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username527428
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I'm a fresher at Durham doing English and I'm finding it impossible to motivate myself. I feel really overwhelmed by the primary and secondary reading lists, then as soon as I've prepped for one tutorial/ lecture I feel I've got to do it all over again. I am really struggling to write my formative essays, I keep putting them off because I'm worried I am not up to undergraduate level, but this means I end up not writing anything at all! I'm getting stuck in a rut and I'm wondering if I'm cut out for the university, to be honest. I'm enjoying the course, I just feel like I'm really slipping behind

If anyone has any tips, especially for essay writing, I'll be immensely grateful!
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IdioticApple
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Well, I study law and we write absolutely TONS of essays and problem questions, but my speciality is essays!

Firstly, with essay questions, think about the context of the question. Maybe define any words that might be unclear to the uneducated reader - if you're doing essays on prose, explain what it is and where it is found, and so on.

Then what you want to do is perhaps rephrase the question a few times so you're looking at it from different angles. I know this is a law example, but hopefully you can extrapolate - we were given, "The requirement for formalities detracts from the autonomy of the landowner in dealing with their property. Discuss."

The first step I made was to rephrase the question - what is it really asking? It was actually asking "Are formalities good? Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages, focusing on their effect on the landowner".

And then, once you understand the question, there is what I call "logical progression". What do you need now you have your title? Knowledge. So, when you're reading (and I know, there's a lot, we get set about two or three hundred pages a week), make notes. What could that source be used for? Start early, take your time. Why do you have to read this? Why is it relevant? How does it apply?

The next (optional) step once you've run out of given sources is to look for your own sources to help you further flesh out your argument. I've read entire chapters for a definition, and bought entire books for one piece of coursework. Treat formative essays as a way to practice your essay style and don't worry so much about if it's perfect yet - you need to get down the basics!

Once you've taken small pieces from your sources, remember to cite them when you use them in your work or you could be accused of plagiarism. I meet a lot of students who either don't note down the sources they've used or write a whole essay and then go back through to cite it. The best way is to write a sentence, cite a sentence. That way you don't have to go back and panic - "where the heck did I get that from!?"

Structuring, again, follows a logical progression. Your basic layout should be mentioned in your introductory paragraph, and then you go on to state a point, give evidence and analysis, and possibly conclude (try to link back to the question so the reader can see why your point is relevant).

The key to motivation is remembering WHY you're taking the course - and also, try to think of the questions not as obstacles but as opportunities for delving a little deeper regarding that certain area of English. I often try to relate things I learn to real-life scenarios if possible, to remember them better or just to help identify and not find them so boring.

So, here: Read the question; understand the question; what do you need to help you answer?; research (why is each source important or useful?); make an essay PLAN; draft, redraft, submit.

We don't get formative essays, only coursework that counts. The more important something is, the more time you're likely to be given to do it, so sometimes I'll do four or five drafts before I get everything in in the best way.

I appreciate this answer is an essay in itself - I hope it helps! Please get back to me soon and tell me how you're getting on. Also, examples of essay questions would be great
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Debonair W
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I don't think I can actually help you, but I really feel for you! I'm a fresher at York reading English and I have exactly the same problem (only it's worse because all of our essays are assessed and count towards our first year grade).

I don't know how it is for you, but I don't have very many contact hours which gives my days very little structure, which I find very hard to cope with. I've tried writing daily schedules for myself, which don't leave a single minute unaccounted for, allocating portions of time for reading, researching, thinking (sounds like a weird thing to put in a timetable, but it's surprisingly beneficial), planning and writing, as well as my extra-curricular pursuits (which are very time consuming). It very nearly works for me. In fact the only problem I have with it is that whenever I arrive at a time in the day I've allocated for 'work' I never feel like doing it, and I can't concentrate on it! And before I know it I'm staying up into the small hours trying to finish an essay that's due the next morning and I reflect that actually it's pretty terrible anyway and not worth putting myself out for, so I just give up on it and go to bed. And that never ends well.

Okay, that wasn't helpful at all, but 'every minute spent in planning saves hours in... something or other'.

Well, I've tried to be helpful, but I don't think I can do anything but empathise, sorry.

Let me know if things improve.
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AlexandraW96
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(Original post by victoriahowells)
Well, I study law and we write absolutely TONS of essays and problem questions, but my speciality is essays!

Firstly, with essay questions, think about the context of the question. Maybe define any words that might be unclear to the uneducated reader - if you're doing essays on prose, explain what it is and where it is found, and so on.

Then what you want to do is perhaps rephrase the question a few times so you're looking at it from different angles. I know this is a law example, but hopefully you can extrapolate - we were given, "The requirement for formalities detracts from the autonomy of the landowner in dealing with their property. Discuss."

The first step I made was to rephrase the question - what is it really asking? It was actually asking "Are formalities good? Compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages, focusing on their effect on the landowner".

And then, once you understand the question, there is what I call "logical progression". What do you need now you have your title? Knowledge. So, when you're reading (and I know, there's a lot, we get set about two or three hundred pages a week), make notes. What could that source be used for? Start early, take your time. Why do you have to read this? Why is it relevant? How does it apply?

The next (optional) step once you've run out of given sources is to look for your own sources to help you further flesh out your argument. I've read entire chapters for a definition, and bought entire books for one piece of coursework. Treat formative essays as a way to practice your essay style and don't worry so much about if it's perfect yet - you need to get down the basics!

Once you've taken small pieces from your sources, remember to cite them when you use them in your work or you could be accused of plagiarism. I meet a lot of students who either don't note down the sources they've used or write a whole essay and then go back through to cite it. The best way is to write a sentence, cite a sentence. That way you don't have to go back and panic - "where the heck did I get that from!?"

Structuring, again, follows a logical progression. Your basic layout should be mentioned in your introductory paragraph, and then you go on to state a point, give evidence and analysis, and possibly conclude (try to link back to the question so the reader can see why your point is relevant).

The key to motivation is remembering WHY you're taking the course - and also, try to think of the questions not as obstacles but as opportunities for delving a little deeper regarding that certain area of English. I often try to relate things I learn to real-life scenarios if possible, to remember them better or just to help identify and not find them so boring.

So, here: Read the question; understand the question; what do you need to help you answer?; research (why is each source important or useful?); make an essay PLAN; draft, redraft, submit.

We don't get formative essays, only coursework that counts. The more important something is, the more time you're likely to be given to do it, so sometimes I'll do four or five drafts before I get everything in in the best way.

I appreciate this answer is an essay in itself - I hope it helps! Please get back to me soon and tell me how you're getting on. Also, examples of essay questions would be great
Very good tips! The only thing I'd add is because it's an English Literature essay, they may expect you to quote and analyse more critics/place the literature book in its context, which means more consideration for points related to art movements, political influences etc. In Law, I find they encourage writing as straightforwardly as possible, but English Literature needs more exploration as a whole.
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Axfeebs
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I wish I was you, you seem so smart.
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