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HELP! Essay at Masters Level watch

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    Hi,
    I'm returning to uni after a long absence and am struggling with an essay writing concept and would appreciate some help from someone well versed.

    Problem: word limit is only 1500 and the essay question is so vast and broad even if you narrowly define definitions - in addition you must illustrate the answer using two examples.
    An equivalent question would be: 'Have religions been good for mankind over the past 1000 years. Illustrate your answer with at least two religions as examples.

    How on earth, within such a word limit and the sheer vastness of the area is one meant to tackle this question and show the required critical analysis, criticality, originality, draw meaningful conclusions whilst adhering to academic protocol by defining definitions, intro etc. This will leave 1200 words maybe excluding conclusions.

    Is there a technique here that I'm missing? Thanks
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    This question is addressing exactly the problem you've identified - that its a thesis length answer and you haven't got word space for that. Brevity, conciseness and use of sources are all being tested - because this is exactly the problem you will have with a Masters dissertation and if you can't respond to that issue now, you only have 6 months to learn it.

    You should state this problem in your introduction, use only the two examples to illustrate whatever stance you take and don't delve into anything else. This is the 'step-up' from undergrad work - accept the challenge and work with it.
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    Thanks so much for your reply. It is very helpful. I wish they had pointed this out as other modules provide much more narrowly focused assessment questions with twice the word limit so it's not abundantly clear this is a particular skill set been challenged. Usually you should be told what the point of an assessment is and the lecturers are usually very helpful with a pep talk. A dissertation is much more narrowly focused in a particular area which makes a literature review much easier.
    Thanks again.
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    (Original post by Paul85)
    Thanks so much for your reply. It is very helpful. I wish they had pointed this out as other modules provide much more narrowly focused assessment questions with twice the word limit so it's not abundantly clear this is a particular skill set been challenged. Usually you should be told what the point of an assessment is and the lecturers are usually very helpful with a pep talk. A dissertation is much more narrowly focused in a particular area which makes a literature review much easier.
    Thanks again.
    I think you have again identified the point of setting the question in such a bland way - they are trying to weed out applicants who don't understand that this is the point. At Masters level, you are supported but much more autonomous than at undergrad. They're looking for people who understand the kinds of problems that a Masters will present, and can cope with it well, without seeking guidance on what the uni might consider basic concepts at Masters level.

    Much easier to recruit those who are already up to speed, than taking promising students who are going to use more staff time. Over-subscribed and competitive courses can afford to take this approach in order to recruit "the right" people, when they know that getting bums-on-seats won't be a problem.
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    Well I'm already on it but I understand the point. I've arranged a meeting with my course tutor and will leave the course - I'm obviously not got the right skill-sets required.

    Thank you for your help and taking the time to reply - it's much appreciated.
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    (Original post by Paul85)
    Well I'm already on it but I understand the point. I've arranged a meeting with my course tutor and will leave the course - I'm obviously not got the right skill-sets required.

    Thank you for your help and taking the time to reply - it's much appreciated.
    Woah there! Slow down that's very dramatic!

    You can do this. Nobody is born with this skill. It comes with practice (trust me, my undergraduate writing skills were bad compared to my writing skills now!)

    Don't leave the course over a 1500 word essay. That's madness!

    Assuming there is a +/- 10% leeway, 1500 plus 150 words means you can go up to 1650 words. You'll need to do an intro and conclusion and choose maybe three to four subheadings (you can use subheadings if it helps). You need to be succinct and bring the most relevant information forward to the reader. Look at other writings on the subject of the essay and highlight any phrases that summarise key concepts. This can help. Besides, at 1500 words the uni will be looking for an insightful interpretation on some key points, nothing more.

    This task is not an unbearably massive one. I don't think quitting over it is justified.

    I hope you write back!
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    (Original post by Paul85)
    Well I'm already on it but I understand the point. I've arranged a meeting with my course tutor and will leave the course - I'm obviously not got the right skill-sets required.

    Thank you for your help and taking the time to reply - it's much appreciated.
    I think that's a bit of a drastic response to one assignment.

    I wanted to ask if any of your modules are tested by exam. If they are then an assignment like this is generally good practice to see if you can answer a one hour essay question in the time allotted - assuming a 3 hour 3 essay exam, which I know is not universal even within the same department, but it was just a thought. For my first masters all our assignments were 2000 words and it was partly for this reason, and if the questions are unanticipated (as they probably should be at this level) and you need to spend time thinking about relevant content and structure then 1500 words is about what you end up writing.
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    (Original post by Paul85)
    Well I'm already on it but I understand the point. I've arranged a meeting with my course tutor and will leave the course - I'm obviously not got the right skill-sets required.

    Thank you for your help and taking the time to reply - it's much appreciated.
    As above, that's not a good idea and it was my misunderstanding. As you're already on the course, just learn the point that's being made and move forward. You can't just drop out every time you come up against something you don't know. If you knew it, you'd be wasting your tuition fee. There's no need to be discouraged to the point where you give up.

    Do go to the meeting with your tutor, but be open to them talking you out of behaving rashly. If they realise that you think you're struggling, then they might be able to offer more advice or support.
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    Further to all the good advice above, if you have access to the mark scheme use that as an indicator of the word count to break the problem into manageable chunks - eg 10% for the introduction means it should be about 150 words.
 
 
 
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