What is an Essay?
The word ‘essay’ is derived from the word meaning ‘to weigh up, test, try and examine’. All essays require you to: -Think about the importance of facts and ideas
-Consider facts, ideas, people, places critically
-Develop a point of view before you write
-Express yourself in a structured, logical, organised fashion.
Regardless of form, a good essay:
-has a clear structure and is well organised
-presents and/or deals with material relevant to the question -gives an impression of completeness
-sustains its focus
-is logical in the way in which it presents its ideas
- is concisely expressed
-signposts the development of its proposition
-follows the basics of effective essay writing: strong introduction, inter-locking subsequent paragraphs, effective conclusion -demonstrates careful, considered and, preferably, original thought has sincerity - evidences a genuine encounter with the subject
A good essay is not:
- a mere collection of facts
- a mere listing of examples
-an attempt to say absolutely everything that there is to say on a topic -wordy
-affected or pretentious in style
Unpacking the Question!
Understanding the Purpose
Before you can write an effective essay, you must understand why you are doing it. Effective essay writing therefore requires you to understand the topic. The topic defines the purpose of your writing.
There is more to understanding what a question topic requires of you than just underlining the key words. You need to understand the different things to which these key words relate and the different processes of thought and written expression they require you to attempt. There are three types of key words to identify:
- the task or instruction words
- the topic or subject words
-the limiting words
The Task or Instruction Words
These words tell you:
- how to approach the topic
-what your level of thinking you are to adopt
-what focus you are to adopt
-what it is exactly, that you are to do
The meanings of common task words are set out below:
analyse: identify the divisions or parts of a subject, define the relationship between these, look at cause and effect, motivation for action, development of effect, consequences argue: present a case for or against a proposition; provide evidence for your stance assess: measure the relative importance or significance of, the value of, consider the worth or extent of the effect of in a particular context. Compare: identify the similarities (but also note the distinguishing differences) Contrast: identify the (large and small) differences between (but also note any similarities). In this kind of question, the devil is often in the detail. Define: give a precise meaning of, description of, illustration of. This requires you to analyse material and present its uniqueness objectively. Describe: provide an objective factual account. In this kind of question you need to consider both the large and the obvious facts and the smaller less obvious detail. Discuss: describe and evaluate, draw conclusions from facts
Evaluate: present a measured assessment of, assess (good and bad) effects, the worth of Explain: give reasons for or about illustrate: give an example or examples review: decide on and set out the main points Summarise: give the essential facts of a broader subject.
The Topic Words
Topic words are the words that define the subject of the topic. They can be nouns, verbs or adjectives, and phrases containing these words, for example: Discuss the causes of Macbeth's downfall.
`Multiculturalism in Australia is a myth.' Discuss
'Laughter is the best medicine.' Discuss.
Other topic words define the kind of information sought. These are: When? These questions require accuracy with time references, and may require you to refer to dates, times of day, seasons, parts of a...