A VERY BASIC GUIDE TO THE VIRTUES OF ESSAY WRITING by guy21

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									         A VERY BASIC GUIDE TO THE VIRTUES OF ESSAY-WRITING ∗
An academic essay should be a compact, lucid, structured argument which answers
a question or addresses a prescribed topic and shows that the student has done
appropriate work for the course. The following points are therefore fundamental:

1. An essay should focus clearly and consistently on the question/topic; it should not
simply use the question as the launching-pad for reflections on a related, let alone a
different, subject. Persistent irrelevance is a serious failing, and an essay should
never ramble.

2. An essay should contain a sequence of arguments, with clear reasons and
supporting evidence for the main claims you want to make.

3. An essay should have a beginning, middle and end: it should explain its approach
concisely at the start, should then execute its approach (i.e., do what it said it would)
in the main body of the work, and should summarise its conclusions (or, at least,
bring the argument to a neat close) at the end.

4. An essay should be presented in (a) good English (written in clear, grammatical
sentences), and (b) paragraphs whose relationship to one another is obvious
(making use of clear sign-posts to the direction of the argument).

5. An essay should be based on pertinent reading, primary and/or secondary
(depending on the subject and level of study): this reading should be undertaken
systematically, with careful note-taking, and should then be used in the planning of
the essay. (But note point 7 below.)

6. An essay should only be written after it has been planned: planning should involve
(a) careful preliminary thought about the nature of the question/topic, (b) decisions
about how you intend to tackle the question (e.g. which authors/texts to discuss), (c)
appropriate reading (see point 4 above) and checking of any lecture-notes, and (d) a
scheme for the organisation of the work (especially the sequence of points and
arguments).

7. An essay should be written entirely in your own words, except where other
people’s work is explicitly quoted (i.e. with quotation marks and references). To use
other people’s words without proper acknowledgement constitutes plagiarism, which
is a serious form of cheating (see the General School Booklet p. 22).

8. An essay should normally have a bibliography which gives full details of all the
primary and/or secondary sources (including web-sites) used and cited. These
sources can then be referred to in abbreviated form in your text and footnotes.

9. An essay should be checked carefully (for poor English, typing mistakes, and
errors of fact) before it is submitted.


∗
 See also the criteria for the marking of essays in the General School Booklet, pp.
21-22.

								
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