Tutors expect you to answer the set question. They will want to read that you have clearly identified, addressed and dealt fully with the topics and issues implicit in the question.
A concern with effective use of sources
Tutors will expect you to show evidence in your essays that you have read a variety of texts concerned with the question topic, that you can be selective which material to use in your assignment and that you keep an open mind about anything you read. The evidence presented in essays should be referenced using this or that documentary style.
A concern with reasoned argument and investigation
Tutors respect students who take an objective stance and who present valid arguments, using reliable sources to back up their points of view. (An ‘argument’ is a point of view supported with reliable evidence,e.g. from articles, books, statistics etc.). The more advanced your level of study, e.g. final year undergraduate, or Masters level, the greater the depth of investigation, analysis and connection between subjects there should be.
A concern with matters of presentation
Tutors expect that you will take pride in the way you present your essay. It should look good, e.g. be word-processed, and be free of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. The essay should also be well structured: with a clear introduction, a logical development of ideas and a conclusion.
The writing process stages (2m)
Writing is a process not a ‘product’. What does it mean?
What stages of writing do you know?
There are 4 main stages in the writing process: prewriting, planning, writing and revising drafts, and writing the final copy to hand in (Oshima & Hogue, 2006).
Stage 1: Prewriting
Step 1: Choosing and narrowing the topic. (5m)
1) no choice, there is no need to narrow
2) free choice: environment – pollution – ocean pollution – oil spills – effects on sea life.
Be careful not to make your topic too narrow. All this is true for choosing a topic for a paragraph as well.
Practice 1: In pairs, narrow each of the following general topics to one specific aspect that could be written about in one paragraph.
3) Understanding the question (task) (2m)
The first crucial step is to interpret the question; essays questions use specific terms and which reveal how the question might be answered. Question analysis is a crucial part of the essay writing process; the most common reason why students fail assignments is because they do not read or analyse the question correctly.
One method of question analysis is the ‘T.A.P. model’. First identify the Topic - what the main theme is; then the Action(s), i.e. what you have got to do; and finally the Parameters – the scope or confines of the task (Study Guide 6, 2010).
In simple terms, your purposefor writing is what you want to accomplish. For instance, your purpose may be to reflect,to express private feelings, as in the introspective or meditative writing that appears in personal journals, diaries, and memoirs. Or, your purpose may be to inform,to convey factual information as accurately and as logically as possible, as in the informational or expository writing that appears in reports, news articles, encyclopedias, and textbooks. At other times, your purpose may be to persuade,to convince your readers, as in advertising, proposals, editorials, and some business communications. Finally, your purpose may be to evaluate,to make a judgment about something, as in a recommendation report or a comparative analysis (Kirszner & Mandell, 2008).
Practice 2: Work with the following assignment title and follow the steps below: ‘Choose an
English language test you are familiar with in your teaching context. Use relevant background theories to evaluate this test’. Write a 1500 to 2000 word report.(5 m)
(a) Draw attention to the key words in the title.
(b) Turn the key words into questions. The first one is given as an example.
· What is the teaching context that I am familiar with?
(c) Decide which of the following you would include in answer to this title. Tick all the relevant ideas:
· language learning theories
· a description of your chosen teaching context
· test design theories
· an outline of different test design methods
· a description of the test
· a list of the different teaching contexts
· a copy of the test
· a review of existing English language tests
· an answer key for the test
· a decision on the usefulness of this test in your teaching context.
Practice 3: These are some of the common academic keywords in essay questions that you are likely to encounter, and their meanings: (source: Cottrell, S. (2003) The Study Skills Handbook. Palgrave in Essay Writing 1). Match the verbs with their definitions: (13m)
Give reasons for; explain why something happens.
Examine in very close detail; identify important points and chief features.
Examine the value of the subject looking at the positives and negatives before reaching a decision.
Arrange into groups.
Identify and write about the main issues, giving your reactions based upon what you have read or heard in lectures. Avoid giving purely personal opinion.
Show how two or more things are similar. Indicate the relevance or consequences of these similarities.
Give your views. Back up your points with evidence from your reading.
Set two or more items or arguments in opposition so as to draw out differences. Indicate whether the differences are significant. If appropriate, give reasons why one item or argument may be preferable.
Criticize or Critically evaluate:
Weigh arguments for and against something, assessing the strength of the evidence on both sides. Use criteria to guide your assessment of which opinions, theories, models or items are preferable.
Give the exact meaning of. Where relevant, show that you understand why trying to define something is problematic (e.g. ‘poverty’ is a term notoriously difficult to define).
Show clearly by providing evidence.
Give the main characteristics or features of something, or outline the main events.
Write about the most important aspects of the topic in question; give arguments for and against a topic; consider the implications of (a topic).
Bring out the differences between two items or topics.
Discuss in detail with reasons and examples.
Assess the worth, importance or usefulness of something, using evidence. There will probably be cases to be made both for and against.
Put the subject ‘under the microscope’, looking at it in detail. If appropriate, ‘critically evaluate’ it as well.
Make clear why something happens, or why something is the way it is.
Examine the topic thoroughly and consider it from a variety of viewpoints.
Recognise and list.
Make something clear and explicit, giving examples or evidence.
Give the meaning and relevance of data or other material presented.
Give evidence that supports an argument or idea; show why a decision or conclusions were made, considering objections that others might make.
Concentrate on saying what happened, in the sequence that it happened.
Give only the main points, showing the main structure.
Show a proposition is true through evidence.
Show similarities and connections between two or more things.
Give an account of. . .
Examine the topic critically and consider whether it is adequate or accurate.
Give the main features, in very clear English (almost like a simple list but written in full sentences).
Draw out the main points only, omitting details or examples.
To what extent…
Consider how far something contributes to a final outcome.
Follow the order of different stages in an event or process.
Practice 4: Define the following nouns. (5m)
An important idea.
In the context of
Referring to, inside the subject of. . .
The standards you would expect.
The conclusion/generalisation you come to after examining the facts.
The circumstances bringing about a result.
The purpose or activities of something.
Long-term, suggested results which may not be obvious.
Explain where something is not useful or irrelevant.
reference to X
Make sure you write about X.
In relation to X
You need to focus your answer on X.
What part something plays/how it works, in cooperation with others.
The area where something acts or has influence.
Meaning and importance.
Is there evidence and are there facts to prove the statement?
Step 2: Brainstorming. (10m)
Three usual brainstorming techniques are listing, freewriting and clustering (mapping).
Practice 5: Listing
1) Make a list of every idea that comes into your mind about the topic “Culture shock”. Keep the ideas flowing. Use words, phrases or sentences, and don’t worry about spelling or grammar.
2) Now rewrite you list and group similar ideas together. Cross out items that don’t belong or that are duplications.
Practice 6: freewriting (5+10m)
Read pp. 6-7 in Oshima & Hogue, 2006 and do practice 3.
Practice 7: Clustering (10 m)
Use the clustering technique for 10 minutes to generate ideas about a member of your family.
Stage 2: Planning (outlining) (5m)
Step 1: Making sublists
Step 2: wring the topic sentence
Step 3: outlining
Practice 8: Develop outlines for 3 paragraphs from practice 5. (15m)
1. Kirszner, L. G., Mandell, S. R. (2008). The Wadsworth handbook. (8th edition) Boston, USA: Thomson Wadsworth.
2. Gillett, A., Hammond, A., & Martala, M. (2009). Successful academic writing. Essex, UK: Pearson Education Limited.
3. Neville, C. (2005). Essay Writing 1: Stages of Writing an Essay. UK: University of Bradford, School of Management.
4. Essay Writing 2: Planning & Structuring Your Essays. UK: University of Bradford, School of Management.
5. Zemach, D. E. & Rumisec L. A. (2005). Academic Writing: from paragraph to essay. Oxford, UK: Macmillan Education.
6. Oshima, A. & Hogue, A. (2006). Writing Academic English. New York: Longman.
7. Study Guide 6: ‘Writing Essays’, Learning Development, University of Plymouth (2010)
IW: Task 3: Find five students’ essays and evaluate them using an international correction code. Complete the table using the academic writing assessment criteria.