THE ART OF ESSAY-WRITING: A USER’S GUIDE
ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR JOHN SHIELDS
ASSOCIATE DEAN POSTGRADUATE
ESSAY-WRITING – BASIC TASK REQUIREMENTS
Completed cover sheet
Title page providing details of your name and the question addressed Synopsis (Not always required; check requirement with lecturer concerned). Introduction
Coherent analysis and argument in body of essay
Clear and concise conclusion
Full and consistent citation of sources, including either Harvard-style references or footnotes or endnotes
Bibliography of all sources consulted
WHAT IS AN ‘ESSAY’?
A well-informed, brief, logically-structured response to a statement or question to which there is no one universally agreed ‘correct’ answer. A cohesive argument in support of a preferred and clearly stated position/argument relating to the statement/question.
An attempt (‘essai’) to persuade.
Argument must be logical and supported, not just unsubstantiated opinion.
Statement of position taken
Information in support (What you know)
Sustained justification for position taken (Why you think you are correct)
Refutation of main counter-arguments
WRITE TO A PLAN
(Example - 2,000 word essay)
200 words (1 paragraph)
1500 words (8-12 paragraphs; 3-4 sections)
Section 1 – Key Theme 1
Section 3 – Key Theme 2
Section 3 – Key Theme 3
300 words (1-2 paragraphs)
Ease reader into topic area
Identify and briefly define main
This essay examines....
Identify the main point of
contention: ‘Some (e.g. Smith,
2002) argue... while others (e.g.
Jones 2006) contend...’
Declare your overall position on
the matter: ‘This essay will
suggest that...’ (just briefly
Sign-post the structure/sections of
the main argument. ‘First...,
next..., thirdly, finally...’
Q: Which has the stronger influence on employee attitudes and behaviour, ‘procedural justice’ or ‘distributive justice’ and what are the implications for the way in which each should be managed? There has been burgeoning interest in the role of fairness as directly applied to the workplace – a topic termed organisational justice (Greenberg, 1990: 400). The growing importance of this field stems from the fact that people’s perceptions of justice or their determination of whether they have been treated fairly at work (Moorman, 1991: 845) affect significant work related attitudes that are in turn important predictors or mediators of employee behaviour (Dailey & Kirk, 1992: 2). Two main dimensions of organisational justice have been identified: distributive justice and procedural justice (Moorman, 1991: 845). While the former focuses on content – the fairness of the ends or outcomes achieved, the latter focuses on process – the fairness of the means, methods or mechanisms used to determine those outcomes (Folger & Cropanzano, 1998: 26, Greenberg, 1996: 24-25). The subject of this essay is to determine which has the stronger influence on employee attitudes and behaviour. The position that will be argued that while both are important, procedural justice has the stronger impact on overall justice perceptions and hence on employee attitudes and behaviour (Heneman & Judge, 2000: 90). In fact, procedures qualify or mediate distributive justice perceptions (Greenberg, 1987: 60). It is thus essential that one looks at the interaction between outcomes and procedures in order to gain a fuller understanding of fairness (Beugre, 1998: 35). This essay will also examine the reasons for the stronger overall influence of procedural justice on employee attitudes and behaviour, that is, the psychological importance of procedural justice that causes employees to respond or reciprocate in a significant manner through their attitudes and behaviour. This will provide not only the justification for the position taken with regard to the stronger impact of procedural justice on employee attitudes and behaviour, it also sets the basis for what I consider to be the implications for the way in which distributive justice and procedural justice should be managed.
BODY OF ESSAY
Plan the sequence of main points
Keep the focus on the topic at all times
Make every sentence a building block in your argument
Don’t just describe: analyse and argue
Just one major point per paragraph (of 100-300 words)
Make the subject and point of each paragraph clear in the opening sentence (= signalling sentence)
Use remaining sentences in the paragraph to elaborate the point and provide supporting evidence (i.e. relevant facts/figures, examples, brief quotations, supportive statements/insights of other writers) Lead the reader through your ideas using linking sentences
Make only limited use of bullet-points
Use direct quotations sparingly
Last sentence in the paragraph should be ‘wrap-up’ the point and point the way to the next point/paragraph.
Next X sentences
Signalling sentence: indicates the
key point/theme of the paragraph
Initial elaboration (=’Why’? of
Point by point
It is not necessary to enumerate
every sentence though, since this
can become very tedious to the
Wraps up the main point of the
paragraph and links back explicitly
to the topic/question.
The perceived fairness of the performance appraisal process could be further enhanced through the procedural provision of performance review interview or feedback process. The opportunity for two-way communication allows not only for the employee to respond to the rater’s feedback and hence an avenue for redress and reconsideration (Gilliland, 1993: 704, Greenberg, 1996: 184), but also an opportunity for the rater to provide adequate justification for the decision. This interpersonal aspect of procedural justice is important, as it has been demonstrated that procedural justice perceptions are influenced by the following factors. Firstly, the adequacy with which formal decision making procedures are explained, for example, the clear communication of performance standards and measures to prepare employees about what outcomes or reward they may expect to receive for their contributions. Secondly, the interpersonal treatment people receive from decision-makers (Greenberg, 1990: 411, Greenberg, 1996: 175). Explanations that were “adequately reasoned and sincerely communicated” not only enhance procedural justice judgements, but also the outcomes resulting from them (Greenberg, 1990: 412). In addition, it is through such interactions with the supervisor that an employee is able to get a sense of their worth and importance to the organisation (Moorman, 1991: 852). By such means, the visible cultivation of fairness perceptions (impression management) will impact the employee psychologically, and ultimately influence significant employee attitudes and behaviour.
Next X sentences
Third last sentence
Second last sentence
Remind the reader of the topic:
‘This essay has considered...’
Reiterate your main argument: ‘It has been
argued that ...’
Indicate which side of the
debate/argument/proposition your argument
supports most strongly
Restate each of your main points in single
sentences. Drive the argument home. No new
evidence or ideas. Minimal referencing.
Identify several possible limitations of you
Indicate what additional information could be
considered to make a more informed judgement
Wrap-up: ‘Overall, however, it appears that...’
In conclusion, I wish to reiterate the essential points that have been covered in this essay. Procedural justice has the stronger influence on employee attitudes and behaviour. Procedural justice is not only an effective means to influence overall justice perceptions, it also serves as a powerful tool for engendering positive employee attitudes that have long lasting effects, and which are in turn important predictors of desired organisational behaviour. The stronger influence of procedural justice on employee attitudes and behaviour in turn has implications for the way in which distributive and procedural justice should be managed. Procedural justice thus forms the crucial foundation that orientates the specific direction of employee justice perceptions; that is, whether positive or negative. However, one must not discount the importance of distributive justice in the management of fairness perceptions due to its proximal influence on reward or outcome satisfaction (Heneman & Judge, 2000: 90). An essential requirement for the effective management of distributive and procedural justice is the need to understand the causal link or interrelationship that exists between the two. Hence, there is the need to properly manage distributive justice such that it reinforces and supports procedural justice to ensure the positive trajectory of employee attitudes and behaviour. In this essay, we have used the example of performance appraisal to illustrate how procedural and distributive justice can be effected within an actual organisational setting, paying particular emphasis on the causal relationship between the two.
REFERENCING AND QUOTATIONS
− To support your argument
− Intellectual honesty
Decide on one method (Harvard, footnote, endnote) and stick to it. Aim for an average of 2-3 references per paragraph.
Use footnotes or endnotes to add qualificatory sentences and asides. Provide a reference for every borrowed fact or figure, every direct quotation, and every conscious adaption of another writer’s idea or argument.
Indent any direct quote longer than two sentences.
For an internet source, still try to cite by author/organisation and date of access. In the bibliography also give the URL.
Include a bibliography of all sources cited in the text and any other sources consulted that you consider to have had some influence on your thinking about the topic. List sources in bibliography alphabetically by first author surname. Do not number!
Alexander, S. & Ruderman, M. (1987) ‘The Role of Procedural and Distributive Justice in Organizational Behavior’, Social Justice Research, 1(2), pp. 177-198.
Armstrong, M. & Murlis, H. (1998) Reward Management: A Handbook of Remuneration Strategy and Practice, 4th edition, (London: Kogan Page in association with Hay Management Consultants). Beugre, C. (1998) Managing Fairness in Organisations, (Westport, Conn.; London: Quorum Books). Dailey, R.C. & Kirk, D.J. (1992) ‘Distributive and Procedural Justice as Antecedents of Job Dissatisfaction and Intent to Turnover’, Human Relations, 45(3), pp. 1-8 (article downloaded via the library database, ABI/INFORM). Folger, R. & Cropanzano, R. (1998) Organizational Justice and Human Resource Management, (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications).
Folger, R. & Konovsky, M.A. (1989) ‘Effects of Procedural Justice and Distributive Justice on Reactions to Pay Raise Decisions’, Academy of Management Journal, 32(1), pp. 115-130. Folger, R. & Lewis, D. (1993) ‘Self-Appraisal and Fairness in Evaluations’, in Cropanzano, R. (ed.), Justice in the Workplace: Approaching Fairness in Human Resource Management, (New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers).
Greenberg, J. (1986) ‘Determinants of Perceived Fairness of Performance Evaluations’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 71(2), pp.340-342.
Greenberg, J. (1987) ‘Reactions to Procedural Injustice in Payment Distributions: Do the Means Justify the Ends?’, Journal of Applied Psychology, 72(1), pp. 55-61.
Writing is an iterative process: draft, redraft and draft again Draft 1: a first attempt to get all of the words down in a structured way Draft 2: refining content and sharpening argument; expect inspiration in the shower!
Draft 3: polishing the prose and presentation; use formal prose rather than conversational prose
Final Draft: put it aside for several days than return for a final check and tidyup.