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qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwerty uiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasd fghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzx Study Skills Essay writing made easy: cvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmq A guide to writing academic essays wertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyui opasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfg hjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxc vbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmq wertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyui opasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfg hjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxc vbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmq wertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyui opasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfg hjklzxcvbnmrtyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbn mqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwert yuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopas dfghjklzxcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklz xcvbnmqwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnm qwertyuiopasdfghjklzxcvbnmqwerty Liam Greenslade (2001)

Study Skills

Tip 2 Ask! Until you become familiar with the technical vocabulary of sociology (i.e. jargon) you'll probably find you don't understand a great deal of what you read. This is where lecturers and other students come in.

A common occurrence

amongst students making the transition from second to third level education is they discover that the expectations of their lecturers as to what constitutes adequate work differs remarkably from those held by their teachers. It comes as quite a shock to find that the type of work, particularly written work, which was acceptable in school is no longer acceptable at college. The aim of this section of the handbook is to give you some indication of what we in Applied Social Studies expect from you and to offer some tips to help you make the transition in your approach to academic work.

Some people think if they don't understand everything they read at once there's something wrong with them; that they're stupid or unintelligent. In most cases nothing could be further from the truth. It takes time to learn what is effectively a technical language with its own in-built assumptions and expectations of the reader. However, there are some people, lecturers amongst them (perish the thought) who because of their own inadequacies or insecurities take pleasure in confirming others' sense of inadequacy. Ignore these people. You'll know who they are the first time you ask them to explain something.


There is considerably more to reading in an academic

context than simply being able to recognise and occasionally understand what the words on paper represent. Reading academic books and articles requires quite different skills from those entailed in reading a magazine or novel, say. Furthermore the goals are quite different.

Fortunately most people aren't like that. If you ask them to explain something you've read they'll enjoy clarifying the issue for you. If they happen to be a lecturer asking them to explain something in the reading they've given you may even get you some brownie points, since it shows you've actually bothered to open the book in the first place!

Academic reading involves assimilation, absorption and, most importantly, critical insight and understanding. Reading is the basis of scholarship and it is what academics spend their time doing when they're not boring students passing on the stuff they've read.

Tip 3 Discuss In my view active reading is best complemented by active discussion with your peers. Discussing, debating or arguing about what you've been reading with your colleagues has a number of beneficial effects. It refreshes your memory of what you've read, it gives you the opportunity to pick up on other people's insights and possibly correct any misunderstandings on your part.

The amount and complexity of the information which you will encounter during your degree make it humanly impossible to assimilate and retain all of it unless you're an anal retentive or possess extraordinary mnemonic skills. What follows here are some tips which may bring the superhuman expectations of your lecturers within your merely mortal grasp!

Tip 4 Keep track of your reading For both essay writing and exam revision it is important that you can lay your hands on the original source material (for referencing in the first case, for checking you have it right in the second). Knowing that you read something somewhere in that pile of photocopies scattered around your bedroom is hardly much help.

Tip 1 Read Actively The active reading of an academic work entails transforming yourself from a passive receiver of written information into an active processor of it. There are a number of ways you can do this, here are a few that I use:

I recommend that you buy a set of small index cards (4 by 6 ins should do) and something to keep them in. Carry a few cards around with you when at all possible and every time you encounter some material of relevance jot down the basic bibliographic details on a new card (i.e. Author's name, Journal or book title, publication date, page numbers, library location etc.). If you have room summarise the key points.

Take notes as you read. Try to tease out from amongst the verbiage what is significant and make this the basis of written notes. Highlight significant sections of the text (Only on photocopies not originals!) These may be key ideas and concepts or things you just don't understand

It's a lot easier to flick through a set of small cards than it is to plough through reams of photocopies or unfiled notes until you find or remember what you're looking for.

Question the text. Does it make sense? Is it coherent? How does it relate to your experience? Is the argument logical? How does it relate to other reading you may have done?

This system has carried me successfully through two degrees and numerous professional research projects. I recommend it strongly to you. I'll come back to it in the next section on essay writing.

Try to relate what you' re reading now to other writing on the same subject you may have previously encountered.


be a bit pedantic over titles, etc. and will only give you what you ask for. Title searches can be done using the library catalogue for books. Articles and books can be searched using the CD-ROM system. Full instructions on these can be obtained from the library.

Essay writing made easy

The following is not a recipe for perfect essays every

time, nor is it a hard and fast set of rules for producing acceptable work. It is simply a guide that the author has found useful over the years for making the process of producing essays as painless as possible.

Using the Internet is becoming increasingly common for finding out about anything these days. It's easy enough and search engines are far more user-friendly than they used to be.

What is an essay?

However, the main problem with a cyberspace search is the amount of cyber garbage which sits out there waiting for the unwary user. Try to restrict your searches for articles to the main academic websites relating to your topic. These will refer you to accepted academic sources, peer reviewed journals etc. Don’t be taken in by the fact that because some crank has gone to the trouble of setting up his or her website that what they have to say must be true.

Contrary to the experience (every word torn screaming from the flesh) an essay is not a form of torture imposed by educational institutions on their hapless victims (i.e. you). Nor is it a selection of facts strung together on paper until an arbitrary word limit has been reached. In its most common form an essay is a written demonstration of the student's ability to assimilate, analyse and communicate about a body of information. Theoretically, it should exhibit a comprehension of the subject matter and make logical and grammatical sense. Like all good stories it should have a beginning, a middle, and an end, hopefully in that order, although a happy ending is optional.

Where to next? OK, you've done your search, you've accumulated a pile of references, notes and enough photocopies to sink a battleship, what happens now? There now follows a gestation period in which you try to make sense of the information, wish you'd never chosen the particular topic, go to the pub, etc.

Where does an essay begin? An essay begins with a title, usually not of your making. For the purposes of this guide our essay title is " Is human aggression a natural or a socially conditioned aspect of behaviour?"

Don't worry. This is common. Some people gestate until a few hours short of the deadline (not advisable, though). If you can't find any inspiration from the materials at hand, try not to panic. At this point it's best to establish for yourself what you understand about the topic of the essay or its title. Sit down and try to write about a page of brief notes on what YOU think are the relevant issues. Just a page will be enough. Don't worry about style or content. The point is to summarise your thinking.

Essay writing starts in the library. You can't write about a subject until you know something about it (well you can, but what you produce may not make much sense). This involves reading. Reading involves getting hold of books and journals. There are a number of ways in which this can be done:

Once you've done this, briefly look through the literature you've accumulated and sort it into piles according to the issues you've identified for yourself, either for or against.

Using the library catalogue (e.g. the subject index). Using the reference section of textbooks or journals concerned with related topics. Using a computer-based abstracting system (e.g. Socline, Popline) Using the internet

The next stage is to decide what your argument is to be, if any, and evaluate the evidence for and against it. Suppose Bloggs says that human beings are naturally aggressive, always have been and always will be, and that this is because of some obscure brain chemical unique to us as a species.

The central topic of our essay is 'Human Aggression'. This is unlikely to be directly listed as a heading under a), but if you look under subjects in which aggression might be a topic (e.g. Social psychology, comparative psychology, ethology), you may find titles that relate to the topic of interest. Scanning titles in the reference section of these or other books, as in b, may also point you towards other relevant books or articles that you may wish to dig out.

Ask yourself the following questions: a) b)

Do I agree? Does her evidence support her conclusions?

If the answer to a is no, then why not? Briefly note your reasons. If the answer is yes, then ditto.

Finally, the new fangled computer based methods speed the whole process up. The only problem is they tend to

Question b is the hard one. What do you think? What do


Having said that, it should not do so by default (i.e. because you didn't know where to put the full stops in).

other people think? Is there a consensus about the validity of her results or not? You have to weigh up what is relevant criticism. Are her respondents are representative of the population whose behaviour she wishes to explain? It's a long way to extrapolate from rats or rabbits or even American sophomores to all of humankind, after all. Do the tests she has performed adequately model the complexity of the phenomena? Is her field research generalisable to other contexts. And so on.

Use non-sexist non racist language Don't be ashamed to be PC. As far as possible, use nonsexist language. Most professional sociological associations have rules on the use of discriminatory language so it's best to ditch the habit early on. Remember, it's only when you're talking about people in the generic sense, rather than about specific individuals that non-sexist language becomes crucial.

There are a myriad of questions you can ask, some more important or more easy to write about than others. When you think you have enough questions to address the title adequately (it can be one big question or several smaller ones) then you're ready to start writing. That's the hard part over with. It gets much easier from now on.

Personally I prefer the following substitutions: s/he for he; her/him for him; people or human beings for man or mankind; possessive pronouns (his/hers) can be pluralised to their.

Starting to write I: A few notes on style Hopefully the last phase will have added to your pile of paper a few brief pages containing your own thoughts and jotting on the subject. Don't lose these. We'll come back to them later. Before we do though, I'd like to talk about the dreaded concept of 'style'.

Remember, though 'people' and 'human beings' are plurals. Your verb forms should reflect this. Starting to write II: The problem of structure Just as style is important if your essay is to achieve greatness (or at least rise above mediocrity), so is structure.

Style is important. Even a well-presented essay can suffer because of grammatical errors, incoherent or overlong sentences, lousy punctuation, etc. The person marking the essay has to understand what you've written as well as read it. If s/he can't then your mark will suffer as a result.

Your notes may be random thoughts gleaned from various sources and hours of head scratching, but the real task is to transform that data into a coherent body of knowledge, a series of arguments, or descriptions.

A reasonable essay style is not hard to acquire. While there are no hard and fast rules, if you follow a few simple guidelines, it becomes less of a struggle.

There is no one method for structuring an essay, either at the planning stage or at the time of writing. As I said earlier, an essay should have a beginning a middle and an end, in that order. What goes into those things varies, as does the order in which they appear in each component.

Try to use sentences! A sentence normally, but not always, contains a subject and an object linked by a verb. It is usually followed by a full stop. Both subject and object may be clauses rather than single nouns. There is no ideal length for a sentence but, since readability correlates with sentence length, a good rule is the shorter the better, on average between 20 and 35 words between full stops. Another good rule is one thought or idea per sentence.

Hopefully, your review of the literature will have given you a few conclusions (e.g. the whole field is a load of incoherent garbage, Smith knows/doesn't know what she's talking about, Alpha's theory is better than Smith's but not as useful as Beta's, etc., etc.)

Try and write sentences in the active voice (i.e. Jill kicked the ball rather than the ball was kicked by Jill). It makes essays easier to read, prevents confusion when the sentences are over-long, and is generally less pretentious.

It's usually best, I find, to structure your essay towards the conclusions you have drawn on the basis of your reading and then use these to address the given title. If you think that Smith is profoundly wrong, then your argument should be structured to establish this opinion. You can do this in a number of ways. Some people do it best on paper, others (myself included) prefer to do it in their heads. The point is you should be able to draw on material or ideas that support your contentions and undermine the opposition. If you can't, then it's no good concluding that Smith is wrong just because you don't like her worldview.

Use paragraphs If a sentence is the grammatical expression of a thought or idea, then a paragraph may be thought of as a collection of related thoughts or ideas on the same topic. Alternatively, it can be the formulation of a single idea or topic out of sentences which are logically linked together. Don't try to jam unconnected ideas into a single paragraph. If you change the subject start a new one. A paragraph may consist of only one sentence.

OK, so you've drawn your conclusions, you've listed the evidence for and against, and you have some idea how



you're going reach your conclusions via the evidence, where to now?

In the course of this essay I shall argue that in its evolutionary context, human aggression served a functional but limited role in survival. I shall argue that peaceable co-operation was equally if not more important in this respect. Furthermore, I shall argue that the harnessing of the human capacity for aggressive behaviour to particular ideological or economic ends, such as Capitalism or militarism, has harmful consequences for long-term survival.

The Introduction This is often the hardest part. Some people prefer to leave it until the end. To assist the reader, it should contain some or all of the following elements: a)

It should convey that you understand what the question means


It should give some indication about how you intend to address the question (you may even wish to state what your argument is going to be briefly)


They mean approximately the same thing but the latter has a tone (if not a content) that no reasonable person could find fault with.

A little bit of historical context doesn't go amiss

The bit in the middle This section should contain the meat of the essay. It is here where the more detailed arguments are put together, where you assess the pros and cons of the various bits of evidence.

A good, snappy, introductory paragraph can often make a positive impression on the reader that lasts to the final full stop. For our hypothetical essay title, the kind of thing I mean is something like this: It has been commonly said that throughout their history, human beings have been naturally aggressive and that this is part of their evolutionary heritage, enabling them to survive as other, less aggressive species, have become extinct. In the essay that follows, I intend to challenge this view and argue that human aggression is not 'natural' in any meaningful sense of the word. Rather, it will be my contention that the forms that human aggression takes are almost entirely socially conditioned and rather than conveying evolutionary benefits, are counter-adaptive for the continued survival of the species.

Remember, though, while you may have already formed your conclusions, scholarship requires that you make it appear that your conclusions derive logically from the argument. Don't make the middle bit so partisan, by excluding all contradictory evidence or argument, as to alienate the reader, who may not agree with you at all at the outset. Show that you understand the other side of the argument, but have critically compelling reasons for rejecting it. Play devil's advocate to your own viewpoint for a paragraph or two (You should have done this already in your reading). The point is that you demonstrate that you are a reasonable, intelligent, and well-informed person, who has not taken the decision to support one position or another lightly.

You would then go on to outline the topics you intend to address etc. and the order in which you intend to do it. But remember KEEP IT BRIEF! It's only an introduction after all. If you're going to state your conclusions here, don't be too bold about it. State them as contentions that you intend to demonstrate, not premises that can be taken for granted.

The Conclusion Well, what can I say? You should know what your conclusions are by now. If you don't, tough. What you have to do here is summarise and spell them out. It doesn't matter how equivocal they might be. Assess the success or failure of your main argument if you feel your reader needs reminding of it. State what you feel might be important areas for future research to establish the validity of your points. Again, there are no hard and fast rules. Having said that, however, your essay should convey some sense of termination or closure. DON'T LET IT JUST PETER OUT. Show the reader that you know when it's time to stop and that you have control and haven't just run out of ideas/words/breath or got writer's cramp.

DON'T SAY I think human beings are basically warm and cuddly animals who have been brutalised and corrupted with the taint of aggression by nasty oppressive systems like Capitalism and the industrial-military complex. This will kill us all in the not too distant future if we don't do something about it at once.

A good way of doing this is to use a relevant quotation that illustrates the general tone of your conclusions, however equivocal they might be. So having summarised your position, stated the conclusions a good way to end


might be something like this:

In the plural

It would appear therefore that much of the evidence supporting the relationship between foot size and aggression is flawed and unreliable in many respects. It does not support the conclusions which its proponents have drawn from it. Perhaps the last word on the matter should go to Smith (1955a, p.55), whose work underlies the present writer's position:

Murphys' houses (i.e. a number of houses belonging to or built by a number of people called Murphy ) Abbreviation It's (short for 'it is')

Foot size might be a useful indicator for some purposes, such as the fitting of shoes and socks, but as a measure of human aggressive potential it has all the utility of a chocolate teapot.

But remember 'its' means 'belonging to it' Never Plagiarise Plagiarism broadly speaking is the presentation of other people's work or ideas as your own. It is the worst offence a scholar can commit.

Content: Some golden rules to be ignored at your peril Don't use rhetorical questions It's really irritating, particularly if your reader does not share your passion for the argument or your sense of justice.

It's totally stupid and insults the intelligence of the reader. It's easily found out and the consequences are rarely pleasant. At best you may be required to re-write the essay, at worst it can affect your grades and degree class.

A rhetorical question is one in which the writer presumes that the reader shares his or her moral or ideological perspective and usually takes the following form: Surely , a theory which ignores the biological basis of behaviour cannot be a good theory?

If you're going to quote, do so. Nobody will think you're stupid for doing so or incapable of original thought. Always acknowledge sources properly, even if they're paraphrased to the point of unrecognisability.

NEVER LEAVE AN ASSERTION UNSUPPORTED BY FACTS, ARGUMENT, OR EVIDENCE It may be as plain as day to you that people with big feet are more aggressive than those with small ones. It doesn't follow that your reader shares this belief. In my experience, the unsupported assertion is prima facie evidence of poor scholarship, laziness, or ignorance. If you have to assert something, make sure you can back it up with something.

Always include a full and complete reference section Students often forget that the reference section is part of the essay. A full and complete bibliography is an essential part of good scholarship and will circumvent the suspicion of plagiarism. It helps the reader to get a hold on where you're coming from and to assess the validity of your contentions and check on your understanding of the material. Furthermore, it will help you when you come to revise if you know where you read something.

DON'T THINK IT INDICATES INTELLIGENCE TO SUBSTITUTE COLONS AND SEMICOLONS FOR COMMAS AND FULL STOPS It doesn't, unless you know how and when to use them properly. Most people don't.

Your reference section should include every work you have cited or drawn upon in the writing of your essay including books, articles, videos, and websites. The way in which you use citations and complete a bibliography of references is dealt with below

Beware the aberrant apostrophe Apostrophes are used to indicate either abbreviation or possession. For some reason people get awfully confused about what are quite simple (if inconsistent) rules for their use.

Citations, Quotations and References a) Citation Different academic disciplines have different rules about citations and references. The preferred style on the Applied Social Studies degree is based on the American Psychological Association/Harvard format and a copy of their style guide is available in the library

Never use an apostrophe to pluralise words. Here are examples of correct usage Possession: In the singular: Murphy's law (i.e. the law which Murphy developed)


When should I cite?

On the rare occasion when two authors with the same surname have produced a piece in the same year, follow their surname by their initial:

Each time you refer to a specific work or idea from a secondary source (i.e. not your own research) you should cite it in the text of your essay using the Harvard Name (Date) format.

Smith, J (1956), Smith, P (1956) For citation name(s) and date(s) are sufficient. Do not include the title of the book or article in your text.

The flowchart below give you a rough indication of when you should cite a source. On the whole it’s better to err on the side of caution to avoid a charge of plagiarism.

When you cite a website use the site author's name or the website name if no author 's name is available followed by the year of the last update of the site. e.g. Proquest (1999) The full website URL should be given in the references section (See below) In the situation where you haven't read the original article but have come across it in a secondary source such as an introductory text book, then the procedure is to follow is cite both the primary and secondary source as follows: Durkheim (1894, cited in Haralambos, 1982) argued that we should treat social facts as things. Only the secondary source (i.e. Haralambos, 1982) would be listed in your references section b) Quotation Quotations should be used to express, economically, a key idea or attitude. To avoid the charge of plagiarism, always indicate clearly that you are quoting some author and the source and page of the quotation.

How should I cite? For one author the form is as follows: or

Smith (1986) argues that.......

Quotations of a sentence or less can be incorporated in the body of the text in inverted commas followed or preceded by the appropriate reference and page number e.g.:

It has been shown (Smith, 1986) that.....

For two authors both names should be given e.g. : Smith and Jones (1955)

Smith (1955a, p.23) has argued against this. He notes that "people with big feet are not more aggressive."

For three or more authors, give all names the first time they're cited and use the senior authors name followed by 'et al' thereafter e.g.:

Longer quotations should be separated from the body of the text and indented:

Smith, Brown, Jones and Carbon (1967) (FIRST TIME)

The argument about foot size and aggression has a very long history. As Smith (1955a, p.21) observes in his review of the literature:

Smith et al (1967) (SUBSEQUENT TIMES) Where more than one citation is used in support of a particular argument, list them either alphabetically or chronologically separated by semi-colons e.g. :

Since pre-Socratic times a debate has raged about the relationship between size of feet and aggression in human beings. It continued throughout the Middle Ages, the Enlightenment, and into the present day. Even now controversy still rages and much evidence has been accumulated for and against the hypothesis.

Smith's (1955) theory has been heavily criticised (Alpha, 1958; Beta, 1960; Gamma, 1965). Where the same author has produced more than one piece of work in the same year, identify different references by alphabetical suffixes attached to the date, using the title of the reference to determine ordering:

You should not amend or correct quotations. If they contain spelling errors or sexist language, follow that by '(sic)':

Smith (1955a), Smith (1955b)


"Man (sic) has always been aggressive" (Smith, 1955a, p.34)

Newspaper Articles Author name (date) Title/Headline Newspaper date page

Provided you are not misquoting or distorting the original author's intentions, it is permissible to edit irrelevant sentences or clauses from longer quotations by the use of dots (...). You may also clarify the concept the quotation is being used with your own brackets and initials in the body of the quotation:

e.g. Kemp M (2000) Safer roads would lower insurance Irish Times August 30th 14

This argument [about human aggression -LG] has a very long history...Today the situation is no nearer resolution than it was a century ago. Smith (1955a, p.21)

Websites Author/publisher (if known) (Date of version cited) Website URL Date accessed

The dots replace the quotation given above.


However, while appropriate quotation is a good indicator of the reading you have done and may indicate comprehension, it should not be substituted for your own thinking and writing. Use quotations sparingly and only when you are unable to clarify ideas in your own words.

American Conference for Irish Studies (2000) Accessed 14/11/2007 Keeping track of your references Compiling a complete reference section after you've finished writing your essay might seem to be an additional and boring burden. As I stated above, however, adequate referencing is part of the essay process and indicates good scholarly practice.

c) Referencing At the end of your essay you should include a complete and alphabetical list of every source you have cited in your essay . As I said before this is not an option but an essential part of the essay.

It can often be the case however that you've jotted down some notes on the back of a fag packet or beermat and forgotten where an idea or item of information came from. This is where the index cards I mentioned earlier come in.

The APA form which we use in Applied Social Studies gives the following formats for different types of cited materials. Books Author's name (Date) Title Place of publication: Publisher

Complete a card for every article or book you use in researching an essay and as you write your essay up take out the card relating to each source you've cited and place them in an alphabetically ordered pile.

e.g. Pettit L (2000) Screening Ireland Manchester: Manchester University Press

Then when you come to compile your reference section all you need to do is copy them from the sorted cards into your essay. Easy or what?

Articles or Chapters from edited collections Author's name (Date) Chapter title In Editor's Name Book Title Place of publication: Publisher e.g.

Good luck!

Greenslade L (1992) White skins white masks In P O'Sullivan The Irish in the new communities Leicester: Leicester University Press

Further Reading

Journal Articles

Redman P (2001) Good Essay Writing Milton Keynes: The Open University Press

Harris, R 2001, The plagiarism handbook, Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing.

Author's Name(s) (Date) article title Journ Volume No Pages e.g. Greenslade L Pearson M Madden M (1994) A good man's fault: alcohol and the Irish at home and abroad Int J Alcohol Studies 21 23-40


Essay Writing Made Easy  

Short introduction to the key skills involved in producing a University standard essay. Includes information on planning, structure, citatio...

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