Worried about writing essays at university

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Anonymous #1
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I'm about to start university in September and what's really making me panic is the thought of having to write essays as I don't think I've written a ''proper'' one since GCSE (if that even counts). My A level subjects weren't that essay heavy so I've never really been taught how to write one. Does this get taught to you?
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Anonymous #1
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snipecaik
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What degree are you studying and what A-levels did you choose?
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Claire461
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I'm about to start university in September and what's really making me panic is the thought of having to write essays as I don't think I've written a ''proper'' one since GCSE (if that even counts). My A level subjects weren't that essay heavy so I've never really been taught how to write one. Does this get taught to you?
In first year, you should be shown the methods of writing an essay/assignment. I wouldn’t worry too much about it.
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NetworkProblem
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I'm about to start university in September and what's really making me panic is the thought of having to write essays as I don't think I've written a ''proper'' one since GCSE (if that even counts). My A level subjects weren't that essay heavy so I've never really been taught how to write one. Does this get taught to you?
If you mean will the university indicate what they expect of you, absolutely. For each module that you take you should receive a handbook that outlines everything to how your essay should be formatted to which referencing system you should use.

You may find that some of your lecturers use lecture/ seminar time to answer any questions and help you to develop your own academic style of writing. Your chosen institution may also have study skills drop in sessions to offer advice.

Before you start writing an essay, you are going to need to research the specific topic using books and journal articles. You can use other sources, i.e. web, government sources, etc, where appropriate. This is a crucial stage in your your preparation as the amount of wider reading you do will be reflective in the quality of work you produce.

In terms of writing an essay:

It should have a clear introduction that shows you understand the question at hand, but also introduces what your essay plans to address.

The main body of your essay should be where you introduce the themes from you introduction and unpack them. Develop arguments for or against a particular theme and back this up with evidence. Don't take everything you read to be fact, be critical of authors ideas and support this with evidence from your wider reading. You should refrain from imparting your own opinion unless you already have a PhD is what I was always told. Therefore, use supported evidence to create your arguments.

You should have a concise conclusion that neatly summarises the central points in your essay. Where you can, link your conclusion back to the question and your opening statements and also, outline further avenues of research.

Do some mind mapping before you start to break down your question as this will help you identify what to address in each section. Remember to acknowledge the work of others and reference this appropriately.

Try not to worry too much, most lecturers are aware that most students will be new to essay writing and so take on board the feedback from your early assessments and apply this to develop your academic voice.
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gjd800
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#6
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The thing about not having your own opinion is generally untrue. Having an agenda is fine, it is required. As long as you can justify your opinion and argue for it, then it is generally fair game to offer it.
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Notoriety
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(Original post by NetworkProblem)
If you mean will the university indicate what they expect of you, absolutely. For each module that you take you should receive a handbook that outlines everything to how your essay should be formatted to which referencing system you should use.

You may find that some of your lecturers use lecture/ seminar time to answer any questions and help you to develop your own academic style of writing. Your chosen institution may also have study skills drop in sessions to offer advice.

Before you start writing an essay, you are going to need to research the specific topic using books and journal articles. You can use other sources, i.e. web, government sources, etc, where appropriate. This is a crucial stage in your your preparation as the amount of wider reading you do will be reflective in the quality of work you produce.

In terms of writing an essay:

It should have a clear introduction that shows you understand the question at hand, but also introduces what your essay plans to address.

The main body of your essay should be where you introduce the themes from you introduction and unpack them. Develop arguments for or against a particular theme and back this up with evidence. Don't take everything you read to be fact, be critical of authors ideas and support this with evidence from your wider reading. You should refrain from imparting your own opinion unless you already have a PhD is what I was always told. Therefore, use supported evidence to create your arguments.

You should have a concise conclusion that neatly summarises the central points in your essay. Where you can, link your conclusion back to the question and your opening statements and also, outline further avenues of research.

Do some mind mapping before you start to break down your question as this will help you identify what to address in each section. Remember to acknowledge the work of others and reference this appropriately.

Try not to worry too much, most lecturers are aware that most students will be new to essay writing and so take on board the feedback from your early assessments and apply this to develop your academic voice.
If it were true, re not imparting your own opinion, I would have left uni with a fourth. It pays to be a gobshite, just so long as you can clearly justify your conclusions.

Remember, the PhD's work is not authoritative because it is written by a PhD. It is authoritative because of the PhD's necessary discipline; they have got in the habit of justifying in very clear terms why they think the way they do.

But as general advice to a 1st year, it is not bad. You're not usually going to have an opinion which is entirely original in yer basic first-year module. If there are gaps which enable you to tear apart long-standing ideas, you're unlikely to have the skills to pull it off; nor the self-awareness to know whether you're onto something. Being iconoclastic or revolutionary is a risky business. That said, it absolutely can be done successfully on an undergrad degree.
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ChristineBourne
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#8
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I'm about to start university in September and what's really making me panic is the thought of having to write essays as I don't think I've written a ''proper'' one since GCSE (if that even counts). My A level subjects weren't that essay heavy so I've never really been taught how to write one. Does this get taught to you?
ahah, It's only essay, not big problem for student, who started university. I think, you should read more books, and your fantasy will write your essay itself.
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NetworkProblem
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#9
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(Original post by gjd800)
The thing about not having your own opinion is generally untrue. Having an agenda is fine, it is required. As long as you can justify your opinion and argue for it, then it is generally fair game to offer it.
(Original post by Notoriety)
If it were true, re not imparting your own opinion, I would have left uni with a fourth. It pays to be a gobshite, just so long as you can clearly justify your conclusions.

Remember, the PhD's work is not authoritative because it is written by a PhD. It is authoritative because of the PhD's necessary discipline; they have got in the habit of justifying in very clear terms why they think the way they do.

But as general advice to a 1st year, it is not bad. You're not usually going to have an opinion which is entirely original in yer basic first-year module. If there are gaps which enable you to tear apart long-standing ideas, you're unlikely to have the skills to pull it off; nor the self-awareness to know whether you're onto something. Being iconoclastic or revolutionary is a risky business. That said, it absolutely can be done successfully on an undergrad degree.
Ahh, sorry guys, reading it back I don't think I expanded enough on that bit. The point I was trying to make was for the OP to show caution when challenging positions that are established. So instead of saying "I think that...", perhaps use a more independent point of view like "It could be argued that..." or "An alternative viewpoint could suggest..." or something along those lines, then evidence that with sources. That way it is more of an academic debate as opposed to being too opinionated.
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username1230881
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#10
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#10
I wouldn't worry too much at this stage. You'll likely have formative work to do before your first proper assignments which is a good time to essentially experiment. Beyond that, make use of office hours - tutors won't be able to give feedback on your actual essay in most circumstances, but may able to provide broad feedback on an essay plan or offer advice about your chosen topic and how to address it.

Even if you had done all essay subjects at A level, there's a chance you'd be struggling - I found uni essays to be rather different, with the need to reference everything and requirement to consider a range of sources that you've researched yourself, rather than just presenting facts. It's a different experience overall so the university will be keen to make sure everyone understands what's expected of them.
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Duncan2012
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#11
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#11
Stop overthinking. Find and understand the markscheme and make sure you take on board all the feedback. The first few essays/assignments might seem impossible but you'll quickly get the hang of it. And if you get stuck make sure you reach out to people who can help. You'll be fine :-)
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gjd800
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#12
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(Original post by NetworkProblem)
Ahh, sorry guys, reading it back I don't think I expanded enough on that bit. The point I was trying to make was for the OP to show caution when challenging positions that are established. So instead of saying "I think that...", perhaps use a more independent point of view like "It could be argued that..." or "An alternative viewpoint could suggest..." or something along those lines, then evidence that with sources. That way it is more of an academic debate as opposed to being too opinionated.
I still cautiously disagree. When I'm marking assessments, it is a real pet hate when a student writes 'it could be argued that...'

Either argue it or do not, but being noncommittal is utterly tedious. If it could be argued, simply make the argument and have the courage of your convictions. Generally speaking, fence sitting is not the way to a first class essay. Argue something by all means, don't just give a survey!

I hasten to add that you are of course still right. Doing all this is a really good route to an upper second class, which is very respectable, especially as a first year. But aim high, and if the execution doesn't play out first time (when does it ever!), then you know how to hone it next time. I always encourage my students to take a couple of calculated risks :-D
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NetworkProblem
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(Original post by gjd800)
I still cautiously disagree. When I'm marking assessments, it is a real pet hate when a student writes 'it could be argued that...'

Either argue it or do not, but being noncommittal is utterly tedious. If it could be argued, simply make the argument and have the courage of your convictions. Generally speaking, fence sitting is not the way to a first class essay. Argue something by all means, don't just give a survey!

I hasten to add that you are of course still right. Doing all this is a really good route to an upper second class, which is very respectable, especially as a first year. But aim high, and if the execution doesn't play out first time (when does it ever!), then you know how to hone it next time. I always encourage my students to take a couple of calculated risks :-D
I don't know what else to add. Haha! I think you are far more qualified to offer advice than me so I will encourage the OP to take yours over mine any day of the week. Lol.

I just laid out what has and continues to work for me. I have always followed a similar structure and it has never done me any harm. I just finished the first year of part-time MSc and I achieved 70%+ in all of my assessments... but now I feel like I need to send them on to you for a second marking. Lol!

What do you teach if you don't mind me asking?
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gjd800
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(Original post by NetworkProblem)
I don't know what else to add. Haha! I think you are far more qualified to offer advice than me so I will encourage the OP to take yours over mine any day of the week. Lol.

I just laid out what has and continues to work for me. I have always followed a similar structure and it has never done me any harm. I just finished the first year of part-time MSc and I achieved 70%+ in all of my assessments... but now I feel like I need to send them on to you for a second marking. Lol!

What do you teach if you don't mind me asking?
I guess some of it might shift slightly dependent on subject - we tend to look down on 'it could be argued' etc because it is a little bit of a cop out. But then I do philosophy, so making arguments and not simply alluding to their presence is the bedrock of the discipline, haha!

As I say, it is solid advice (well done on your marks, by the way!). I just like people to stand behind a position rather than give it lip service. OP will not go far wrong if they take on even half of yhe advice offered in this thread.
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Justmac
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I agree with a lot of what has been said by other posters, but would also add that first year is a good opportunity for you to take risks and make mistakes, especially if it doesn't count towards your degree classification. By take risks I mean in your style of writing etc do not be afraid to step outside of the norm. I've utilised poetry and vignettes etc within essays and when done well they have been well received, providing you justify your usage. It took me until my final essay to do this well but you should ensure that your ideas and the ideas of those that you are referencing are synthesised and flow together seamlessly. Easier said than done but you are using referencing as a way to justify your position.
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NetworkProblem
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(Original post by gjd800)
I guess some of it might shift slightly dependent on subject - we tend to look down on 'it could be argued' etc because it is a little bit of a cop out. But then I do philosophy, so making arguments and not simply alluding to their presence is the bedrock of the discipline, haha!

As I say, it is solid advice (well done on your marks, by the way!). I just like people to stand behind a position rather than give it lip service. OP will not go far wrong if they take on even half of yhe advice offered in this thread.
Thank you! I hope it goes someway in helping the OP or someone else who might stumble across this thread. You are clearly very knowledgeable and you also have experience in marking assessments, so thank you for commenting and offering a different perspective.

I think you are right about it being somewhat related to the programme. I study Criminology - probably not always considered the most academic discipline.

Good luck with your Doctorate (think I've seen you post elsewhere that you are a PhD student?) My lecturers keep encouraging me to pursue a PhD but at the moment I don't even have the capacity to think past my dissertation. Haha!
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gjd800
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(Original post by NetworkProblem)
Thank you! I hope it goes someway in helping the OP or someone else who might stumble across this thread. You are clearly very knowledgeable and you also have experience in marking assessments, so thank you for commenting and offering a different perspective.

I think you are right about it being somewhat related to the programme. I study Criminology - probably not always considered the most academic discipline.

Good luck with your Doctorate (think I've seen you post elsewhere that you are a PhD student?) My lecturers keep encouraging me to pursue a PhD but at the moment I don't even have the capacity to think past my dissertation. Haha!
I'd encourage it if it is possible for you to do it! It is hard work but also rewarding. Appreciate that, thanks. I've just finished my thesis (pending a decent introduction) and have had to send out samples to examiners so I'm hoping for a late Sept/early Oct viva. The worst is yet to come :laugh:
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NetworkProblem
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(Original post by gjd800)
I'd encourage it if it is possible for you to do it! It is hard work but also rewarding. Appreciate that, thanks. I've just finished my thesis (pending a decent introduction) and have had to send out samples to examiners so I'm hoping for a late Sept/early Oct viva. The worst is yet to come :laugh:
Haha! Don't sweat it! I'm sure you will do great! Well done on almost being complete... I bet it was a mammoth task!
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Sadieleigh95
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#19
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(Original post by Anonymous)
I'm about to start university in September and what's really making me panic is the thought of having to write essays as I don't think I've written a ''proper'' one since GCSE (if that even counts). My A level subjects weren't that essay heavy so I've never really been taught how to write one. Does this get taught to you?

No you don’t get taught essay writing. At university you are expected to easily write essays. However your uni should have an academic skills department who you can visit for help and they will happily help you
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