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  • This presentation will give you some advice about the process of planning and writing an essay. It is split into four parts. Part 1 considers how to get started and how to research and plan your essay answer. Part 2 gives advice on how to write an introduction, conclusion, and well structured paragraphs. Part 3 looks at the features of a good essay, and part 4 gives advice on submitting and receiving feedback on the work.
  • Before you begin, make a list of everything that you need to do before you start the writing. The list might include: Choose essay title Check reading list and identify relevant texts Go to Library as soon as possible to collect books Do an internet search
  • Next, you should analyse the essay titles. It is important to decide what the subject matter is and identify the instruction word or words in the title. Instruction words are words like ‘Describe, explain, discuss, analyse’. A lot of titles will also contain a broad topic area and a specific focus within that. In the above example, the instruction words are ‘Describe and Explain’, the broad topic area is ‘the geography of the world economy’, and the specific focus is ‘since 1945’. It is very important to unpick essay titles in this way, because the marker can only award marks where you can show that you have answered the question. An essay that fails to ‘describe and explain’ will not score highly.
  • Once you have chosen your essay title, and before you start reading, get blank paper, coloured pens and ask yourself: What do I already know about this subject? What questions do I need to answer (that I don’t already know the answers to)? Write your answers onto a piece of paper. This will help you to see that you already know something about the topic. It helps make the task seem more manageable. It will also help you to start thinking about the essay, and this will provide a ‘frame’ for any further research that you do.
  • Reading lists provided by the department will often contain sources that are highly relevant to your essay question. If, for example, there has been a lecture on the subject of your essay, you are likely to find that there is some suggested reading for that lecture that will be very useful in helping you to answer your essay question. Take these sources one at a time, and glance through them. Skim the headings, and read just the introduction and the conclusion. Does the piece look relevant to your essay question? By using this selective reading technique, you will cover more ground, and you won’t waste time reading journal articles that aren’t relevant. To avoid plagiarising you should read actively, talk out loud and only note things down that you have understood. Don’t copy from the book. You may want to highlight or copy a few short quotations for use in your essay, but keep the copying to an absolute minimum. The Student Learning Centre have produced an excellent guide to avoiding plagiarism, which can be found at www.le.ac.uk/slc .
  • It is very important to spend some time planning your answer. It will help you to adopt a good structure for your essay. Brainstorm all your ideas onto a piece of paper in a mind map or bullet point form. Then try to group your ideas so you can see 2 or 3 main sections and the different paragraphs that will make up the section. You may not feel before you start this process that you have any idea how the structure should look. However, by brainstorming and getting your ideas onto paper, you will start to see links that were not obvious before. This planning stage is very important, because a well structured essay will help you to present a clear argument that your reader can follow.
  • Good introductions follow the same formula. You should start by making a general point about the subject of the essay. Keep this short. Next, use the words in the title to tell your reader what the essay will be about. Finally, explain the structure of your essay. For example, ‘The essay will be split into three parts. The first section will briefly consider the position of the world economy before 1945. The second section will describe the changes that have taken place since 1945. The final section will explain the changing geography in more detail’.
  • Here is an example of how an introduction might look. If you have to define any terms in the essay title, then this should take place in your second paragraph, after the introduction.
  • Just as with introductions, there is a formula for writing good paragraphs. You should use your essay plan to help you decide what points you want to make in your essay, and the order in which you want to make these points. The rule is, one point per paragraph. If you follow this rule, then your writing is likely to be clear, and your argument easier to follow. The first sentence in a paragraph should introduce the main point of the paragraph. The main section of the paragraph should introduce evidence to back up your point. The last sentence of the paragraph should either explain how your point answers the question, or make a link to the next paragraph.
  • A good conclusion should Summarise your main arguments. Try to take an overview at this stage and think about themes or big ideas. Don’t make detailed points that you have made elsewhere. Explain how your arguments have addressed the instructions in the essay title, or answered the essay question. Use the words in the essay title to do this.
  • The next two slides explain some of the features of a good essay. A good essay will offer signposts to the reader so that he/she can follow your argument. Words like, ‘However, ‘Furthermore’ and ‘Yet’ are signposting words. They indicate that you are about to present some additional evidence, or an alternative point of view.
  • It is important that you present your own thoughts and views in an essay. The marker wants to see that you have understood the main points, and this can only be achieved if you summarise and make links between points. A lot of students simply weave together some quotations from the books they have read. These quotations might be highly relevant, but they only show that you can copy relevant chunks from books. The higher marks will be scored if you can show the marker that you have thought about the essay topic from several different angles, and can critique some of the views that you have read in the books. You must avoid saying ‘I think’ or ‘I believe’ in an academic essay unless it is a piece of reflective writing. Instead, use phrases like ‘It could be suggested that…’ or ‘The evidence might indicate that…’ In this way, you are putting across your own views, but using neutral language.
  • Before submitting your work, always proof read it carefully. There are several ways of doing this. If you use Word and there is a green line underneath a sentence, this is indicating that you need to look at it again. The grammar may be incorrect, or the punctuation in the wrong place. Play about with the sentence, trying different techniques to get rid of the green line. You could split a long sentence into two parts by adding a full stop, OR change the order of the phrases to see if you can improve the clarity. The same is true of red lines under words. Always check these, because the word may be incorrect, even if it looks right to you. Ask someone for help if the dictionary function of Word is not giving you any clues. Read your work aloud, paying attention to where you have marked pauses through punctuation. Think about where the natural pause is if you are saying the sentence. Is this reflected in your written work? If you have a personal copy of TextHelp, then always use this to listen to what you have written. TextHelp is a piece of software that reads text back to you, enabling you to hear where the wrong word has been used or a sentence is unclear. Dyslexic and disabled students can use Text help on one of the computers in the AccessAbility Centre. Alternatively, there are free downloads of screen reading software available on the web. Proof reading is more effective if you leave the work overnight or for a few days before trying to proof read it. It is therefore important to take a break from the work. If you try to proof read it as soon as you have finished writing it then you are more likely to read what you THINK it says, rather than what it ACTUALLY says.
  • Read your course handbook carefully to make sure you have presented the essay in the way that your department expect. They will usually indicate which referencing system they want you to use, and whether the essay should be double line spaced. Try to avoid ‘justifying’ the text, because this is usually only seen in newspapers. Choose ‘align left’ unless your department indicate otherwise. It is worth checking your references very carefully before submitting the work. Are your references laid out correctly, both in the text and in the bibliography? Have you spelt the names of the authors accurately, and are your spellings of names consistent throughout the piece? If you ask someone to proof read your work, they are unlikely to spot names that are spelt incorrectly, because they will not be familiar with the sources you are using.
  • An essay that has been marked will usually include some comments about what was good about the piece, and how it could be improved. Although it is tempting just to look at the score and then to forget about the piece, if you want your essay writing to improve, then you should pay attention to the tutor’s comments. He or she is likely to be marking another assessed essay before the end of the year, and may well mark your exam scripts. If you consider the comments carefully, you will be able to re-use features that have worked well, and work to improve features that didn’t work so well. Students are often surprised to find that the same types of comments appear on work marked by different tutors. Unless you work to identify these patterns and address areas of weakness, then your marks are unlikely to improve.
  • If you are a student with a specific learning difficulty (such as dyslexia) and you would like some further information about essay writing, then please make an appointment to see a Study Adviser in the AccessAbility Centre. You can telephone 0116 252 5002, email accessable@le.ac.uk, or drop in to the Centre. The AccessAbility Centre is based on the ground floor of the David Wilson Library, on the right hand side after the turnstiles.
  • This presentation is part of a series of study skills presentations for dyslexic students that have been produced by the AccessAbility Centre. These can be found at www.le.ac.uk/accessability/ The AccessAbility Centre is very interested in your feedback on this presentation. If you have any comments to make, either positive or negative, please complete the online feedback form.

Transcript

  • 1. Writing an Essay This presentation will give you some advice about the process of planning and writing an essay Includes Audio
  • 2. Write a ‘To Do’ List Make a list of the things you need to do before starting the writing To Do List     Choose essay title Check reading list and identify relevant texts Go to Library as soon as possible to collect books Do an internet search
  • 3. Analyse the essay titles Look at the essay titles very closely. Decide what the subject matter is and identify the instruction word or words in the title Describe and explain the major changes in the geography of the world economy since 1945. For example: Instructions Broad topic area Specific focus
  • 4. Write down what you know Once you have chosen your essay title, and before you start reading, get blank paper, coloured pens and ask yourself: What do I already know about this subject? What questions do I need to answer? Jot down some thoughts on your piece of paper
  • 5. Selecting material to read Use your reading list to find some relevant sources. Take these sources one at a time, and glance through them. Skim the headings, and read just the introduction and the conclusion. Does the piece still look relevant to your essay question? To avoid plagiarising you should read actively, talk out loud and only note things down that you have understood. Don’t copy from the book.
  • 6. Plan your answer
      • It is very important to spend some time planning your answer. It will help you to adopt a good structure for your essay.
      • Brainstorm all your ideas onto a piece of paper in a mind map or bullet point form
    Planning Then try to group your ideas so you can see 2 or 3 main sections and the different paragraphs that will make up the section
  • 7. Writing an introduction Good introductions follow the same formula
    • Explain your essay structure
    • Use the words in the title to tell your reader what the essay will discuss
    • Make a general point about the subject of the essay. Keep this short
  • 8. Sample ‘Introduction’ Describe and explain the major changes in the geography of the world economy since 1945.
    • Introduction
    • There can be no doubt that the geography of the world economy has changed almost beyond recognition since 1945. This essay will describe and explain these major changes in the context of the changing geography of the global economy. The essay will be split into three parts. The first section will briefly consider the position of the world economy before 1945. The second section will describe the changes that have taken place since 1945. The final section will explain the changing geography in more detail.
  • 9. Writing paragraphs 1) Use your essay plan to help you choose your paragraphs 2) Make one point per paragraph. You should aim for 2 or 3 paragraphs per page 3) The first sentence in a paragraph should introduce the main point of the paragraph. 4) The main section of the paragraph should introduce evidence to back up your point 5) The last sentence of the paragraph should either explain how your point answers the question, or make a link to the next paragraph.
  • 10. Writing a Conclusion A good conclusion should… Summarise your main arguments. Try to take an overview at this stage and think about themes or big ideas. Don’t make points that you have already made elsewhere. Explain how your arguments have answered the question. Use the words in the essay title to do this.
  • 11. Features of a good essay A good essay will offer signposts to the reader so that he/she can follow your argument. Words like ‘However’, ‘Furthermore’ and ‘Yet’ are signposting words. They indicate that you are about to present some additional evidence or an alternative point of view.
  • 12. Features of a good essay Present your own thoughts and views in an essay. The marker wants to see that you have understood the main points, and this can only be achieved if you summarise and make links between points. Use phrases like ‘It could be suggested that…’ so that you can avoid saying ‘I believe…’ or ‘I think…’
  • 13. Before submitting the work… … always proof read Take a break from the work. Proof reading is more effective if you leave the work overnight If the grammar check is indicating a problem, then play about with sentence structure Read your work aloud, paying attention to where you have marked pauses through punctuation Use TextHelp If there is a red line underneath a word, then it may be spelt incorrectly even if it looks right to you.
  • 14. Before submitting the work…   Read your course handbook to make sure you have presented the essay in the way that your department expect. Check your references. Have you referenced everything correctly, and have you included all your sources in your bibliography? Check the names of authors to make sure you have spelt them consistently.
  • 15. When the work has been marked   It is tempting just to look at the mark and then to forget about the essay. If you do this, then your essay writing is unlikely to improve. Look carefully at the tutor’s comments and think about what you could have done differently. Try to apply these lessons to the next essay that you write.
  • 16. For further information
    • Make an appointment to see a Study Adviser in
    • the AccessAbility Centre.
    • Telephone 0116 252 5002
    • Email [email_address]
    • Drop In
    • The AccessAbility Centre is on the ground floor
    • of the David Wilson Library.
  • 17. Any Feedback? This presentation is part of a series of study skills presentations for dyslexic students that have been produced by the AccessAbility Centre. Other presentations can be found at www.le.ac.uk/accessability/ The AccessAbility Centre is very interested in your feedback on this presentation. Please click on this box to complete the online feedback form The presentations have been developed with the aid of the University’s Student Experience Enhancement Committee