Wednesday, September 21, 2005

On Essays

As I said, here is where I go into a bit of detail on Essays. This is particularly for all those who weren't at the tutorials this week.

Firstly, here is where a very useful file can be found about essay structure at both the paragraph and overall-argument level: Click to Download

That document talks about thesis-statements, so I don't need to go into as much detail here. Essentially, at this level the questions are open enough that you can't just argue Yes or No about what they say. They need you to frame your own angle before you can properly approach them, although some questions are more open than others. The document discusses how.

Overall:

We are looking for argument and analysis. Ideally, the essay is a logical sequence of developing statements, all of which move the argument forward to a conclusion. Use textbooks as a guide, as they will follow that essential pattern and also reflect the paragraph-structure discussed in the structure notes.

You have the freedom in these questions to demonstrate your creativity, your comprehension of the concepts we have discussed in class, and your ideas. Using critical terms from the class as tools to assist your analysis is a very good sign. I am making my email address available so people can ask me questions or to send me thesis-statements and/or sample-paragraphs where you try to use critical terms. This means I can help outside of office hours, but obviously the earlier you talk to me, the more help I can be.

I am not looking at whole essays, but I will talk about your ideas.

Researching and Quotes:

Beware irrelevant detail. Essentially, research is not what you are being graded on. Research which forwards the argument is. You use research as evidence for your progression of statements.

If you have two quotes or critics who say essentially the same thing, you do not need both. It doesn't reinforce the argument more to have more than one statement which agree. Also, feel free to shorten quotes by replacing less relevant sections with a... before continuing the quote. You can also feel free to paraphrase, where you say, "[N] critic said -" and rather than quoting, boil down their statement in your own words. Don't be complicated. Of course, then you'd still want to reference.

The essay is a snapshot of the reading you've been doing on the topic. Going overboard is counterproductive and muddles your argument.

Referencing:

At this level, we don't mind what technique you use to reference, providing that you do reference. Use whatever you're comfortable with. However, here are things which any referencing technique will include:

For all sources,
- Page number.
- Author.
- Title of book/article/webpage. [If the quote is from an article which contains others from different authors, we need the title of both article and the book that it's in.]
- Year of publication [A good habit to get into, if you can find it.]

For websites,

- We Need The Entire Web Address of the Specific Page The Reference Is On.
[I cannot stress that enough, folks.]
- If you want to be formal, including the date the page was created if you can find it, and the date you found the article. [Not profoundly necessary, but more formal styles ask for it.]

For the record, yes you are allowed to reference websites and use them for research within the FTVMS department. I am aware that other departments ban the option, which in my opinion boils down to being lazy and/or luddites.

Yes, anyone can publish on the net. I judge you people intelligent enough to figure out relative merits. If an article contains a bibliography, that's a good sign. If it's formally written, that's similarly good. I will note that there are some genuinely whacky articles out there which follow both the former, but this is referencing. As discussed today, if your argument means that it's relevant you quote that someone believes something insane, nobody is going to believe that you mean this personally.

Okay. I think that's everything.

Any questions?

- Kevin.

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