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How to Essay


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Input on writing research essays, given in a course on »Open Organizations and Organizing Openness«, University of Innsbruck, available at

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How to Essay

  1. 1. HOW TO ESSAY? Leonhard Dobusch
 May 12, 2016
 University of Innsbruck
  2. 2. <1>
 What is an essay?
  3. 3. Expressing ideas helps to form them. […] In a real essay you're writing for yourself. You're thinking out loud. “ Graham, P. (2002) The research essay as an open form of
 an argumentative short text
  4. 4. An essay is not a seminar paper
  5. 5. Differences between essays 
 and seminar papers Essay Seminar paper pick and defend a position strive for objectivity no index, no sub-headings indexes, sub-headings few and only short quotations longer direct quotations possible no tables or figures use tables and figures length: 3-8 pages length: 15-20 pages Source:
  6. 6. <2>
 Structuring the essay
  7. 7. Classical tripartite essay structure (1) Introduction
 clear question as a starting point for argumentation
 (2) Main section
 core arguments, structured by paragraphs
 (3) Conclusions
 need to follow from core arguments in main section
  8. 8. (1) Introduction ‣ Situation: why is the topic relevant? ‣ Complication: what is the thesis or problem? ‣ Solution: what methodology is applied? Topic and relevance
  9. 9. (2) Main section ‣ One argument, one (clearly recognizable) paragraph ‣ Paragraphs are linked by a red (argumentative) thread ‣ Different structures possible: ‣ Thesis, followed by debunking alternative views ‣ Juxtaposition of two contradictory theses ‣ Synthesis of various stances Arguments and proofs
  10. 10. (2) Main section: paragraph structure pyramid data, examples, quotes
 inverted pyramid ARGUMENT >> data, examples, quotes
  11. 11. (3) Conclusions ‣ Refer back to initial question/problem ‣ What is the unique contribution of the essay? ‣ Outlook and further implications
  12. 12. <3>
  13. 13. ‣ Title page (incl. author information) ‣ Quoting referenced literature (in main text) ‣ Reference list Less formal requirements for an essay
 when compared to a seminar paper Necessary parts of the essay
  14. 14. ‣ Table of content, indexes ‣ Tables, figures ‣ Footnotes ‣ Descriptions of essay structure on the meta-level Less formal requirements for an essay
 when compared to a seminar paper Not part of an essay:
  15. 15. <4>
  16. 16. General Recommendations ‣ Simple language, short sentences ‣ Avoid flowery phrases ‣ Avoid acronyms ‣ Avoid passive tense whenever possible ‣ Use verbs, not nouns
  17. 17. Recommendations for essays ‣ Avoid redundancies ‣ Use quotes sparsely ‣ Provide facts and examples as proofs ‣ Take a stance
  18. 18. <5>
 Your Essays
  19. 19. Essays on Organizational Openness ‣ Focus on one aspect of openness in assessing the phenomenon
 ‣ Focus on one question/thesis/insight/point ‣ Between 3-5 pages long (12pt, Times, 1.5 line spacing) ‣ Hand in essay as PDF with your surname as filename ‣ Essay is 75% of the mark, presentation 25%
  20. 20. Thank you. E-Mail: Twitter: @leonidobusch Web: ! Research blog: