INSTITUTE OF WORK, HEALTH AND ORGANISATIONS
Writing a Good Essay at Master’s Level: Some Tips!
Tip 1: Make sure your answer addresses each dimension of the assessment criteria 1) Appropriateness of Answer: does the answer provided address the question set? 2) Comprehensiveness of Answer: how much of the relevant information does the answer cover?
3) Strength of Argument: is the answer well organised and does it present a strong and coherent thesis (storyline)?
4) Use of Evidence: does the answer support its arguments and general thesis by use of evidence citing references?
5) Implicit Understanding: what degree of understanding does the answer demonstrate?
6) Critical Appraisal: does the answer demonstrate an ability to critically assess the available information?
7) Originality: how original is the information used in the answer, the thesis advanced and the critical comment offered?
8) Use of English: how well written and understandable is the answer?
The use of evidence to support the claims you make is crucial and leads to a more powerful argument. In your references to the research literature, be sure to use detail and cite specific examples, where appropriate. Try to demonstrate breadth and depth of reading – weigh up the evidence you have used before reaching any conclusions. Make sure that your essay follows a clear storyline and presents a logical argument. Try to be original and creative in your attempt to answer the question, but make sure you remain within the remit of the actual question set. Be careful in your creative attempts that you do not use unsubstantiated opinion, evidence is still crucial to support your perspective. It can be quite effective to integrate other aspects of the course or other areas of psychology into your essay to demonstrate that you appreciate the wider picture. However you attempt to address the question, it is vital that you offer critical evaluation throughout. Deconstruct the question, moving away from pure description. When exploring the relevant literature, don’t accept unquestioningly everything that you read quite often there are serious flaws in the conclusions drawn (take a look at the methodology used, sample size, generalisability, etc). It can help to read the faults that the authors acknowledge in their own work and then read the paper again with these biases in minds. Just because a paper is published, it doesn’t make it perfect! 1
Tip 2: Identify the key words and issues of the question
Analyse the question for the key words and phrases. The common instruction words can be broadly categorised into those that ask you to describe, to present an argument and those that indicate your essay should be part description, part argument: Describe
Present an argument
Compare and contrast
Tip 3: Read widely
The essays awarded higher grades tend not to stick rigidly to the reference list provided in lectures. Whatever the form of the written assignment you are tackling, you must read widely if you are to do justice to the subject matter. Start with the question and identify any key topic/focus words that might help you to find the relevant material. As you read, it becomes easier to refine your searching by adding to your list of keywords. To begin with, use the library catalogue to search for general texts that may include relevant chapters and use the literature searching databases, such as PsycINFO or Web of Science, to find relevant journal articles. It is important to remember that recent journal articles will be more up-to-date and relevant than most book chapters. Try using the World Wide Web too, but be discriminating as there is almost no control over the information available – it may be misleading or poorly researched. Ask yourself the extent to which the author of the...
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