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Open university essay help

Essay writing can be less daunting if tackled in 5 stages.

2. Read and select relevant material

Include concepts, theories, arguments, useful examples and evidence from all course materials.

Note references for any quotes, evidence etc.

3. Plan your answer

Organise the selected material into a logical order.

4. Write-up a draft essay

Check relevance, structure and clarity (sentence structure, paragraphs, logical order, ‘signposting’), spelling, punctuation, references, word limit.

5. Checking with ‘checklist’ for:

Does it identify the main subject of the essay?

Does it set out how the essay will answer the question?

Does the main body follow on from the introduction?

Are the paragraphs linked?

Does the essay flow?

Is the essay argument clear?

Is the essay argument ‘signposted’?

Are there useful examples included?

Is there sufficient evidence?

Do points made relate back to the question to bring out relevance?

Are the main points of the essay summarised?

Does the conclusion reflect back to the question?

Sample TMA Question:

‘Outline the argument that consumer society in the UK is a divided society’ (in 1250 words)

What are the process and content words?

Some sample Introductions

What is strong and weak in these introductions? NB: Both have strong and weak features!

a) In this essay I will attempt to outline the argument that consumer society in the UK is a divided society. I think that shopping does reflect divisions because some people can afford to buy more than others. I will show this by looking at the course materials.

b) What is consumer society? The term ‘consumers’ refers to individuals or households that use goods and services generated within the economy. Consumer society is a term coined by social scientists to describe a society that defines people according to their patterns of consumption. This can be contrasted with the idea of a class-based society or the knowledge society. Consumerism, it could be argued, is a defining feature of the contemporary UK. Shopping has become a leisure activity for people all over the country and as a Sunday trading laws are relaxed it is a popular weekend pursuit. But what does this really mean? According to Hetherington, ‘Consuming has never been simply a matter of necessity to meet basic bodily needs. It raises a whole range of important questions that social scientists might want to find some answers for. Some would argue that consuming has become all about individual identity and self expression……….’ (Hetherington, 2009, Section 1.1). This essay analyses these issues and examines evidence to support the claim that consumerism divides the UK.

Some sample conclusions:

What is strong and weak with these conclusions? NB: Both have strong and weak features!

a) Having looked at the argument that consumer society in the UK is a divided society, it is obvious that this statement is true. Some shoppers can afford to buy more than others. But is this the only thing that divides society?

b) Consumerism is argued to be a defining feature of the UK. Consuming raises important questions and claims are made that consumption shapes identity. People who have money can be what they want to be. Those that can’t consume are excluded. There is evidence to support this. Power also enters the equation. ‘Power matters to just about everything we do, and in particular, whether we are able to do it or not’ (Hetherington, 2009, p.94).

Academic writing

An essay is a piece of writing where you aim to discuss the given topic from different perspectives, presenting a critical view and using versatile scientific argumentation, leaning also on the required and relevant reference material. Hence, you are able to convince the reader of what and how you have learnt of the topic. Most course assignments are essays.

An essay is less restricted than a scientific article both in style and structure. However, the text should proceed in a systematic manner, placing emphasis on different entities. An essay is outlined in sections that are headed. The following division is the most common way to structure an essay:

  1. Introduction, which introduces the subject or the problem, briefly puts the subject in context, demonstrates the viewpoint, and defines the boundaries of the discussion
  2. Discussion, the structure of which depends on the chosen viewpoint (e.g. comparative structure, thesis statement and argumentation, moving from broad scale phenomena to narrow, or from theory to practice)
  3. Conclusion, in which you can draw together the central concepts of the text, further develop their thoughts, deliberate on the (practical) implications of the results, etc. A conclusion also gives you the opportunity to reflect on what they learned during the writing process.

Be aware that essays should have a clear and coherent structure. They should be written in proper academic language, the references should be marked in the text and on the last page there should be a list of references. If no other course specific instruction is given, you can follow the APA guidelines for citing in the text and making the list of references.

When writing an essay, you should consider the three general categories:

  • Do you answer the assignment given?
  • Do you understand the reading materials?
  • Do your explanations of concepts, ideas and examples demonstrate an ability to gather the main points, paraphrase them and apply them?
  • Do you have original interpretations?
  • Does your writing demonstrate an understanding of the subject, or does it wander from one subject to the next offering only superficial remarks?
  • Can the reader easily see what your main point is?
  • Does the essay provide a series of points that add up to an argumentation supporting the main point?
  • Does the essay continue logically from point to point?
  • Do you give examples and explanations to support your generalizations?
  • Does the essay contain contradictions?

Structure and style

  • Is the paragraph structure logical?
  • Is your point of view clear?
  • Do the citations and the bibliography follow the scientific standards?

Layout of an essay

  • On the top of the cover page of you essay you should mark:
    • name of the author
    • title of the essay
    • name and code of the course
    • date
    • The second page includes Table of content
    • Your essay should begin on the 3 rd page
    • Use font size 12 and spacing 1,5.
    • On the last page there should be a List of References including all the references you have used (books, articles, statistics, on-line material etc., also unpublished material should be listed).

    Teachers may have different instructions for some assignments. Please follow the instructions given by the teacher.

    Essay and report writing skills

    Writing reports and assignments can be a daunting prospect. Learn how to interpret questions and how to plan, structure and write your assignment or report. This free course, Essay and report writing skills, is designed to help you develop the skills you need to write effectively for academic purposes.

    Course learning outcomes

    After studying this course, you should be able to:

    • understand what writing an assignment involves
    • identify strengths and weaknesses
    • understand the functions of essays and reports
    • demonstrate writing skills.

    First Published: 10/08/2012

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