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Advice on Writing Essays

. You must have your title okayed by 12.00 on Weds W10, that is, 15 March (for Essay Two). Since this rule has been stressed in seminars, on the website, and in mass mails, for the marking of Essay Two any titles that have not been okayed will be considered rubric violations and be awarded very low or failing marks. Please take care with this.
. Don't try to write what you think your seminar tutor wants to hear. . Try to be original. You’re likely to score higher for making an original argument that seems problematic than for repeating the arguments you’ve read or heard.
. Don’t generalise. Stick to one solid specific demonstrable argument.
. Read the question. It is surprisingly common for essays to miss one word or phrase, or not to be familiar with the terms in the question.
. If you make promises of an historical framework, don’t then wander between times (e.g. books from 1958 and 1989 can’t easily fit into an argument about post-war consensus without some work to link these times).
. Don’t repeat what you hear in seminars – especially without citation. Seminar discussions are invitations to research, not information to be repeated.
. Try to finish your essay well before the deadline, to reduce stress and allow for accidents.
. Proof-read your essay before submission.
. Don’t spend too much time on plot.
. Use the extensive module booklists as a basis for research. It’s good to find new sources, but be careful of going straight for whatever comes up on a google search. Think about how informed the books and essays you find really are, and when they were published.
. Don’t think that ‘critics’ are a special source of textual analysis – it is often better to trust your own close reading and your overall historical sense – and don’t resort to newspaper interviews for help interpretation of texts by that author.
. Avoid journalese, overwriting, and review-type writing (e.g. ‘The Death of Grass is a thrilling and outstanding work of fiction’).
. Don’t use ‘I’ (e.g. ‘Many have suggested that The Wanting Seed takes a race-based position, but I believe…’)
. Don’t tub-thump (‘Because of Thatcher, hard-working communities all over the UK were decimated’).
. Don’t assume individualism is always the goal, at least without having a serious theoretical framework (e.g. ‘The Wanting Seed shows how the individual is oppressed by society’).
. Try to make sure your argument is crystallised in the first paragraph, especially in a very short essay like this. Don’t put ‘filler’ in your first paragraph.
. Revise basic punctuation, especially apostrophes and inverted commas.
. Check the required form of citations. Note that all entries need actual and original publication dates, if these are different.
. If you see your module tutor during office hours, talk about the content of the module rather than trying to work out how to structure your essay.