Essay writing

Report
STAY AHEAD
AUTUMN PROGRAMME 2011
Essay writing
Sara Steinke
Aims of the session
• Approaching writing your essay in a systematic
manner
• Understanding the question
• Producing a first draft – writing introductions,
conclusions and paragraphs
• Presenting your final draft – style / presentation /
referencing
• Reflecting upon your present strengths in essay
writing, the areas for improvement that you are
hoping for and the strategies that work best for
you
Think about the following
1.
What do you think is a ‘good’ essay?
2.
Why do you write essays?
3.
What is your experience of writing
essays? Think about your strengths and
the areas of improvement that you are
hoping for.
What is a ‘good’ essay?
• Structure
• Effective paragraphing
• Considers the reader
• Evidence of research around the topic
• Addresses the question
• Adheres to style / presentation requirements
• Uses quotes and correct referencing
• Applies critical thinking / reading / writing
Why write essays?
• Deepens your learning of the subject
• You learn to use ideas to argue a case
• Enables you to extend and refine your
critical thinking and writing skills
• Allows you to demonstrate your academic
progress
• Different situations – coursework and exam
essays
• Because you have to!
Stages of essay writing
Adapted from Cottrell, S. (2008: 176-177)
Clarify task
Collect and record
information
Feedback
Organise and plan
Final draft
Reflect and evaluate
Review first draft
Outline and first draft
Analysing the question
Not answering the question is one of
the key pitfalls in essay writing
Essay questions can be broken down into:
• Its topic
• Any restriction / expansion to the topic
• The aspect / angle you are asked to consider
• Instructions you need to follow
An analysis of the changes in US policy towards
China during the 1970s.
Class activity
Break the following
questions down into their:
• topic
• any restriction
/expansion to the topic
• aspect/angle you are
asked to consider
• instructions you need
to follow
1. A comparison and
contrast of the effects
of overcrowding in the
developed world.
2. An outline of the
requirements for
declaring bankruptcy
in French law.
3. Trace the origins of the
civil rights movement
in Texas.
Introductions
1. Aim of the essay – use phrases like ‘This
essay will evaluate… / assess… / discuss… /
compare and contrast…’
2. Background material and content / define
key terms
3. Narrow the focus of the essay
4. Outline the structure of essay
5. Make your thesis statement
Conclusions
1. Summary of the main points raised – refer
directly to the question
2. Recommendations – and justifications for
recommendations
3. Points of consideration for future research /
analysis
Do not present new material / ideas
in your conclusion
Paragraphing
Rearrange these sentences to form a paragraph
A.
B.
C.
D.
E.
Later on, people began to write on pieces of
leather which were rolled into scrolls.
In the earliest times, people carved or painted
messages on rocks.
In the Middle Ages, heavy paper called
parchment was used for writing, and books were
laboriously copied by hand.
With the invention of the printing press in the
middle of the fifteenth century, the modern
printing industry was born.
Some form of written communication has been
used throughout the centuries.
Answer
E
Some form of written communication has
been used throughout the centuries.
B
In the earliest times, people carved or painted
messages on rocks.
A
Later on, people began to write on pieces of
leather which were rolled into scrolls.
C
In the Middle Ages, heavy paper called
parchment was used for writing, and books were
laboriously copied by hand.
D
With the invention of the printing press in the
middle of the fifteenth century, the modern
printing industry was born.
When to reference
1. Distinctive ideas
2. Distinctive structure or
organizing strategy
3. Information or data from a
particular source
4. Verbatim phrase or passage
5. Anything that’s not common
knowledge
6. Finally, if in doubt, cite!
Where to reference
Direct / in-text quotes
(used in essay)
Bibliography
(end of essay)
Content editing / proof reading
 Have you answered the
question title?
 Have you used relevant
material?
 Do you show a good grasp
of the ideas?
 Have you presented a
coherent argument?
 Is the essay written in an
objective, analytical way,
with appropriate use of
illustration and evidence?
 Is the essay clearly written
and well presented?
Reflective learning
1. Write down the three most important
things that you have learnt / thought about in
this session? Why were they important to you?
2. Are there any areas of improvement that
you need to take action on? If so, what are
you doing to do to improve this aspect
of your learning?
Recap of the session
• Approached writing your essay in a systematic
manner
• Understood the importance of addressing the
question
• Looked at writing introductions, conclusions and
paragraphs
• Considered style / presentation / referencing
• Reflected upon your present strengths in essay
writing, the areas for improvement that you are
hoping for and the strategies that work best for
you
Useful reading
Cottrell, S. (2008) The Study Skills
Handbook, 3rd Edition (Palgrave
Macmillan, London) chapter 8
‘Writing for university’ pp.167-200
and chapter 9 ‘Developing your
writing’ pp.201-224
Northedge, A. (2007) The Good Study
Guide (Open University Press, Milton
Keynes) chapter 10 ‘Writing the way
‘they’ want’ pp.245-295 and chapter
11 ‘Managing the writing process’
pp.296-335
Crème, P. (1997) Writing at
University (Open University Press,
Milton Keynes)
Redman P (2001) Good Essay Writing
(Sage, London)
Useful websites
http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck
/services/facilities/support/essaywriting (online resources available on
the Birkbeck Library website)
http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck
/get-ahead-stay-ahead/skills/writingskills
http://www.bbk.ac.uk/mybirkbeck
/get-ahead-stayahead/skills/structuring_writing
(Get ahead Stay ahead interactive
tutorials)
http://www.palgrave.com/skills4
study/studyskills/reading/essay.asp
(website supporting the Palgrave
MacMillan study skills books)
Example of a strong conclusion
Question: Urbanisation in Developing countries
To conclude, it seems that urbanisation is, and will remain a
problem in developing countries unless international
organisations, governments and urban planners put more
effect into saving the situation. On the other hand,
governments should stop the ‘urban bias’ approach and
concentrate on decentralising amenities all over the country. If
the government does not do this, they should know that while
the cities grow, the rural base on which they depend may be
eaten away. It should also be noted that by the time the
population stabilises, the rural population will have become a
minority.
Summary of the main points raised – refer directly to the question
Recommendations – and justifications for recommendations
Points of consideration for future research / analysis
Urbanisation in Developing countries
To conclude, it seems that urbanisation is, and will remain a
problem in developing countries unless international
organisations, governments and urban planners put more
effect into saving the situation. On the other hand,
governments should stop the ‘urban bias’ approach and
concentrate on decentralising amenities all over the country. If
the government does not do this, they should know that while
the cities grow, the rural base on which they depend may be
eaten away. It should also be noted that by the time the
population stabilises, the rural population will have become a
minority.
Example of strong introductory paragraph
Question: Discuss the causes of the American Civil War
Almost as soon as the Civil War ended, Americans began to
search for a way to understand the reasons for a bitter
conflict. Even today, strong feelings and personal bias influence
debate over the causes of the war. Because the years leading up to
the war were characterised by growing conflicts over a series of
political and economic disagreement between the Northern and
the Southern states, it is difficult to isolate individual causes of the
war. It is easy to assume that the main cause of the war was
disagreement over slavery simply because the outcome of the war
had such dramatic effects on the institution of slavery. In fact,
disagreement between the north and the south over tariffs and
states’ rights was a more significant cause of the civil war that
were opposing views about slavery.
Green: Background information
Blue: Author explains aim and how it relates with current discussion of war
Red: Thesis statement
Discuss the causes of the American Civil War
Almost as soon as the Civil War ended, Americans began to search for a way to
understand the reasons for a bitter conflict
Even today, strong feelings and personal bias influence debate over the causes of
the war.
Because the years leading up to the war were characterised by growing conflicts
over a series of political and economic disagreement between the Northern and
the Southern states, it is difficult to isolate individual causes of the war.
It is easy to assume that the main cause of the war was disagreement over
slavery simply because the outcome of the war had such dramatic effects on the
institution of slavery.
In fact, disagreement between the north and the south over tariffs and states’
rights was a more significant cause of the civil war that were opposing views
about slavery.

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