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How to write a First-class essay and ace your degree

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Essay Writing
Introduction|Preparation|Research|Writing|Summary

The conclusion of the essay


The function of the essay’s Conclusion is to restate the main argument.
It reminds the reader of the strengths of the argument: that is, it reiterates
the most important evidence supporting the argument. Make sure, however, that
your conclusion is not simply a repetitive summary as this reduces the impact
of the argument you have developed in your essay. The conclusion provides a
forum for you to persuasively and succinctly restate your thesis given the
reader has now been presented with all the information about the topic.
Depending on the discipline you are writing in, the concluding paragraph
may also contain a reflection on the evidence presented, or on the essay’s
thesis. The nature of the reflection will depend on your topic (Woodward-Kron, 1997)
but questions such as these may be considered:


bullet
What is the significance of your findings?

bullet
What are the implications of your conclusions for this topic and for the
broader field?

bullet
Are their any limitations to your approach?

bullet
Are there any other factors of relevance that impact upon the topic but
fell outside the scope of the essay?

bullet
Are their any suggestions you can make in terms of future research?


The conclusion should match the introduction in terms of the ideas presented
and the argument put forward. Sometimes you will find that the process
of writing has changed what you have argued and so it will be necessary
to go back and reword the introduction. Finally, the conclusion is not
the place in your essay to introduce new information or new ideas: these
should be in the body of your essay.

Example of an essay conclusion1

Essay Question:: Italy on the eve of 1860 has often been described
as an unlikely nation. Why?

Before 1860, only a tiny minority of the population believed that
Italy could ever become a unified nation under one Italian ruler.
Yet, despite this belief and the many obstacles blocking the path
to unification
such as differences and suspicion between the many
regions of the peninsula, the lack of planning and common goals that
saw many uprisings fail and the divergent views and politics amongst
the men who fought for unity,
the Piedmont region emerged “…as the
nucleus around which the rest of Italy could gather” (Mack Smith,
1959: 17). On March 17, 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed.
Italy was no longer a geographical expression, it was a nation.
reference to essay question

reiteration of thesis point

overview of main arguments explaining the obstacles to Italy’s unification

concluding comment and reference to essay question

1 This essay has been adapted
from material developed by R. Woodward-Kron, E. Thomson & J. Meek (2000) Academic
Writing: a language based guide
(CD-ROM), University of Wollongong




&copy
Copyright 2000
Comments and questions should
be directed to [email protected]

 

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Sample written assignments

What?

This page features authentic sample assignments that you can view or download to help you develop and enhance your academic writing skills. They include academic essays, reports, case studies as well as reflective writing.

Why?

Many students have consulted with HELPS Advisors over the years and have wanted to view past assignments to guide them in their own writing. The assignments have been provided by staff and students with their consent to demonstrate original pieces of writing.

How?

The sample essays below are divided into specific disciplines to assist you in your writing. They reflect different genres of writing according to the particular task for that assignment e.g. reflective, argumentative, descriptive. Each assignment is annotated with comments on the important elements of writing such as: argument and thesis, sentence and paragraph structure, style and register, transition language, critical thinking, and referencing. Whenever you see a hyperlink, we recommend that you click on it as it will take you to the relevant page on the HELPS website for more detailed information.

When?

We recommend viewing these sample assignments at the beginning of, and during, your course of studies (or subject) so that you have an idea of the way in which your lecturer or tutor would expect you to write both in terms of language and content.

Who?

The sample assignments are ideal as a guide for most coursework students and include material from both undergraduate and postgraduate subjects. If you have any questions, you are always welcome to discuss these assignments face-to-face with a HELPS Advisor at the HELPS Centre.

PLEASE NOTE: Annotations/comments included in these sample written assignments are not prescriptive, are intended as an educational guide and are for reference only. All sample assignments have been submitted using Turnitin® (anti-plagiarism software). Under no circumstances should you copy from these or any other texts.

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Essay: The Context of Visual Communication Design – Research Project  (PDF, 199kB)

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Literature Review: Critical Pedagogy (Harvard-UTS Referencing  (PDF, 165kB)

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Report: Scholarly Practice (APA Referencing)  (PDF, 261kB)

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Report: Engineering Communication – Flood Mitigation & Water Storage  (PDF, 1MB)

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Essay: Health – Childhood Obesity  (PDF, 159KB)

Essay: Health Services Management – Improving Quality and Safety in Healthcare  (PDF, 123kB)

Essay: Health Services Management – Organisational Management in Health Care (V 06.11.18)   (PDF, 391kB)

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Report: What’s Next after Ethanol?  (PDF, 190kB)

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How to write better essays: ‘nobody does introductions properly’

Is Wikipedia really a no-go? Should you bother with the whole reading list? And how do you make a convincing argument? We ask the experts

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Always look out for flaws in arguments – and that includes your own.







Always look out for flaws in arguments – and that includes your own.
Photograph: Alamy

As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites , it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”

‘I felt guilty when I got my results’: your stories of buying essays | Guardian readers and Sarah Marsh


Read more

Poke holes

The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.

“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays . “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”

But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.

“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?

“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”

Critique your own arguments

Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.

“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”

Applying to university? It’s time to narrow your choices down to two


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Fine, use Wikipedia then

The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.

“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”

Focus your reading

Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.

Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.

You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.

“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”

There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero , and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control , which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.

Essays for sale: the booming online industry in writing academic work to order


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Look beyond the reading list

“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”

And finally, the introduction

The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.

“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”

Keep up with the latest on Guardian Students: follow us on Twitter at @GdnStudents – and become a member to receive exclusive benefits and our weekly newsletter.

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