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Geography university essays?

I'm currently taking a second year (level 5) human geography module as an elective (for anyone curious, it's development geography at UCL). slight issue - I'm on a public health degree and never done any geography assignments at university level before, and this module is 100% exam based with 3x 1000 word essays in 3 hours. I'm thinking the kind of style for written work might be different as the expectations for writing on my main degree is quite scientific but a lot of this module is more based on sociological and gender theories, economics, international relations etc. but there are no example/model essays to go off! I don't know anyone else on this course or who is taking geography at my uni, the module lead is currently on leave of some sort and I can't find geography-specific essay writing advice on my uni website or moodle page, and am worried that the fact this is entirely exam based may mean I end up writing the essays in the wrong kind of style!

Is there anyone taking human geography at uni level who could give some kind of guidance as to what is expected from an essay (especially exam style rather than coursework) for a human geog module? Genuinely scared I might fail the exam at this point :frown:
Reply 1
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The department should make the marking criteria available somewhere. Try reaching out to one of the geography students on the course otherwise?

That said generally at degree level there isn't a specific "format" you need to approach essays with (other than generally needing an intro, main body, and conclusion, and proper referencing - although the latter may or may not be needed for a timed exam based essay - you should definitely check this!). You don't need to use a rigid internal structure for your essay (and it's probably better not to) as long as you directly answer the question with a sustained argument well supported by the relevant literature.

I found the essays I've done best in this year (different subject area(s) also at UCL) were the ones I found a kind of "hook" into it as that let me keep coming back to that main point I was arguing for. As that helped me avoid just falling into the trap of sort of generic "exposition" of factual material without much analysis.
Reply 3
Original post by artful_lounger
The department should make the marking criteria available somewhere. Try reaching out to one of the geography students on the course otherwise?
That said generally at degree level there isn't a specific "format" you need to approach essays with (other than generally needing an intro, main body, and conclusion, and proper referencing - although the latter may or may not be needed for a timed exam based essay - you should definitely check this!). You don't need to use a rigid internal structure for your essay (and it's probably better not to) as long as you directly answer the question with a sustained argument well supported by the relevant literature.
I found the essays I've done best in this year (different subject area(s) also at UCL) were the ones I found a kind of "hook" into it as that let me keep coming back to that main point I was arguing for. As that helped me avoid just falling into the trap of sort of generic "exposition" of factual material without much analysis.

There's a vague rubric that talks about understanding of the content, level of analysis, grammar etc. but no guidance on style on structure, or expectations for referencing. I also don't have access to the department moodle page itself (like I have for my own programme) since I'm only taking that one module. Unfortunately i don't know anyone on the course and even if i was able to reach out to any i wouldn't be hopeful for a response, got a lot of side eye and being ignored for being from a different department during the lectures and seminars 😅 Thanks for your guidance on writing it, that's kind of a relief that it seems to be fairly similar and I'll keep it in mind!
Original post by mabinogian
There's a vague rubric that talks about understanding of the content, level of analysis, grammar etc. but no guidance on style on structure, or expectations for referencing. I also don't have access to the department moodle page itself (like I have for my own programme) since I'm only taking that one module. Unfortunately i don't know anyone on the course and even if i was able to reach out to any i wouldn't be hopeful for a response, got a lot of side eye and being ignored for being from a different department during the lectures and seminars 😅 Thanks for your guidance on writing it, that's kind of a relief that it seems to be fairly similar and I'll keep it in mind!


That rubric is how they mark you, so look at it closely and align your approach to what it says. Also look for any department specific requirements (e.g. one department I did a module with requires you to include relevant images including maps in the essay and you will lose marks if you don't!). Usually the department handbook will have information pertaining to referencing formats and these are normally available on the department webpages.

Style and structure isn't going to be prescriptive and will depend on your writing manner and also the questions themselves. Other than basic structural elements of having an intro/main body/conclusion which tends to be assumed, exactly how you structure it will be up to you. That said adding subheadings tends to be well received in my experience.

That said in terms of general information look at the IoE writing centre materials - https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe-writing-centre/ they provide a lot of stuff in general for any student at UCL. We were also linked to this phrase bank from Manchester in one of my modules which provides some suggested wording for people who were unsure of that: https://www.phrasebank.manchester.ac.uk/

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