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    I am a 35 year old single parent who started university in September. I’ve had two modules failed due to my essays only receiving 37% grades and I need to re-submit. I’m really struggling and would like to know how other people structure their study. A basic step by step guide on how you would start on researching your essay questions, how you take notes, at which point you start to write, etc. How do you do it?

    My feedback is helpful, but I think it always comes down to me just not knowing where to start!
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    What discipline?
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    Sorry, I should stated. I’m doing a BA(Hons) Early Childhood Studies. Modules covered are Education, Sociology, Developmental Psychology, Social Policy and Health. For the first year, anyway.
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    (Original post by procrastin8)
    Sorry, I should stated. I’m doing a BA(Hons) Early Childhood Studies. Modules covered are Education, Sociology, Developmental Psychology, Social Policy and Health. For the first year, anyway.
    Is there a Learning Development at your university? I was the same in my 1st year, having left school in 1963 with little or no education. In my final year now. The Learning Development should be able to help you with structuring assignments. You should also be seeing your Personal Tutor who should be giving you feedback on assignments and guidance as to how to do better.
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    Well, an essay usually works best when you have an argument. I teach philosophy so I can only go from that perspective, but what we look for is:

    - A clear argumentative position made explicit in the introduction ('I will show x by considering y')
    - Each paragraph should illustrate, develop or challenge a point relevant to the question.
    - Clear focus on the sources directly relevant to the question, little incursion of extraneous material.
    - Short, direct sentences (to start with - a lot of bad essay technique comes down to poor communication).
    - Each paragraph should signpost how your argument is threading through the essay.
    - Clear focus on the question at all times.
    - A clear, precise conclusion that follows from the rest of the paper. It is infuriating how many students spend 2000 words arguing one way only to conclude the opposite.

    Research wise, I assume you are provided with a basis for this? I usually find some things in a few journals to discuss and head at it that way. Remember that you don't need to actually support the position you argue for, you just need to be able to argue for it.

    Maybe an example of the questions would help - that way some specialists in the areas might be able to provide tailored advice.
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    Your library should have a copy of Palgrave Study Skills: The Mature Student's Guide to Writing, which is an amazing intro to writing well ^^
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    (Original post by gjd800)
    Well, an essay usually works best when you have an argument. I teach philosophy so I can only go from that perspective, but what we look for is:

    - A clear argumentative position made explicit in the introduction ('I will show x by considering y'
    - Each paragraph should illustrate, develop or challenge a point relevant to the question.
    - Clear focus on the sources directly relevant to the question, little incursion of extraneous material.
    - Short, direct sentences (to start with - a lot of bad essay technique comes down to poor communication).
    - Each paragraph should signpost how your argument is threading through the essay.
    - Clear focus on the question at all times.
    - A clear, precise conclusion that follows from the rest of the paper. It is infuriating how many students spend 2000 words arguing one way only to conclude the opposite.

    Research wise, I assume you are provided with a basis for this? I usually find some things in a few journals to discuss and head at it that way. Remember that you don't need to actually support the position you argue for, you just need to be able to argue for it.

    Maybe an example of the questions would help - that way some specialists in the areas might be able to provide tailored advice.
    Great advice. Wish my philosophy lecturers had gone through this with me.
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    (Original post by Sceptical_John)
    Great advice. Wish my philosophy lecturers had gone through this with me.
    Thanks for the kindness.

    It's a common complaint even now, so it's something I've been making a concerted effort to get across to my students over the past 18 months or so. Disappointing how many philosophy types just assume that the undergrads will know how to structure a paper - my undergrad degree isn't that far behind me, so I can remember being in the same boat of bewilderment! :laugh:
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    (Original post by gjd800)
    Thanks for the kindness.

    It's a common complaint even now, so it's something I've been making a concerted effort to get across to my students over the past 18 months or so. Disappointing how many philosophy types just assume that the undergrads will know how to structure a paper - my undergrad degree isn't that far behind me, so I can remember being in the same boat of bewilderment! :laugh:
    I think some of it - and I have little evidence for this - is that philosophy profs tend to come from a very middle-class background, maybe grammar or private schooling, where much of the essay writing will have been learned long before they came to uni.

    What's interesting to me, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, is that uni is the one place where students people don't build on feedback.

    At school, English students, would draft an essay and get feedback a couple of times before submitting a final piece of coursework. And my understanding of writing in a journal is quite similar as in a paper will get rejected with reviewer comments to build on.

    Whereas at uni you just submit work, move on to something new. Feedback comes a few weeks later but has lost most of its relevance.
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    (Original post by Sceptical_John)
    I think some of it - and I have little evidence for this - is that philosophy profs tend to come from a very middle-class background, maybe grammar or private schooling, where much of the essay writing will have been learned long before they came to uni.

    What's interesting to me, and I would love to hear your thoughts on this, is that uni is the one place where students people don't build on feedback.

    At school, English students, would draft an essay and get feedback a couple of times before submitting a final piece of coursework. And my understanding of writing in a journal is quite similar as in a paper will get rejected with reviewer comments to build on.

    Whereas at uni you just submit work, move on to something new. Feedback comes a few weeks later but has lost most of its relevance.
    I think you're probably onto something, actually. I'd never written a proper academic essay (not even at A Level, really) before I started my undergrad degree but there were people 5 years younger than me crapping them out for fun. It was a frustrating few months.

    Also generally true - but there is a reason for this (at least in my experience). I had a couple of lecturers that'd give you some feedback on drafts (we are limited, usually, by the assessment criteria on ow far we can go), but the problem wasn't always that they were unwilling, more that they didn't have time with everything else going on.

    I've noticed with my own marking that if I'm teaching only a couple of groups of 9, then reading 18 drafts in term-time is doable. But if you double or tripe that amount and then add in other grading responsibilities, teaching time, seminar as well as the amount of time the dept expects you to spend on your own research, the likelihood of getting anything done divebombs. It's something that could do with addressing one way or the other. I find that even basic, general feedback can really improve a final score for an essay. It definitely benefits those that want it.
 
 
 

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