others. These will be combined (made whole) with your own work. Even though the emphasis at undergraduate level is on using secondary sources, your work should not be passive or slavish with uncritical adherence to the ideas of others. You should seek instead to adopt a more discursive approach; comparing and evaluating the work of others alongside your own ideas and supporting resulting deductions with evidence. The originality of your analysis of other peoples work is vital to obtaining a greater understanding of that work and also to obtaining a better mark in your essay.

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Essay writing

Your essays will primarily draw upon the published work of others. Your job is to locate the relevant information and present it in your own words, always citing your sources and adding where appropriate your own insights, interpretations, criticisms and arguments. 4.3 References and citations In any piece of academic work you must acknowledge the sources of the ideas and information that you use. Not to do so leads the reader to think they are your own. Thus it is vital that you are aware of the need for, and the process of, citing the references for the sources of your work. Failure to include references and citations in your work leaves you open to accusations of plagiarism. For further details on plagiarism, why you need to use references and citations in your work and how to go about this properly refer to the Skills workbooks Using other peoples work and Bibliographic reference and citation. You will need to be aware of the referencing system that your department uses. Ask your tutor. It is worth mentioning here that you should get into the habit of noting sources as you go along - index cards are helpful here. If you do not note down all your sources as you use them you will have to go back later and find them all again.

The process of essay writing

It is essential to think about your essay carefully from the beginning. 5.1 Where do I start? There is no right or wrong way to start, but the most logical is to start with the question.
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choose the question carefully make sure you understand what is expected of you make sure you know how long the essay should be

You must be able to answer the question set! This sounds obvious but many students fall into the trap of seeing a question how they want to (and in a way that they can answer easily) rather than actually taking time to read and recognise all of the key words (also known as instruction words) in the essay questions.

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Essay writing 5.1.1 Key words Some of the most common key words are listed in the table below.

Next to each keyword there are two options offering a definition for you to choose from. Place a cross in the box next to the definition which, in your opinion, best describes the key word.
Keyword Account for Analyse Definition 1 Give reasons for. Identify essential features of a subject and separate it into its component parts and examine how they relate to each other. Break question into its component parts and explain how they relate to each other. Give reasons for. Definition 2 Present clearly. Estimate worth, importance, value.

Appraise/ assess Clarify Comment

Estimate worth, importance, value. Make a topic clear and understandable. Write about issues involved and give your own opinion. Show how two (or more) things are similar. Deliberate on and demonstrate the application of careful thought. Show how two (or more) things are different. Write down all the negative aspects of the topic.

Write down the exact meaning of something. Show how two (or more) things are different. Write down all the negative aspects of a topic.

Compare Consider

Contrast Criticise

Show how two (or more) things are similar. Write about positive and negative aspects of topic stating your judgement. Substantiate this with evidence. Write down your interpretation of something.

Define

Present concise, clear meanings which show what makes something different from other similar things. Show how two (or more) things are different.

Demonstrate

Logically examine and provide evidence to support an argument or show understanding.

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Keyword Describe Discuss Definition 1 Provide a detailed account of a topic. Make clear by giving examples. Definition 2 Give reasons for. Investigate or examine a subject by argument. Giving the pros and cons of. Examine by working through.

Evaluate

Assess the worth, importance or usefulness of something using evidence to support your view. Outline the topic briefly.

Examine

Investigate in detail, question and inspect the topic. Provide a clear account of a topic or give the reason why something is so. Examine by working through systematically Provide the main points, showing main structure rather than great detail. Examine something and explain it in your own words. Give your own opinion.

Explain

Write everything you know about a topic. Follow the development of something from its origin. Make clear by giving examples.

Explore Illustrate

Interpret

Make compatible that which appears to be in conflict. Give evidence which supports an argument or idea. Show why decisions or arguments were made considering objections that others may make. Provide the main points relevant to a given topic. Provide your own opinion about something in your own words. Show similarities and connections between two (or more) things. Express briefly and clearly. Concise account of main points omitting detail. Draw a diagram describing a topic.

Justify

Outline Reconcile

Provide detailed description with examples. Make compatible that which appears to be in conflict. Examine strengths and differences. Give your own opinion. Examine by working through. Follow development of something from its origin.

Relate

State Summarise Trace

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Essay writing Turn to Appendix one for the correct definitions and to see how much you knew! 5.1.2 Topics and tasks Essay questions usually contain a topic (or topics) and a task. By the time you are set essays, you should have become familiar with the topics and you should assess which question to choose (if you have a choice) by looking at the topics and the task together. It is not enough to write everything you know about a topic. Describe how homelessness in the UK might be prevented. task topic Study this example and then answer the questions below.

See if you can identify both the topics and tasks in the examples below (underline them and write topic or task, as appropriate): Outline the development of the student loan system in the 1990s.

Evaluate the effectiveness of the police in the fight against crime.

Students are a drain on the local economy of Portsmouth. Discuss.

Summarise the changes made to educational policy by Tony Blair since coming to power.

Critically evaluate the implementation of student loan system.

You will note that two of the questions above deal with the same topic (student loans) but the task in each case is very different.

Which do you think will be the easier question to answer? Why?

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Essay writing If there is more than one topic and more than one task the essay is not necessarily more difficult. Just ensure that you identify and are able to carry out all of the tasks and have enough information on all of the topics. Some questions will not use the conventional task keywords, but these will be implicit within the question: Do pressure groups enhance democratic politics?

This question could be rewritten as: Evaluate the effectiveness of pressure groups on the enhancement of democratic politics. So if you have a question that is worded unusually, dont panic, rather see if you can re-write it and then understand and answer it. If you do this you must ensure that you are still answering the question set and that you havent changed the question into something completely different. 5.1.3 Questions with underlying assumptions Be aware of implicit (less obvious) demands which can be contained within some essay questions. At University level you will be expected to not only describe but to analyse in your essays. Discuss the problems caused by private car use in the City Centre and the potential advantages of using alternative means of transport. Underlying assumptions:
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that there are problems caused by private car use that it would be better to use other forms of transport that other forms of transport have specific advantages

Questions that should be raised in essay:


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what problems are caused? could these be solved? what other forms of transport? what are the advantages? are there problems associated with other forms of transport?

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One of the following questions is based on a factual statement, one is based on an underlying assumption. The youth of today are influenced more by the Internet than by television. Discuss. The Boer war produced more casualties than World War 2. What were the main reasons for this? Can you identify which is based on the factual statement? On what basis did you come to this conclusion?

Planning

Remember to plan your time well. An essay that is well researched and drafted will not appear so if you do not leave yourself enough time to write it up! 6.1 Gathering information Once you have decided that you can perform the task set by the essay, you need to be sure that you have enough information about the topic. When gathering information, you are interested only in material that addresses this particular question and which will help you to build your argument. Be selective. You should not write everything you know about the topic. The most important thing to remember when starting an essay is that you must READ! Also, dont underestimate the amount of reading that you must do in order to complete a single essay. As a general rule of thumb, most assessors would expect students at undergraduate level to have referred to a minimum of five sources (books, articles, papers, reports) at year one in order to complete an essay. At level three this should have increased significantly to approximately twenty (ask your tutor for the departmental requirements for your level three essays). Clearly, many more sources are needed to obtain good grades. There is no maximum limit - that depends on how many sources you can find and how much time you have allocated for reading. If in doubt ask the Unit Coordinator to help you to identify the amount of time you should spend on the essay and how much of that time should be devoted to reading. If you have been given a reading list specifically for the essay, then try to read as many of the recommended readings as possible. If there are only one or two starter readings, then make sure that you read them and try to find extra articles which are not listed.

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Essay writing If you have only been referred to one or two starter readings, look at the bibliographies which you should find either at the start or at the end of each reading. These should contain references to works of a similar nature that will help you with your research. For further information on how to find related works refer to the workbooks on the Library catalogue and Solving common problems. When you are making notes it is a good idea to write the essay title on the top of each sheet of paper you use so that it is always in view - this way you will keep focused on the title. It is useful to write on only one side of paper (this will help with the later task of grouping ideas together as mentioned in section 7.2). For further information on how to research your essay see the Skills workbook Note making. When gathering information for essays keep asking yourself:
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do I need this information? how will I use this information? why is it important to my argument?

Organising your information

7.1 Brainstorming and mindmaps One way of noting down your ideas is to quickly brainstorm your essay question and note this down in the form of a mindmap (also called free-thinking and spider diagrams). These maps do not need to be complicated but it should be relatively easy for you to think of some ideas, if it is not, you may have chosen the wrong question. Below is a suggestion on how to construct a mind map.

Definitions Sources History of topic

Topic
Arguments against Arguments for

Structure Concluding comments Introduction

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Draw your own mindmap for the following question: Todays students are under greater pressure than ever before. Discuss.

This method is advantageous because you dont have to write in an ordered manner, ie point A does not necessarily have to come before point B. Brainstorming produces good and bad ideas - but none should be discounted until they have been reviewed. 7.2 Clustering your ideas NGGNNN GNNGG NGNN GNNGNN
Box one

NNNNNNN GGGGGGG
Box two

If you were asked to work out how many different shapes there were in each box you would find it easier to do looking at box two than box one. This is because all of the similar shapes are grouped together.

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Essay writing The same principle can be applied to grouping your notes together. If you do this:
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you wont get into a mess you will find it easier to find helpful information when you write your essay up

7.3 Structuring the essay Once you have identified the task required by the essay and gathered sufficient information, you must begin to plan how you are going to achieve the task. Before starting your essay, you must have a good idea about what you want to say. You should be able to note down, in just a few sentences, what is your answer to the question set. If you cannot do this, and have not formed a general view yet, then you havent read enough material or thought enough about the topic. For an essay set as coursework, the assessor is looking for an answer that has a three part structure: 7.3.1 Introduction The introduction gives a general idea of your response to your question and indicates the approach you will take. It should state your conclusions and map the journey which will explain how you reached that conclusion. The introduction may also be an appropriate place to define key terms. The advantage of coursework is that you can write the introduction when you have completed the whole essay - when you have gained the whole picture. Below is an example of how an introduction may be structured. It is not intended as a template which must be adopted.
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Sentence one. Announce the topic of the essay by repeating the topic of the question. Sentences two four. Answer the question set. Sentences five ten. List the main points that you intend to discuss, in the order in which you will discuss them.

7.3.2 Body The body supports or develops the answer, following the plan laid out in the introduction. The body expands the points that you have identified in the introduction. You should work logically through each point, using each one to build your argument. Identify each point that you want to make, identify where it best fits into your argument and say it only once! If you find yourself repeating the same ideas throughout the essay, it means that you have not structured the answer clearly. 7.3.3 Conclusion The conclusion restates the answer, summarises the main body, or otherwise closes the essay. In your conclusion, you must draw your argument to a close. Review the main points that you have made and show how they lead to your conclusion(s). That is, tell the reader what you have said, why you have said it and what it tells you about the question.
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Essay writing 7.4 Drafting After you have gathered your information, you will need to start writing your first draft. There are a number of commonly advocated tips. Here are some of them:
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Write the first draft quickly. Dont try and get it perfect first time. Start with the section that you know most about - this should build your confidence. It is a good idea to leave the introduction until last. Say how you interpret the question in the introduction. Only write on one side of paper. Keep checking exact wording of title. In conclusion - refer back to the title and show the reader you are still answering the question. Adjust your grammar at the end, get the content right first.

To start your draft write short statements and then expand upon these. Once you can write a brief answer to the question set, then you have the basis of a conclusion. All you need to do now is to go back and show your assessor how you came to that conclusion. If you are asked to write an essay defining leisure and, after reading widely, you come to the conclusion that there is no single definition of leisure - it means different things to different people - then that is your conclusion and that idea will form the basis of your essay. The body of the essay will show the assessor how you reached that conclusion. If you have read eight articles, each of which provides a different definition of leisure, you must summarise the information for the reader. You might then outline the definition used by each author and discuss how each was different, or similar, to other definitions. This will be a good foundation for the essay, but it is not enough! The task you were set was to define leisure; so far all you have done is summarise what other people have said. Therefore, you must add comment. In doing so, outline what you agreed or disagreed within each definition and why. From here, you must argue your own definition of leisure, based on earlier discussion and analysis. Below are two extracts from different essays. One is considerably better written than the other in terms of content, structure and grammar. However, neither are intended as examples for you to follow. Comment on each example, noting what you liked and disliked about it and stating which you think is the better example and why. The essay title these essays addressed is: Assess the promise and current impact of information and communication technology (ICT) in the home.

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Paragraph A:
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a recent product of the convergence of hitherto separate electronic technologies: the computer and certain forms of electronic mass communication. A simple, but adequate, definition of ICT is: Those technologies, systems, and procedures which store, retrieve, process, and transmit electronic information (Lyon 1998, p 10). ICT then, embraces not only computers, but telephones, fax machines, satellite communication, telex, TV etc. and the methods and systems by which they operate. It is an area of technical and economic development that has undergone a rapid increase in growth and sophistication in the last two decades (Forester, 1987). The extent of this growth has meant that forms of ICT are now likely to be present in every area of our everyday lives, and the focus here is on the home.

Strengths:

Weaknesses:

Paragraph B:
ICT is massive and there is alot of that we use everyday and take for granted without realising it! Take washing machines for instance, one hundred years ago we wouldn;t have had them and it would have taken ages to wash your clothes but now you can do them in a jiffy. Likewise computers, we can use them for games or wordprocessing or for lerning things on. So its obvious that ICT is very important in lots of ways and in this essay first of all I will be giving a definition of ICT and then going on to look at how ICTworks in the home and so on, and seeing what current impact there is on us and as you will see its pretty important inlots of ways as you will see later.

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Strengths:

Weaknesses:

Overall, which paragraph do you prefer and why? Which do you think will get higher marks? Why?

Remember:
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Outline where you are going with your essay in your introduction. Go there! But do not repeat what you have said in your introduction in the main body. Recap where you have been in your conclusion, but never mention an unrelated idea (ie do not raise an issue unrelated to what has gone before in your essay).

Finally, bear in mind that your essay should relate to the unit you are studying and you should be able to see a link between the essay and the unit content. If you are given an essay to write in economics, be wary if you find yourself writing about pyschological theory!

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Essay writing 7.5 Re-writing and improving your draft


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You can either revise your work after a full draft or as you go along, ie after introduction and conclusion. Half of re-writing and improving your essay is looking at refining the content and it is a good idea to tend to this first. The other half that will need to be addressed is your presentation and this includes spelling and grammar. Reading aloud is good for finding errors. Start looking for errors (proof read) with clean, fresh eyes. It is a good idea to use a friend to proof read for you or use writers guides that you can find in the Frewen Library. Look at the way in which published academic articles as well as those of your colleagues are written and constructed.

7.6 Using feedback Although marks are obviously important to you, the comments you receive back on your work are vital to improving your performance in the future. It is helpful to look back on comments that have been written on your essays. Good marks are awarded for specific reasons not for general cleverness. Use your tutors comments constructively and dont be put off by what may seem like criticism. Ask your tutors to discuss your progress if you feel you need to. If you dont understand what your tutor has written - ask! See if there are recurrent themes in your feedback, ie is it always your spelling and grammar that lets you down? If so look at some books on this that can be found in the Library. Is it your referencing? If so, refer to the Skills workbook Bibliographic reference and citation.

What makes a good essay?


Write down what you think makes a good essay.

The first thing to remember is that there will be no single correct answer. It is often how you interpret the question and how much effort you put into researching your approach. The structure of your essay will also affect the marks you receive. Your tutor will be able to detect how much thought and work you have put into your essay.

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Essay writing Remember to remain focused on the question in hand:


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be concise be relevant be meaningful to the reader

The following is a broad summary of what could be the main structure of essays receiving low, average and good grades. This is not intended as a wish list of what should be included in every essay you write. Rather it is a guide to be referred to: Low marks: weak structure poor presentation poor spelling and grammar poor reference citation and presentation shows little research, thought or reflection is mostly descriptive analysis or argument considers only one point of view Better marks: shows some understanding of underlying issues meets the set criteria answers the question that was set develops an argument or a point of view draws conclusions shows the relationship between different issues or concepts within the subject area good presentation good spelling and grammar good reference and citation reveals some thought and reflection organises information into a structure gives evidence and examples to support arguments and main points Highest marks: reveals a good understanding of why the topic is significant, including underlying issues and concerns and where and why there is controversy reveals understanding of how the topic relates to broader issues, beyond the subject area excellent presentation, spelling and grammar fluent writing excellent reference citation It is expected that it will take some time and practice to produce really good work for most people so dont be disheartened if you feel you are struggling with your first essays.

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Essay writing A well written essay containing well formulated sentences which are spelt correctly would receive a higher mark than one with poor spelling and grammar. For further information on how to write well including tips on grammar see the Skills workbook Writing well. 8.1 Are essays supposed to get better as I progress through my course? As a general rule of thumb you should expect your essay writing mark to increase by 10% every year. Your tutors will be expecting to see more analytical and evaluative work and will mark your essays accordingly. An essay that received 70% in year one would only receive a mark of 60% in year two and 50% in year three. This highlights the need for improved research, arguing and argument and presentation each year.

Using computers to produce essays

Most students now use computer to produce their essays. They can save time and improve presentation. However, there are several points to be borne in mind:
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If you are using a word processing package you could set the essay title in the header to ensure that you can always see the title. Keep back ups of your work! Print out drafts to edit them. Mark up hard copy and re-edit them onscreen. Leave time for printing if you are printing on campus - other people will have the same deadlines as you do. Always keep a hard copy of your work. Beware the spell checker! US-English is a confusing language! Check thoroughly for words which will still be spelt correctly but would actually be the wrong word in the context used eg, over their instead of over there.

. . . And finally Hand it in on time but if you think you are going to be unable to do this contact your tutor as soon as possible. If you need to arrange an extension do not leave this to the last minute! Essays handed in late and which are not covered by extensions are subject to penalties.

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Now that you have reached the end of the workbook has your opinion changed on how you are coping so far with your essays? No problems Ok Some problems Have not written any

Key skills This material will help you develop your key skills in:
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Communication 3.3 - reading and synthesising information from two extended documents about a complex subject.

And help to consolidate your key skills in:


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Information technology 3.1 - plan and use different sources to search for and select information required for two different purposes.

Bibliography
Cottrell, S. (1999). The study skills handbook. London: Macmillan. Drew, S., and Bingham, R. (1998). The student skills guide. Aldershot: Gower. Dunleavy. P. (1986). Studying for a degree in the humanities and social sciences. Basingstoke: Macmillan Education. Elbow, P. (1998). Writing with power. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford university Press. Langan, J. (1998). Sentence skills: A workbook for writers, form A. 6th Edition. Massachusetts: McGraw Hill. Peck, J., and Coyle, M. (1999). The students guide to writing. London: Macmillan. University of Chicago Press. (1993). Chicago manual of style. 14th Edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. University of Portsmouth. (1999). Student study guide. Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth.

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Appendix one
Ticks have been placed in the box next to the definition which best describes the keyword.

Account for Analyse

Give reasons for. Identify essential features of a subject and separate it into its component parts and examine how they relate to each other. Break question into its component parts and explain how they relate to each other. Give reasons for.

Present clearly. Estimate worth, importance, value.

Appraise/ assess Clarify Comment

Estimate worth, importance, value. Make a topic clear and understandable. Write about issues involved and give your own opinion. Show how two (or more) things are similar. Deliberate on and demonstrate the application of careful thought. Show how two (or more) things are different. Write down all the negative aspects of the topic.

Write down the exact meaning of something. Show how two (or more) things are different. Write down all the negative aspects of a topic.

Compare Consider

Contrast Criticise

Show how two (or more) things are similar. Write about positive and negative aspects of topic stating your judgement. Substantiate this with evidence. Write down your interpretation of something.

Define

Present concise, clear meanings which show what makes something different from other similar things.

Demonstrate

Logically examine and provide evidence to support an argument or show understanding.

Show how two (or more) things are different.

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Essay writing
Keyword Describe Discuss Definition 1 Provide a detailed account of a topic. Make clear by giving examples. Definition 2

Give reasons for. Investigate or examine a subject by argument. Giving the pros and cons of.

Evaluate

Assess the worth, importance or usefulness of something using evidence to support your view. Outline the topic briefly.

Examine by working through.

Examine

Investigate in detail, question and inspect the topic.

Explain

Write everything you know about a topic. Follow the development of something from its origin. Make clear by giving examples.

Provide a clear account of a topic or give the reason why something is so. Examine by working through systematically Provide the main points, showing main structure rather than great detail. Examine something and explain it in your own words. Give your own opinion.

Explore Illustrate

Interpret

Make compatible that which appears to be in conflict. Give evidence which supports an argument or idea. Show why decisions or arguments were made considering objections that others may make. Provide the main points relevant to a given topic. Provide your own opinion about something in your own words. Show similarities and connections between two (or more) things. Express briefly and clearly. Concise account of main points omitting detail. Draw a diagram describing a topic.

Justify

Outline Reconcile

Provide detailed description with examples. Make compatible that which appears to be in conflict.

Relate

Examine strengths and differences. Give your own opinion. Examine by working through. Follow development of something from its origin.

State Summarise Trace

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Essay writing

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Essay writing

Information Study Skills Service feedback form (tear off) Workbook name: ESSAY WRITING Date used: Your course:
1. Have you (tick as appropriate): (a) Been required to use this workbook as part of a compulsory session? (b) Used this workbook as part of an optional led session? (c) Used this workbook independently? 2. Please rate this workbook for the overall usefulness of the contenet to you 1 Not at all useful 2 3 4 5 Very useful

Your level (year):

Please explain briefly why you gave that score ____________________________________________________________________________ 3. If you completed the exercises, how helpful would you say they were? 1 Not at all helpful 2 3 4 5 Very helpful

Please explain briefly why you gave that score ____________________________________________________________________________ 4. Was the level of this workbook suitable for your level of experience? 1 2 Not at all suitable 3 4 5 Very suitable

Please explain briefly why you gave that score ____________________________________________________________________________ THANKYOU FOR COMPLETING THIS FORM If you have any further comments, please email martin.hampton@port.ac.uk or see the Information and Study Skills website at www.port.ac.uk/infoskills. PLEASE RETIRN THIS FORM TO YOUR SESSION LEADER OR TO A LIBRARY ENQUIRY DESK, OR SEND IT TO: Information and Study Skills Co-ordinator, 3.27 Nuffield Centre, St. Michaels Way, Portsmouth PO1 2ED
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