You can write brilliantly and argue a shakespeare case with a wealth of convincing evidence, but if you are not being relevant then you might as well be tinkling a cymbal. In other words, you have to think very carefully about the question you are asked to answer. Be certain to avoid the besetting sin of those weaker students who, fatally, answer the question the examiners should have set but unfortunately didnt. Take your time, look carefully at the wording of the question, and be certain in your own mind that you have thoroughly understood all its terms. If, for instance, you are asked why hitler came to power, you must define what this process of coming to power consisted. Is there any specific event that marks his achievement of power? If you immediately seize on his appointment as Chancellor, think carefully and ask yourself what actual powers this position conferred on him.
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. You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words. 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. First of all we ought to ask, what constitutes a good history essay? Probably no two people will completely agree, if only for the very good reason that quality is in the eye and reflects the intellectual state of the reader. What follows, therefore, skips philosophical issues and instead offers practical advice on how to write mba an essay that will get top marks. Relevance, witnesses in court promise to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. All history students should swear a similar oath: to answer the question, the whole question and nothing but the question. This is the number one rule.
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. 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 theyre worth reading. Then you can look on google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work youre 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.
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I genuinely disagree, says Squirrell. Those on the other side say that you cant know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if youre 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 essay either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place. Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they arent to-do lists.
A book may be listed, but that doesnt mean you need to absorb the whole thing. Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. Otherwise you wont actually get anything out of it because youre trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph, he says. You also need to store the information youre 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"tion, something interesting someone says Ill write them down and put them in the box so i dont lose them. Then when I come to write, i have all of my material.
That can be an intimidating idea, he says. Youre reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it? The answer is that youre not going to discover some gaping flaw in foucaults 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. Thats the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay. Critique your own arguments, once youve 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 youve learned about writing academic essays, but its the key to drawing out developed points. Were taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument, Squirrell continues. Then you get to university and youre told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But thats not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would. 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. 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.
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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 youve read; if essay youre just repeating other peoples arguments, youre never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale. You need good to be using your higher cognitive abilities, says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling. How to Write better Essays. Youre not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. Thats where the marks lie. But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, its simple: you need to poke holes in the texts youre exploring and work out the ways in which the authors arent perfect.
But writing a high-scoring paper doesnt 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 work 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 youre meant to construct them, its simple.
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