Structuring an Essay: Steps • Understand the task • Plan and prepare • Write the first draft • Review the first draft – and if necessary make a second draft and review again • Write the final draft • Submit your work
Title • Essay title will have an actual / implied question within it • The whole essay should focus on and address that question
Introduction Explain the topics covered in the essay briefly • Explain how you have interpreted the question • Point out which issues you are going to explore • Identify what theories, concepts and research you are going to use in your essay • Outline briefly how and in which order you will deal with each issue • The introduction should be one tenth of the whole essay
Body of Essay: Paragraph 1 • Covers the first issue mentioned in the introduction • The first sentence introduces the main idea of the paragraph • Other sentences develop the paragraph’s topic • Include relevant examples, details, evidence and quotations cited correctly • Lead into the topic which the next paragraph will cover
Paragraph 2 • The first or opening sentences link to the previous paragraph and introduces the main topic of this paragraph • The following sentences develop the paragraph’s topic • Lead into the next paragraph
Other paragraphs • Follow the same structure as paragraph 2 • Keep referring back to the title to make sure you are focusing on the central issues of the essay • This way, the theme of the essay will progress logically, linking ideas, evidence and theory to the main topic and purpose of the essay
Conclusion • Summarise your arguments and main themes • State your general conclusions or recommendations • State clearly why those conclusions or recommendations are so important and significant • In your final sentences sum up your arguments very briefly, linking them to the title
When you’ve finished your first draft • Check for spelling mistakes using the spell checker • Print it off and read it. Find someone reliable to read it for you and give you some feedback. If you have an appointment, someone from CAW can do that for you • Taking into account of the feedback, write a second draft • Repeat steps 1-3 until you are happy with the finished article
Tips for your essay • Remember that writing is an important means of communication • Successful communication is about sharing knowledge, understanding and opinions with others, in simple and effective terms • Evaluation, opinions and arguments need to be supported by relevant evidence and research. • Direct quotations should not form any more than 10% of your work. • The major part of your assignment should be original; your opinions, that is your work and research and not merely summarising or paraphrasing other people’s knowledge or research (BCU 2006)
What is evidence? • Evidence is the scholarly or academic material that you have used to inform your opinion and to put forward an argument • It can be found in: books, journals, the internet • Analyses a topic from a critical viewpoint • Theoretical perspective on a question
Theory & Opinion • How can you integrate theory in your essay? • How can you state your opinion alongside theory?
Opinion • In academic terms: opinion is the judgement or viewpoint reached after analysing, assessing and evaluating arguments, claims and evidence. • Objective: like a judge who weighs the evidence (for and against) and judges each case on its merits • Personal opinion (based on beliefs, codes of ethics rather than evidence) is not acceptable as it cannot be tested in the same way.
Academic vs. Personal Opinion • Opinion in academic work is NOT the same as personal opinion • Academic opinion means a conclusion you come to after considering the evidence for or against a particular theory • Makes references to factual evidence or the logical structure of someone else’s argument
How to present opinion • Select the right evidence • Present it in such a way that any intelligent person reading would come to the a similar conclusion • In other words, convince the reader!
How to Approach Critical Evidence • You can approach evidence even if you don’t agree with it: “Sympathy with an author’s motivation can never constitute a valid reason for accepting his or her arguments , and opposition to those motivations can never constitute a valid reason for rejecting them; the arguments must be analysed in their own right” (Sokal 2008: xix)
How to Approach Critical Evidence • Start off with your own ideas • You must be able to demonstrate your ideas are valid • Research for theory to support or oppose your ideas • Be an impartial judge and weigh up both sides • You may have to change your opinion because of evidence you discover. • It is part of the academic process that when discovering new facts, you review your own position.
Useful Questions: • What needs to be true to support my ideas (claims)? • What theoretical basis is there to support them? • What theoretical basis considers similar issues which I wish to argue against? • What factual evidence is there to support my argument? • Can I find the evidence I need? (Is it easily accessible? Where and when can I get it?) • Is there enough evidence to support my ideas or should I be less ambitious and reduce the focus of my work and think again?
References • Birmingham City University (2011) Writing Summaries of Source Material. [online] available from < http://library.bcu.ac.uk/learner/writingguides/1.14.htm > last accessed [28/10/2013] • Birmingham City University Business School (2006) Structuring an Essay. Birmingham: BCU • Academic Skills Center (2001) The Pivotal Words. Dartmouth: Dartmouth College