Australian International School Singapore Library Fact Sheet How to approach writing an essay – some quick notesStartPlan for your assessment due dates – on a monthly/term calendarRemember 2000 word essay = 20 hours of research and writing (minimum)Allow enough time for 3 drafts Essay Introduction 1. Tell reader what essay is about by interpreting the question or topic 2. State what essay will cover 3. Outline what essay will argue 4. Provide definitions of keywords or concepts where appropriate Body of essay 2 features: Description Analysis (explanation) Conclusion Summarises key points of argument
Preplan – the question:Command/T ask words DefinitionState Present in brief, clear form; express the main points of an idea or topic, similar to describe.Outline Give the main features; emphasise structure and arrangement; do not include minor details. Present the information in a systematic form.Summarise Give the main facts in shortened form; do not include details and examples.Trace Follow the development or history of a topic step by step from some point of origin.Comment To give an opinion.Describe To illustrate something in words or tell about it; give a detailed account of something.Discuss To examine by argument, consider both viewpoints; debate; to make observations about something using facts, reasoning, and argument; to present in some detail. An opinion is implied in the question and you may agree with, disagree with, or modify it, but always supported by evidence which you should examine from various points of view.Diagram Present a drawing, chart, plan or other graphic representation. Label the diagram. You may be required to add a brief explanation.Illustrate Explain or clarify your answer by using specific examples, a figure, picture, diagram, graph, drawing or other visual concepts.Define Give concise, clear meanings.Show To point out, to set forth clearly a position or idea by stating it and giving data to support it.Prove Demands confirmation and verification. Show whether something is true or false. Establish something with certainty by evaluating and giving experimental evidence, or by log.Enumerate Specifies a list or outline. Recount the points required one by/List one, concisely.Relate Emphasise connections and associations in descriptive form, or by a narrative that shows how things are connected to each other.Compare To note the similarities, though differences may be mentioned, and come to a conclusion.
Contrast To compare by observing differences, though similarities may be mentioned, and come to a conclusion.Analyse Take apart; describe in turns the component parts of the subject, how they inter-relate and contribute to the whole.Explain To make plain or clear; to interpret; to give reasons for or causes of; to show the logical development or relationships of; state the ‘how and why’, the results, and where possible, causes.Interpret Express the meaning of; translate, give examples of, solve or comment upon the subject. Usually give your judgement or reaction to the problem but always make use of evidence.Review Critically examine or make a survey of the subject. Analyse the major points of the problem in organised sequence and briefly comment on them.Justify Give reasons for your decisions or conclusions. Evidence must be presented in a consistent form.Argue Give reasons or present facts for and against and issue; try to prove by giving reasons or evidence for an against.Criticise Express your judgement about the merit (or correctness) of theories or opinions; analyse the subject & describe to what extent it is supported by evidence.Evaluate Present a careful judgement of the problem, stressing both advantages and limitations. Implies authoritative and to a lesser degree, personal opinions/judgement of both advantages and limitations.Keywords:Highlight keywords that need to be defined & explained
Essay scope:Who: is your intended audience?What: how detailed does your information needs to be?Where: do you need to make comparisons between regions or countries?When: do you need to address historical and or current issues?Why/how: are explanations required?Brainstorm:Mind map or linearLocate:Select and read variety sourcesAlways include reference information and develop bibliography as you doyour research, NOT at the end of the assignmentSkim: for informationAlways check when and where material was publishedCheck table of contents & index to find relevant partsRead introductions to chapters, subheadings to determine if relevantNote taking:– Make notes (point form) (use diagrams, numbers, colours) underheadings from mind map 1. Place headings on word document or paper using concept map keywords – give each heading a letter reference eg. A = , B, C. Any printed notes that you have highlighted also write down the relevant letter for cross-reference. 2. Heading, bibliography or reference – as you take notes, write down source information. Give each source a number. As you take notes under your headings, include source number to cross-reference. 3. As you take notes, write them under the topic headings. Paraphrase! Avoid copying. 4. Use direct quotes to emphasise particular point or to provide and example of another author’s perspective or theory. Use quotation marks. Record page number with your reference source. 5. Word count of your notes – should be double the word limit of the assignment. You should not have fewer notes than the required essay word limit.Essay draft:First draft: get something down on paper; talk about it out loud – try toexplain to someone else what you are trying to say.Second draft: work on sentence and paragraph structure. Use short concisesentences. Use formal language (not how you speak). Do not use cliché’s
(overused phrases), slang (colloquial language) or personal expressions. Useactive writing – clear and direct. Vary the words – Use a thesaurus! Useabbreviations carefully. Write them out in full the first time you use them withthe abbreviation in brackets afterward.Third draft: Final copy Helpful hints on how to improve your communication of ideas in an assignmentWays to avoid writing ‘I think that’ or ‘One could suggest that’• It could be suggested that ... indicates• The facts suggest that ... dictates• Most experts suggest ... outlines• Analysis of the data suggests ... agrees• Smith (1993:54) suggests ... disagrees• Although Smith (1993:54) disagrees, most claims writers suggest ... proposes• Popular opinion suggests ... does not support• Primary sources suggest ... opposes• With some exceptions, primary sources is similar to generally indicate ... implies• With some exceptions, popular opinion supports the idea that indicates ...• This evidence suggests ... supports the opinion that• Smith’s policy statement suggests ... supports notion that• Like theoretical models, the trend suggests ... supports the belief that supports the idea thatReplace ‘suggest’ with words from the list on the contradictsright. undermines differs from matches coincides with
Ways to link paragraphsThe first or last sentence in the paragraph should contain the essential reasonfor the inclusion of that paragraph. This is called a topic sentence, orientationor valid generalisation. The first and last sentence in a paragraph can serve asa link between paragraphs, using words like:above all firstly, secondly ... insteadonly then * accordingly in summaryfollowing this otherwise likewiseafterwards as a result certainly *consequently even though for this reasonhowever in conclusion in particularmeanwhile nevertheless more specificallyobviously * rather stilltherefore to sum up on the contraryit might be thought for example alsoprovided at the same time clearly *earlier finally further(more)if this be granted indeed in order thatmany a case like this nonetheless not surprisinglyof course * similarly surprisinglythough whether admittedlyon the other hand later althoughbesides curiously enough while this is soeven if for instance althoughbesides since this is so even ifthen hence in additionin fact in short moreovernot only.. but also not until then one .. two• Beware the absolute nature of these words. There are not many definite ideas in the world! Words like of course, definitely, always, never, totally, every one are dangerous to the validity of your argument because one exception in the entire universe renders your argument incorrect or invalid.
Ways to introduce another viewpoint• although • on the other hand • even though• on the opposite side • nevertheless • sometimes people may• however • on the other side • in spite of• one side of the issue • in contrast to • this differs from• at the same time • notwithstanding • despite this• At a deeper level • What needs to be noted • However, the basic issue is• On closer inspection, it is worth considering that ...• Ultimately, it must be realised that ..• More importantly however ...• More significantly however ...• More to the point is the fact that ...• On the surface, it might seem that .......however• The fundamental question is not however ...• On first sight it might seem plausible to argue that ....however, on closer inspection• To argue .... is insufficient (not enough) .... it is necessary to consider ...Ways to show your interpretation of key words or sources• The meaning is• This means• It can be inferred• In summary• This term can be defined as• Definitions vary but• The most common definition is• This is usually defined as• From X’s point of view, this meansWays to show your analysis of a question or hypothesis• Similarities are evident• Differences are evident• A pattern can be identified• A is like B in that• A t rend can be identified• Most writers agree/disagree• Some writers ...• Popular interpretations/themes• Common knowledge• Certain rules underlie• Theories of ... support
ReferencingIt is important to acknowledge where you got your information from, and toavoid plagiarism. Referencing gives your essay credibility and allows people tofollow up on your sources.You must reference direct quotes, that is, passages taken word for word. Usequotation marks for quotes of less than 30 words.For direct quotes of more than 30 words indent the quote from the left andright page margin and use single spacing if typed. You do not need to usequotation marks when indenting.You should also reference information that you have paraphrased. Even whenyou use your own words, you need to provide reference for information suchas statistics, research findings, ideas, concepts and theories of other authors.For example: Apple (2001: 101) argues …There is evidence to suggest…. (Apple 2000:101).Always reference where you got the information.Indirect quotes - Eg…………. (Smith cited in Germov 2000:131)Using the ‘et al.’ abbreviation. This is used when there are more than threeauthors.Eg. Belcher et al. (1991:11) claim that ….Studies suggest ….. (Belcher et al. 1999:11).Citing multiple authorsEg. A number of authors have found ….. (Williams 1999; Bryson 1996; Wicks1999).When there is no identifiable author, then reference whoever produced theinformation or the actual title of the source, if the organisation is not clear.Eg. (Department of Industrial Relations 1999)Eg. (Getting what you want from government 1999).Always use a reference list template for constructing your own referencelist. These can be found in the library or online. Use alphabetical order.Eg. Landmarks citation machinehttp://www.landmark-project.com/citation_machine/index.phpRoberts, Andrews, ABC of referencinghttp://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/study/Refer.htmInclude page numbers in your reference where appropriate.Ensure that all the authors mentioned in your essay appear in the referencelist.
What’s the difference between a reference list and bibliography?The list of information sources cited in your essay is called either a Referencelist or a Bibliography. In most cases the two terms are interchangeable.Sometimes there is a distinction between the two terms. A Reference list is alist of the actual references cited (quoted) in your written work. ABibliography is the wider list of information sources related to the topic thatyou used, but not specifically referenced in your essay. Usually the onlyreferences to include in your Reference list or Bibliography should be the onesyou actually cited or referred to in your essay. Always check with your teacher/tutor as to their preference.How to use the footnote methodAn alternative method of referencing your material is by using footnotes. Afootnote refers to the insertion of a superscript number where the referenceshould be. The number refers to a note printed at the foot of the page wherethe corresponding bibliographic details for the source of the information arelisted. Footnotes are numbered consecutively, with the same number neverrepeated even when starting a new page.How to prepare an annotated bibliographyAn annotated bibliography is a list of citations to books, articles anddocuments. Each citation is followed by a brief (usually about 150 words)descriptive and evaluative paragraph, the annotation. The purpose of theannotation is to inform the reader of the relevance, accuracy, and quality ofthe sources cited. A search of the internet will reveal many links that will setout the format of an annotated bibiliography.Finally Proofread:Always proofread your final printed or written copy, or get a friend or familymember to proofread for you. Ask them to read and point out anything theydo not understand.Before submitting:Staple pages togetherInclude a cover sheet – this should contain the essay question, your name,tutor/teacher’s name, subject name and due date.Type or write your essay on only one side of the paper.Use 1.5 spacingLeave a wide margin (4 centimetres) for the marker’s comments.Include a bibliography or reference list.Keep a copy of the essay, just in case it goes the astray.Bibliography:Aldridge State High School. [online]http://www.aldridgeshs.qld.edu.au/sose/skills/essguide.doc [Accessed:3/11/04].Allen & Unwin eStudyCentre. [online]http://www.allenandunwin.com/estudy/referencing.asp. [Accessed: 9/11/04].
Essay Writing Centre. [online] http://essayinfo.com/ . [Accessed:5/11/04].Germov, John. (2000) Get great marks for your essays, 2nd edition, Sydney:Allen & Unwin. 808.4 GERInfoplease Homework Centre [online]http://www.infoplease.com/homework/writingskills1.html. [Accessed:5/11/04].Olin & Uris Libraries, Cornell University [online]http://www.library.cornell.edu/olinuris/ref/research/skill28.htm[Accessed: 6/6/2005].Paradigm Online Writing Assistant. [online]http://www.powa.org/ . [Accessed: 3/11/04].Roberts, Andrews, ABC of referencing [online]http://www.mdx.ac.uk/www/study/Refer.htm. [Accessed: 9/11/04].The Learning Centre, The University of New South Wales, Sydney. [online].http://www.lc.unsw.edu.au/onlib/taskword.html. [Accessed: 8/11/04].Victoria, University of Wellington. [online]http://www.vuw.ac.nz/st_services/slss/essay_writing/essay_keywords.html.[Accessed: 8/11/04].Developed by Yvonne Barrett 2005.