THE ESSENTIAL GUIDE
In a subject like Communications Studies, much of your university work will be assessed by essay – whether that’s an essay you prepare in your own time over a period of days or weeks, or one you concoct in an examination hall in the space of an hour. It therefore follows that if you learn how to prepare, organise and present essays, you will do much better in your degree overall. So this document might also be called:
Institute of Communications Studies - Study Skills
HOW TO GET BETTER MARKS WITHOUT (NECESSARILY) DOING MORE WORK
We’ll assume that you’ve read widely about the particular subject of your essay, and have a good understanding of the ...view middle of the document...
2. And you need a tight, powerful conclusion which is the logical consequence of everything that has gone before. The good essay has developed a number of related strands which the conclusion ties together. It may also contain an extra, surprising thing which you saved to throw in at the end with a flourish. 3. So what happens in between? Well…
Six really awful ways to begin the essay ‘Why have baked beans become so popular in twentieth century Britain?’: “The question of why baked beans have become so popular in twentieth century Britain is an interesting…” “The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘baked beans’ as…” “In this essay I will explore the question of why baked beans have become so popular in twentieth…” “The Penguin English Dictionary defines ‘popular’ as…” “The twentieth century has been going for quite a while now and…” “The Collins English Dictionary defines ‘twentieth century’ as…”
! Why are these awful? Because they are so predictable, uninspiring and limp. What should you do instead? Something else.
You need to organise your material so that it flows from one area, sub-section or argument to the next in a logical order. Each part should build upon, or at least reasonably follow on from, the previous parts, and the whole thing should be pulling the reader, clearly and inescapably, to your Two dull kinds of essay structure: triumphant conclusion. The box on the right shows unimaginative kinds of essay structure, which are likely to get low marks. But what can you do instead? One good approach is to look through your notes and identify a handful of themes within the discussion, and to structure your essay around consideration of those. You should order the analysis of each theme so that the essay builds up towards the conclusion.
DON’T KNOW HOW TO START?
The one that’s not well enough organised: 1. 2. 3. Definition of the thing Some stuff about the thing Summary
The one that’s too formulaic: 1. 2. 3. 4. Introduction, saying that we will discuss the thing Three arguments in favour of the thing Three arguments against the thing Summary of the above
If you’ve got some notes but you don’t know how to start the next stage, get a nice big clean sheet of paper and write down phrases which summarise all of your thoughts about the subject, the different questions and ideas you’ve had in your mind, and the areas and problems that have been covered in your reading. Then look for similarities, and related concerns, and group them together in whatever way makes sense to you. After that, see if you can number these areas into an order – the order in which you will weave your way through the material. And voila! You’ve accidentally created an essay structure. Now just check it, tweak it a bit to make it more coherent, and you’re ready to go. More analysis = more marks You will often need to describe something before you give an analysis of it. But the more analysis the better. Only include as much description as is needed for the...