Tim Fergien is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching the first time this season. 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 several essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.
“There is really a knack into it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to operate it. No person informs you how to put together a disagreement and push yourself coming from a 60 to a 70, but when you to definitely get grips with how you’re designed to construct them, it’s simple.”
The aim of Best Essay is always to show that one could think critically regarding the material on hand (whatever it could be). This implies going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re not going to trouble the top end of the marking scale.
“You must be utilizing your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author from the bestselling Creating Better Essays. “You’re not simply showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s in which the marks lie.”
But exactly what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Fergien, it’s simple: you should “poke holes” inside the texts you’re exploring and exercise the methods “the authors aren’t perfect”.
“That is definitely an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how could you, being an undergraduate, critique it? “The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Se-xuality Volume 3, but you are likely to have the ability to say: ‘There are difficulties with these certain accounts, the following is the way you might resolve those’. That’s the real difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”
Once you’ve cast a vital eye within the texts, you should turn it back by yourself arguments. This could think that going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the true secret to drawing out developed points.
“We’re taught in an early age to provide either side in the argument,” Fergien continues. “Then you can university and you’re told to present one side from the argument and sustain it through the entire piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to determine what the strongest objections for your own argument could be. Write them and then try to respond to them, so that you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument does have its limits and when you can try to explore those, the markers will frequently reward that.”
“I genuinely disagree,” says Fergien. “Those on the other part state that you can’t know who has written it, the things they had in mind, what their biases are. However, if you’re just hoping to get a handle on the subject, or you need to find a scattering of secondary sources, it may be quite useful. I would personally only recommend it as either a primer or perhaps a last resort, but it has its place.”
Reading lists can be quite a hindrance in addition to a help. They must be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A novel might be listed, but that doesn’t mean you have to absorb the whole thing. Fergien advises reading the introduction and conclusion along with a relevant chapter but forget about. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything from it because you’re trying to plough the right path 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 an electronic update of his old-school “project box” approach.
“I use a box to trap those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and place them in the box therefore i don’t lose them. When I come to write, I have all of my material.” There are a a lot of online offerings to aid using this, like the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, you can find productivity programmes like Self Control, that allow users to bar certain websites using their computers for a set period.
“This is comparatively very easy to do,” says Fergien. “Look at the citations found in the text, place them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and choose whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on yahoo Scholar at other papers that have cited the task you’re talking about – some of the will likely be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”
The previous trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the skill of writing an effective opener. “Introductions are the easiest things in the world to obtain right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It needs to be ‘Here is the argument I will make, I am going to substantiate this with 3 or 4 strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these items, and i also will conclude with many ideas on this region and exactly how it could clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You must be able to encapsulate it in 100 words approximately. That’s literally it.”