How to write a great essay
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  • 1. How to write a great essay Croydon, 2 nd July 2011.
  • 2. What is a good essay?
  • 3. What makes a good essay?
    • Have you answered the question?
    • Have you drawn on the relevant parts of the course for the main content of your essay.
    • Do you show a good grasp of the ideas you have been studying in the course?
    • 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 presented?
  • 4. maps
  • 5. Seven Stages of Essay Writing
    • Taking in the title: Underlining the key words in the essay title and thinking about it for a couple of days. Formulating the overall purpose of the essay.
    • Gathering Material: Gathering together notes for the essay from your course materials. Working out what use you can make of the course materials you have been studying.
    • Generating Ideas: Getting ideas on to paper; quickly jotting down thoughts, your response to the notes you have been making, your response to the question, additional questions, etc. Capturing you own thoughts on paper.
    • Planning: organising your notes into a simple outline plan. Working out what shape to give the argument of the essay.
    • First draft: writing a first draft; ‘talking’ your reader through your argument, with explanations, illustrations. Translating your own ‘private’ language into a shared ‘public’ language.
    • Reviewing: reading over your work in the light of the essay title and correcting errors and omissions. Quality control.
    • Final Draft: Writing a final draft, paying attention to legibility, accuracy and general presentation. Presenting a polished end product.
  • 6. Getting Started
    • Practice writing
      • Do
        • start writing.
        • include everything that you know about a subject.
        • Make observations about the question
        • Think about how you feel about the TMA
      • Don’t
        • look at your notes
        • stop writing
        • think about the quality of what you are writing (this isn’t the point)
    • Brainstorming/ideas shower
    • Mindmapping
  • 7. The Question
    • How did the Romantic theorists conceive of the imagination, and what did their ideas imply about their view of the nature of art and the artist? (A207)
    • In what ways does drama add to our understanding of the history and society of fifth-century BCE Athens? What are the main strengths and weaknesses of this kind of evidence? (A219)
    • How has the development of feminist art history affected both the questions we ask about art and the selection of works for study? (A216)
  • 8. The Plan C E N T R A L I D E A THEME THEME THEME THEME topics topics topics topics topics
  • 9. The Argument
    • You and your reader should know clearly what you are writing about.
    • Ideas and events linked in a sequence
    • Clear sense of direction
    • Clear beginning and end
    • Sense of completion
  • 10. Introduction
    • Give an overview.
    • Present the central idea of the TMA.
    • Give reasons for writing the TMA.
    • Explain how you will interpret the title.
    • Give your reasons for answering the question in a particular way.
    • Introduce the questions that the TMA will be addressing.
    • Give background to the main topic of the essay; historical/contextual.
    • Make a bold statement that the rest of the essay will fill out and justify.
    • Quote from somewhere else in order to interest the reader and give them a feel for what the whole essay will be about.
    • Present concrete example or story which your essay will explain or elaborate upon.
    • Relate the assignment to work in the same field.
    • Convey the writers own relationship to the material and assignment.
  • 11. Conclusion
    • Summarise ‘answers’ to questions the assignment sets out to address, signalled in the introduction.
    • Refer back to the question posed in the title and show that it has been answered.
    • Give a sense of an ending.
    • Point out what the assignment has and has not answered.
    • Show that the writer has done what she proposed to do.
    • Put forward the writer’s point of view in light of the evidence she has presented.
    • Allow the writer to be positive about ideas in the assignment.
  • 12. Review
    • Does the piece have a central idea? Is this idea apparent or do you have to ‘search’ for it? Is the central idea clear enough for you to restate in a different way?
    • Does it raise questions which it doesn’t answer?
    • Does it convey a sense of an argument developing?
    •   Do points, both within and beyond paragraphs, seem to follow logically? Does the whole piece hang together?
    •   Why is a particular piece of information in the essay? What work is it doing for expressing the ideas of the assignment?
    •   Can you understand what is writer? If not can you see why? Does the writer’s use of subject terminology seem clear and confident?
    •   Does the introduction seem helpful as a signpost for the whole piece?
    •   Does it have a satisfying ending?
    •   Does the ending in particular and the piece as a whole answer the question set? How do you know? Has the writer referred to the question clearly and explicitly?
  • 13. Key Questions?
    •   Does this example work?
    • Is this idea clear?
    • It there too much/not enough evidence?
    • Is it too personal?
    • Is the English OK?
  • 14. Jennie Osborn [email_address]
    • www.open.ac.uk