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English Literature Degree - stuck on a lower2:1

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    How do I get higher marks?any advice? Does it make a difference if I use more sources?
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    It depends on the essay. For a short essay, i.e. 2500 words, you'll need around 10-15 sources. It's not so much that you need a huge variety of sources, but how well you use the ones you've got to engage with the essay question and to further your argument.

    What feedback have you been given so far from your tutors?
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    I found I really jumped marks for critically engaging with the source material: rather than just quoting as part of your point, saying something like 'Smith argues that this represents X, but Y quote also demonstrates that it could be read as Z'. Assessing the validity of critical readings is arguably more important than having a long bibliography.
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    (Original post by Owly)
    It depends on the essay. For a short essay, i.e. 2500 words, you'll need around 10-15 sources. It's not so much that you need a huge variety of sources, but how well you use the ones you've got to engage with the essay question and to further your argument.

    What feedback have you been given so far from your tutors?
    15 sources for a 2:1? :indiff:
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    (Original post by mel0n)
    15 sources for a 2:1? :indiff:
    Quite a few people were marked down for not having enough sources. As others have said, a good essay is how far you engage and use your secondary literature, however for people on a low 2.1, a few marks can make a big difference.
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    (Original post by Owly)
    Quite a few people were marked down for not having enough sources. As others have said, a good essay is how far you engage and use your secondary literature, but if for people on a low 2.1, a few marks can make a big difference.
    I would have thought 15 were too many. Even for a B+ (an upper 2:1). General advice we were once given in one module was to use 6. Maybe that many sources could make a good essay better but I don't think it's necessarily needed to attain a (high) 2:1.
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    (Original post by mel0n)
    I would have thought 15 were too many. Even for a B+ (an upper 2:1). General advice we were once given in one module was to use 6. Maybe that many sources could make a good essay better but I don't think it's necessarily needed to attain a (high) 2:1.
    Maybe there's a variance between universities. I accept your point that lots of sources won't necessarily guarantee a high 2.1, but I have overheard quite a few students being told to use more sources; these were students who had used 5 or 6 per short essay.
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    (Original post by Owly)
    Maybe there's a variance between universities. I accept your point that lots of sources won't necessarily guarantee a high 2.1, but I have overheard quite a few students being told to use more sources; these were students who had used 5 or 6 per short essay.
    What exactly do you consider a short essay? (I'm not trying to argue about this)... Perhaps as you said there is a variance between universities but that is quite a substantial amount of secondary literature that is needed. My point was more that you can still get a high 2:1 without that many sources rather than that lots of sources won't necessarily guarantee a high 2:1. I know they sound so similar but I think it's a bit different
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    (Original post by mel0n)
    I would have thought 15 were too many. Even for a B+ (an upper 2:1). General advice we were once given in one module was to use 6. Maybe that many sources could make a good essay better but I don't think it's necessarily needed to attain a (high) 2:1.
    I used 30 secondary sources for my last essay and got a 70, with only minor criticism for my use of so many sources. Overall, the marker and my tutor were impressed at the evidence of so much wider reading.
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    (Original post by Raducan)
    I used 30 secondary sources for my last essay and got a 70, with only minor criticism for my use of so many sources. Overall, the marker and my tutor were impressed at the evidence of so much wider reading.
    30 :indiff:...

    My point wasn't that using a lot of sources is bad, more that it's hardly necessary to attain a good mark. Well done nevertheless, of course.
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    (Original post by mel0n)
    What exactly do you consider a short essay? (I'm not trying to argue about this)... Perhaps as you said there is a variance between universities but that is quite a substantial amount of secondary literature that is needed. My point was more that you can still get a high 2:1 without that many sources rather than that lots of sources won't necessarily guarantee a high 2:1. I know they sound so similar but I think it's a bit different
    I'd consider a short essay to be 2500 words. It's possible to get a high 2.1 without loads of sources as you said, however (and this is based purely on my own university experience) I was advised that a lack of sources indicates poor research and looks lazy. I'm not sure that's necessarily true for everyone, but it appeared to be the view held by the majority of lecturers where I studied.
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    (Original post by mel0n)
    30 :indiff:...

    My point wasn't that using a lot of sources is bad, more that it's hardly necessary to attain a good mark. Well done nevertheless, of course.
    Well to be fair, it was on Monarchy in Renaissance Literature (1516-1667) so I had to use a ton of historical sources, including greek and roman stuff, on top of a lot of literary ones! It took me reading about 5 books to vaguely work out what Paradise Lost is about
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    Too get a decent grade you need a strong argument with a certain degree of originality, show good analytical skills when handling the primary texts, and be able to engage with critical debate. That's a general overview; your university should provide a mark scheme to give you an idea of critera required for each grade boundary. I find them a little reductive, but they can be useful if you want to know what is required at each level.

    Many people are suggesting extra reading. This certainly helps. However, you have to be able to navigate the critical field, and relate your argument to the debate - if someone has written x, but ignored y then say so. Do read around the subject, but don't just reproduce what other people have said. Alot of my critical reading goes in footnotes these days to allow me to foreground my argument. If you can use extensive footnotes then do - they are often a marker of professional scholarship. My department has very tight word counts - footnotes are excluded - so I often have to use long footnotes if I want to refer to reading that has informed the essay.
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    Wow ^ I'm so glad footnotes are included in the word count for me :coma:
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    (Original post by SilGathien)
    Many people are suggesting extra reading. This certainly helps. However, you have to be able to navigate the critical field, and relate your argument to the debate - if someone has written x, but ignored y then say so. Do read around the subject, but don't just reproduce what other people have said.
    Along these lines, I'd say. Little about essay-writing can be boiled down to mechanistic advice like 'you need around this number of secondary sources' because there will always be exceptions: my highest undergraduate mark was for a 3,000 word third-year essay which (because I failed to manage my time) quoted one piece of secondary material, once. The markers said that it would have been nice if the essay was more engaged with contemporary critical debate, but everything else about it was good enough to counteract that.

    Both the universities I've studied at have specifically included footnotes in wordcount, and explicitly encouraged us not to put exposition in the footnotes (a practice once jokingly condemned by one of my lecturers as 'an American vice'), so make sure whatever you do there fits your departmental context! But one trick which may be helpful is to begin by shunting a lot of peripheral discussion into your footnotes -- you can always move it back into the main text if you need to, but having a clear view of your argument's skeleton, as SilGathien describes, can be very helpful when writing.

    Have you collected your past essays together and checked for trends in the markers' comments -- are there any specific things they keep picking up on? If there's nothing like that, if it's at all possible for you to persuade a tutor to talk to you about the general problem of raising your essays' marks, rather than about one essay specifically, I'd recommend doing that. I guess whether that's possible or not depends on your relationship with your teachers and on how busy a place your department is, but this sort of question really benefits from face-to-face discussion with one of the people marking your essays. While lots of stuff about essay-writing is to do with habits and routines and practices, it is just not very easy to reduce it to blanket advice which fits the format of an internet forum.
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    (Original post by mel0n)
    Wow ^ I'm so glad footnotes are included in the word count for me :coma:
    How long are your essays? I actually couldn't cope if footnotes were included in the word count! I think the fact that my department excludes them is due to word counts - standard essay is 1,600 words, but I have written 1,200, 2,000 and 3,200 word essays. My footnotes can be anything from 400 to around 1,000 words sometimes o_O.
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    (Original post by SilGathien)
    How long are your essays? I actually couldn't cope if footnotes were included in the word count! I think the fact that my department excludes them is due to word counts - standard essay is 1,600 words, but I have written 1,200, 2,000 ad 3,200 word essays. My footnotes can be anything from 400 to around 1,000 words sometimes o_O.
    The four I'm due to hand in at the end of this month are each within the region of 4000 - 5000 words. I actually don't know how to include footnotes in the way you mentioned, with the criticism in it etc. I'm a really lazy student to be fair and at time the addition of the footnotes in the word count can really help me out. But I guess considering the way in which you write your footnotes, they would be really long!

    Btw - your essays are 1,600 as a standard amount? I WISH MINE WERE =(
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    (Original post by mel0n)
    The four I'm due to hand in at the end of this month are each within the region of 4000 - 5000 words. I actually don't know how to include footnotes in the way you mentioned, with the criticism in it etc. I'm a really lazy student to be fair and at time the addition of the footnotes in the word count can really help me out. But I guess considering the way in which you write your footnotes, they would be really long!
    I wrote a lot of 1,600 word essays for my second year and less so this year, and yes they are standard - well, for a 10 credit module anyway. 3,200 essays are for 20 credit modules, and an alternative option for 20 credits is 1,200 (mid-term) and 2,000 (second essay for same module).

    Yea, I imagine with 4000-5000 words then you would sometimes have more use for footnotes, though you can be limited I guess if you need a lot of words to discuss complex issues. A lot of my footnotes are taken up by bibliographic material which pads things out, but if your going to write a good footnote you should indicate what you took from that reading rather than just listing the source. Again, that adds to the words!

    Here's an example for you - I don't by any means suggest you should go this far, but it gives you an idea. I didn't realise quite how long this footnote was till I pasted it on here lol. It got picked up in my feedback for one of my latest essays as the marker liked the content. I think in an earlier draft I put that my essay follows similar lines to the last source listed, and that probably should be in there to relate the footnote more to my argument. But yea, you can see why I'm glad my footnotes aren't included!

    Scholarship of Sir Thopas has traditionally discussed the text outside the context of The Canterbury Tales, and alongside other Middle English romances that Chaucer could have read, especially those included in the
    Auchinleck manuscript; see, Laura Hibbard Loomis, ‘The Tale of Sir Thopas’, in Sources and Analogues of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, ed. W. F. Bryan and Germaine Dempster (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago
    Press, 1941), pp. 486-559; Joanne A. Charbonneau, ‘Sir Thopas’, in Sources and Analogues of The Canterbury Tales, ed. Robert M. Correale and Mary Hamel (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2005), II, 649-714. Such an approach is critically limited because, although Chaucer mentions several romances in passing at the end of the tale, there is no direct analogue or source for Thopas. Moreover, I agree with Alan T. Gaylord that Thopas is ‘built on association rather than allusion, with humor more reflexive rather than referential’; see Alan T.
    Gaylord, ‘The Moment of Sir Thopas: Towards a New Look at Chaucer’s Language’, Chaucer Review 16.4 (Spring, 1982): 311-329 (319). A contrasting approach to Loomis and Charbonneau has been taken by Helen Cooper who, in her structuralist reading of The Canterbury Tales, reads Sir Thopas against the other tales, writing that ‘[t]he difference in stylistic level between the poetic of Sir Thopas and the other Canterbury tales damns it instantly’; see Helen Cooper, The Structure of the Canterbury Tales (London: Duckworth, 1983), p.87. Cooper’s comments are typical of those made about the literary and aesthetic ‘quality’ of Middle English romance, which has badly affected their reception within the academic establishment until fairly recently. The
    reputation of Middle English romance has increased following scholarship which has focused on the importance of orality within these texts to ensure their survival; see in particular, Nancy Mason Bradbury, Writing Aloud:
    Storytelling in Late Medieval England (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1998).
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    (Original post by Owly)
    It depends on the essay. For a short essay, i.e. 2500 words, you'll need around 10-15 sources. It's not so much that you need a huge variety of sources, but how well you use the ones you've got to engage with the essay question and to further your argument.

    What feedback have you been given so far from your tutors?
    Thanks. It was just general that I needed to focus on other things relating to the topic such as effects of class integration and I was too narrow in my opinion sometimes.
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    Any advice on how to tackle an 8000 word essay?

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