Jonathan is a serial entrepreneur, mostly in the education space. In addition he is also a full-time university student studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology. In amongst the busyness he tries to have a social life, play sport, and relax with a good book.
Ok so we’ve got the big picture sorted – our essay as a whole does what it’s supposed to – but what about when we look closer?
The next step is to do a slow, deliberate proofread – the aim of this is to make sure the details are correct.
The first detail is, does your essay make sense when it’s read? If it doesn’t, the marker has no choice but to give you low marks – how can they not when they don’t understand what you’ve written?!
So let’s get started
Some people prefer to print it off and read through a hard copy of their essay; I prefer to read it on the screen. It doesn’t really make a difference; though seeing your work in a slightly different form and environment, in hard copy as opposed to sitting and staring at your laptop screen (exactly where and how you wrote your essay), can make it easier to pick up your mistakes.
How to read
This is very important. Read slowly. Read deliberately. Read every single word.
When people usually read, they speed read. There are many different ways of speed reading and some of the techniques are identifying words without focusing on each letter, not sounding out all words, not sub-vocalising some phrases, or spending less time on some phrases than others, and skimming small sections (from Wikipedia). In short, you are taking in the big picture and filling in the little details yourself.
Now this is fine when you are reading what someone else has written because you have never seen it before; but when it comes to your own work, if you speed read, you fill in the details with what you meant to say. The details of what you actually said might not be not quite what you intended. A comma out of place can be a very dangerous thing – but that’s for another post.
So you need to read slowly and deliberately, and the best way to do this is to read out loud. Read and sound out every single word; pause deliberately at the commas, semi-colons, and full-stops.
Does what you are reading out loud make sense?
Next week we’ll go over what else you need to look for when you do your slow and deliberate (proof)read of your essay.
So you’ve taken your break and now you’re back at your computer with your essay in front of you. So what should you check first?
Wait, one read through isn’t enough?!
Nope, you should definitely read through your essay a couple of times before you hit the print button. Checking, editing, and proofreading your work is extremely important. Remember your mark is based not just on what you write but also the marker’s impression of you – if there are grammatical errors and typos in your essay their impression won’t be very favourable!
Okay, so what do I need to check first?
First up is looking at the essay as a whole and focusing on content.
You are checking that:
- the introduction roughly follows the formula
- it introduces your argument and the topics of your body paragraphs effectively
- your body paragraphs are well constructed – don’t forget topic sentences!
- they are all similar in length – zoom out or use print preview to check this
- your conclusion roughly follows the formula
- it concludes your argument effectively and mentions what you discussed in your body paragraphs
- most importantly, you are answering the essay question throughout your essay!
While this is a broad check of what you’ve written, if you do see a typo or grammatical error – fix it up as you go. If there is something that doesn’t sound quite right or you think should be re-written better, don’t dwell on it – highlight it in yellow (or whatever colour takes your fancy); you’ll have time to fix this up on the next check.
But then why not just check everything at once?
Well, because the more things we focus on, the more likely we are to miss something. So focus on the big picture first, get that right and then go after detail. Also, that way you save time; because if you start with the detail you may ending up fixing parts of paragraphs that get deleted at the big picture checking stage.
Getting the big picture right is the easiest and the most important thing you should do. Over the next few weeks we will look at the detail and making sure what you hand in is perfect.
Photo Credit: NASA, via Wikimedia Commons
Posted in Checking on February 14, 2011
What do you do when you’ve finished writing your essay?
- Hit the print button?
- Switch to Facebook to reward yourself after a job well done, and come back and worry about your essay later?
- Read quickly through your essay to make sure it looks good, then print?
None of those answers are entirely right and the first one is downright wrong.
Yes you need to check your essay, but don’t do it straight away and definitely don’t do it quickly. What you should do is get up from your laptop (after saving your masterpiece of course!) and do something that doesn’t involve text, so don’t go on Facebook – go outside, or even watch TV. Better yet (if you’ve been organised and have left yourself enough time!), don’t go back to your essay for a whole day.
But why not just check it there and then?
Because we see what we expect to see.
Just like the businessman who made it through an airport security checkpoint with a loaded gun in his laptop bag, typos and grammatical errors will make it past you if you check your essay too soon after you’ve written it. Airport security didn’t expect to see a gun in the laptop bag because it’s such a rare event. You don’t expect to see typos just after you’ve written something because you see what you thought you wrote – a perfect essay.
Going back later means you’ve forgotten what you meant to say and what you thought you said; so instead you see what you did actually write.
But what about Spell and Grammar check? Don’t they find all these errors for me?
No, they don’t. Computer Spell and Grammar check programmes, like in Microsoft Word, are notoriously bad. To have your essay checked properly you need to do it yourself or get someone to do it for you (a human, not a computer).
However, these topics are for another couple of posts. So check back next week as we go through how to proofread your essays – so what you are handing in is free of all typos and spelling mistakes and is grammatically perfect.
Photo Credit: Loren Sztajer via Flickr
I was watching a movie tonight, Back to School (aptly titled movie for the Southern Hemisphere), starring Rodney Dangerfield and it got me thinking. In the movie Dangerfield’s character turns out to be quite the diver (think Olympic not deep sea) despite his advancing age and waistline. For those scenes it was quite obvious a stunt double was used.
What does this have to do with essays?
Well think of the actor as the writer and the essay as his character. The actor is the face of the character and it’s his voice that speaks – just as the writer’s name is on the essay and it’s written in his style, with his words.
A good movie always has a bit of action and I’m not talking about the stuff in the bedroom. The action usually consists of some pretty cool stunts and for this a stunt double is quite commonly used. They are dressed the same, and the scenes are shot in such a way that it looks like it is still the same actor.
In an essay the stunt double is the sources and authority figures you have referenced. You integrate their quotes and paraphrase their papers so it looks like one cohesive essay.
While it might be made to look like there is just one person playing the character in a movie, the stuntmen are credited for their role at the end of the movie. The same goes for your essays – reference all your sources correctly. Paraphrasing doesn’t make it your own work!
But why bother with a stunt double? Why can’t the actor do it?
In some cases they can and do; however, the two reasons they usually don’t are:
1. They physically can’t aka Mr. Dangerfield
2. It is not worth the risk of them injuring themselves
In your essay you do research and use credible sources because you can’t provide the evidence yourself. You don’t have enough experience, and haven’t carried out your own studies or experiments in your essay topic’s field. Basically, you’re a student and not qualified. Even if you are, it is very risky to base an essay wholly on your own thoughts and findings. Use the experts for the evidence.
Overall, you’re the actor (writer) and your essay is your character – it communicates to your audience. Write your essay with your unique voice, integrate evidence from credible sources, and create a powerful argument.
Keep this in mind when you are writing your essays this year and good luck!
Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Over the last couple of months I have looked at how to write brilliant introductions and conclusions and there seemed to be a lot of similarities in the purposes of the sentences in their respective formulae.
So is a conclusion an introduction in disguise? Vice versa? Or are they very different beasts?
Well lets take a look at the formulae again:
1. Hook them!
2. Set the scene
3. Show you’re smart
4. Give the game away
5. Sum it up
1. Re-state the scene
2. Answer the question
3. (and 4.) Deliver a twist
5. End with a bang!
At a surface level each sentence of the introduction pairs up with a sentence from the conclusion. So we will chronologically go through the introduction and pair it up with the sentence from the conclusion that it is most similar too:
Introduction – Conclusion
1. Hook them! with 5. End with a bang!
Similarities: both sentences are broad like the extreme ends of a Greek column and should be powerful.
Differences: the first sentence of your introduction introduces the broad topic only; in addition the last sentence of the conclusion contains what the essay argued with regards to the broad topic. Also, the first sentence of the introduction is neutral whereas the final sentence of your conclusion most probably is not.
Introduction in disguise? Nope.
2. Set the scene with 1. Re-state the scene
Similarities: both sentences have the same purpose – introduce/conclude what the essay will/has talk(ed) about. Also, they both use the same or similar signpost.
Differences: just the tense.
Introduction in disguise? Yup.
3. Show you are smart with 3. (and 4.) Deliver a twist
Similarities: both have the same purpose – show your intelligence, but…
Differences: …they achieve this is very different ways. The third sentence of your introduction does this by talking about the context of the essay, whereas the twist makes a judgement call on the evidence and information presented in the body of the essay.
Introduction in disguise? Nope.
4. Give the game away with 2. Answer the question
Similarities: both deal with the essay’s argument; however…
Differences: …the way it does this is slightly different – in the introduction you state your argument, whereas in the conclusion you go one step further by comprehensively answering the essay question and concluding your argument.
Introduction in disguise? Sort of.
5. Sum it up with 5. End with a bang!
Yes we have already compared “End with a bang!” but since it’s the last sentence of the introduction, let’s see whether it is similar to the last sentence of the conclusion:
Similarities: both have the same purpose – sum up the essay, and use the same or similar signpost.
Differences: tense and with “End[ing] with a bang! You need to, well, end with a bang…
Introduction in disguise? Yup.
So is a conclusion an introduction in disguise?
Based on this analysis we have two “Yup’s”, two “Nope’s” and a “Sort of”. Though the last sentence of the conclusion, “End with a bang!” is most similar in function to the last sentence of the introduction, so really there is just one key “Nope” – the two sentence 3’s: “Showing you are smart” and “Delivering a twist”.
Both have a similar purpose, so next week we will look at an example of an essay’s introduction and conclusion and I’ll provide my answer to the question.
In the meantime, what do you think – is a conclusion an introduction in disguise?
Below is an example of a well-constructed conclusion:
Sentence 1: Re-state the scene
This essay has looked at the key issues of the 2009 Review of the Holidays Act 2003.
Know what the essay was about?
The sentence is short, simple, and clearly states what the essay did. For comparison here is the second sentence of the introduction, “This essay will examine the positions that the employer organisations and trade unions took, in regards to the key issues reviewed by the Working Party, within the Employment Relations’ frameworks of unitarism and pluralism.” Both sentences are very similar, as they should be, but the sentence in the introduction goes into a lot more detail. The reason is because in the introduction you haven’t said anything yet and so need to introduce the topic to the marker in a bit of detail. However, by the time they have got to the conclusion they don’t need to have it spelt out again in so much detail. All you need to do is refresh the marker’s memory, not try and put them to sleep!
Sentence 2: Answer the question
Looking in particular at where the employers and unions stood on these issues, this essay has shown how the reasoning behind their positions is a product of their unitarist or pluralist viewpoints.
See the answer?
The sentence follows on from the first sentence and narrows its focus before providing the answer to the essay question: “In 2009, the Government undertook a review of holiday entitlements in New Zealand. What were the key issues addressed by the Working Party? What positions did employer organisations and trade unions take on these issues? What does your reading of the debate on holiday entitlement suggest to you about the principal analytical frameworks used in Employment Relations?”
Once again, you are providing a broad answer to the essay question here – you don’t need to go into too much detail.
Sentence 3 (and 4): Deliver a twist
This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays.Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole.
See what the most important evidence was?
The first sentence is essentially the twist – it chooses from all the evidence and examples presented in the essay the most important. The next three sentences show the student”s intelligence. It is a different way of looking at the evidence in order to answer the essay question and shows the marker that the student has thought very carefully and understood the topic he is writing about.
When I introduced this formula in my last post I suggested two sentences but in this example the twist takes up four sentences. With the formulas we have discussed the most important thing is what the sentences are about, not how many sentences you write. The twist is the most important part of the conclusion and so here it takes up four sentences total. Make sure, though, that it is taking up more sentences because it contains important content – not because you’re waffling.
Sentence 5: End with a bang!
Overall, it appears that in New Zealand Employment Relations, unitarism and pluralism are going to continue to fight to gain the upper hand, with the Government’s job to try and balance the opposing views because of our democratic pluralistic political system.
Hear the bang?
Probably not quite what you were expecting. Ending an essay with a bang is not quite as dramatic as ending a fiction novel – but you want the same effect. This sentence ties the whole essay context together and doesn’t waste words.
To finish off, here is the conclusion in full:
This essay has looked at the key issues of the 2009 Review of the Holidays Act 2003. Looking in particular at where the employers and unions stood on these issues, this essay has shown how the reasoning behind their positions is a product of their unitarist or pluralist viewpoints. This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays. Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole. Overall, it appears that in New Zealand Employment Relations, unitarism and pluralism are going to continue to fight to gain the upper hand, with the Government’s job to try and balance the opposing views because of our democratic pluralistic political system.
Well that’s the formula in action, give it a try and let us know how you get on.
Photo Credit: US Embassy New Zealand via Flickr
Posted in Conclusions on January 10, 2011
Now we will put it all together to create a formula for your conclusions like we did with the introduction.
Sentence 1: Re-state the scene
Aim: Summarise your essay broadly, what did it do?
Start with a signpost such as “This essay has [examined/considered/discussed]…”
This sentence is essentially the past tense version of Sentence 2 in your introduction. Don’t copy it word for word though! Paraphrase it, show you understand what your essay has done.
Sentence 2: Answer the question
Aim: State the broad conclusion to your essay’s argument – what has your essay proved?
Carry on from Sentence 1 and move into specifically what your essay looked at and finish up the sentence with your broad answer to the essay question. This sentence can sometimes get quite long so don’t be afraid to split it into two sentences. However, as we keep stressing, be concise! The marker will have read tens if not hundreds of essays – you want your conclusion to stand out.
It is similar to Sentence 4 in the introduction.
Sentence 3 (and 4): Deliver a twist
Aim: Make your conclusion interesting and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding to the marker.
Everything you need to know about the one thing you need to include in your conclusion can be found in my previous post.
Since this is such an important part of the conclusion it usually takes up a couple of sentences. It has a similar purpose as Sentence 3 in the introduction.
Sentence 5: End with a bang!
Aim: To summarise your conclusion.
Be succinct and concise. This is the last thing the marker is going to read; you want them to remember it. So start with a signpost, “Overall…” and end with a bang!
It follows along the same lines as Sentence 5 in the introduction.
This formula is a great guide for writing your conclusions and is based off Ian Hunter’s book.
Next week we will look at an example of this formula in action.
Posted in Conclusions on January 3, 2011
Following on from what you don’t include in a conclusion let’s look at the one thing you should include.
Many of you will recognise the twist ending as a literary device found in fiction. However, it also has an important place in your essay; which is entirely a non-fiction work (make sure it is and you have made nothing up!).
The twist seems to be a little known part of an essay’s conclusion and it was in Ian Hunter’s book that I first came across it.
The twist has two functions:
- Make your conclusion interesting – your conclusion only contains things that you have mentioned earlier in your essay so you need something different to keep the marker awake.
- Most importantly though, it is the perfect way to demonstrate to the marker that you know your topic and understand your arguments – this is how you show you are smart in your conclusion.
So what actually is a twist?
In your essay you have presented a number of arguments and a variety of evidence to back these up. Go back and reread what you have written – what was the most important?
This is what the twist is – making a judgement call on the significance and importance of the points your essay has made.
What was the strongest evidence? The weakest? Whose opinions are most valid? Or invalid? What source(s) were the most credible?
Form your answers to the above questions into a sentence or two and you have your twist. Remember don’t include any new information, just a layer of interpretation.
Up next week we look at structuring your conclusions and where the twist should be found.
Photo Credit thombo2 via Flickr
Posted in Conclusions on December 27, 2010
You never include new information in your conclusion. Everything that appears in your conclusion must have been mentioned in your introduction or body paragraphs.
Remember an essay is not supposed to contain suspense, the marker should not get all the way to your conclusion and then be surprised by a new piece of evidence. If they wanted suspense or surprise, then the marker would have picked up the latest thriller and not your essay.
What if I have just remembered a really key piece of evidence that I absolutely must put in my essay?
Go back to your body paragraphs and fit it in. Then if it is really that important it should also appear in your introduction. Makes sure that it fits; don’t just tack into onto the end of a paragraph. But most importantly, don’t add it only to your conclusion!
In conclusion, never ever include new information in the conclusion of your essays.