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Interpretation The meaning or meanings given to essay material by the student. They are crucial to an understanding of any given global definition of an essay in two ways. Firstly, the particular stance adopted towards each core element forms a sub-component of the global definition. And secondly, the character of the definition is also determined by the interrelationship of these sub-components. In the global definition we have just examined, organization and data are hierarchically related to interpretation, since decisions on how the essay is to be organized and what evidence is to be marshalled are dependent on the distinctive point of view to be adopted, but this is not always the case, as we shall see. LEARNING AND ESSAY-WRITING The essay as viewpoint At first glance the conceptions of argument and viewpoint might seem to entail the same definition of an essay: Alan: There must be a technique to writing the perfect essay. Indeed, both definitions share a concern to present a distinctive point of view and a concern with essays as integral wholes.
What sets them apart, however, is the sub-component of data. In the case of two of the five students associated with this conception, the role of data in essays is not explicitly considered. References to data are very sparse and take the most indirect of forms.
For the remaining three students, there are some indications that the function of data as evidence has been acknowledged, but the general impression is one of a lack of concern with this sub-component. In this conception, therefore, the global definition reflects only the alliance of interpretation to organization: an essay is seen as the ordered presentation of a distinctive viewpoint on a problem or issue. The essay as arrangement Within the conception arrangement, an essay is defined as an ordered presentation embracing facts and ideas. This definition is largely tacit rather than made explicit by the students concerned. In the stance taken towards interpretation, ideas are viewed disjunc- tively, as collections of essentially discrete thoughts. The references to organisation are characteristically flat, expressing a commitment to essay structure which is apparently devoid of any consid- eration of what organizing principles might be appropriate: Pattie: I usually start off with a quote, and then finish with a quote. And where there is a concern with data, the standpoint is at base a quantitative one, displaying a conscientious coverage of sources rather than a regard for evidence supporting a point of view: Interviewer: What do you see as your strengths as an essay-writer? I think, the um, the presentation: I tend to put quite buy coursework online a few quotes in, and put them down as references. It just seems like a lot of facts more than anything else. Finally, what also typifies this global definition is the lack of integration between the three sub-components. In the first two contrasting concep- tions, it is the articulation of a distinctive point of view or position which gives an essay its fundamental meaning: the sub-components of organization (in the viewpoint conception) or of organization and data (in the argument conception) are the vehicles upon which this interpretive stance is conveyed. A decisive characteristic of essay- writing as LEARNING AND ESSAY- WRITING 113 arrangement , however, is that the three sub-components are not hierarchically related.
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Indeed, interpretation, in the form of yvhatever ideas and thoughts one has, assumes an almost incidental status relative to the other two sub-components of organization and data. Essay-Writing Procedures Thus far we have looked at differences in conception buy coursework online in relation to how History essays are defined by the students. We look firstly at essay preparation — the initial stages of reading, taking notes, and clarifying what will be said in the essay. Chris: Well, really things that are relevant to the question in hand. Whether the facts that he gives, you know, whether I agree with his argument or not, I think that the main thing in an historical essay anyway is that you make a case and back it up with actual facts of what happened, and evidence. Sometimes I just go through a book very quickly and just jot down fact after fact after fact, and, you know, events, what people said, or sometimes I write out quotes, from the time. And then I have a good body of things that actually happened that I can then. Preparing an essay therefore entails being attentive both to arguments and to evidence, and the essay emerges out of the interplay between these. In a conception of essays as viewpoints, however, the element of data is much less in focus, and there may indications that reading is directed by a preconceived view of the line the essay will take: Martin: Well, I must admit, I had a set idea on the question. And so I went in with that attitude, I got the books, um, again, the same process of going through them, doing the reading, taking notes, analysing, condensing the notes down and then writing the essay out. Where essays are seen as arrangements on the other hand, the procedures described seem uninformed by an interpretive focus. Then used the indexes of books, looked it up, and then I dealt with each in turn, collecting material from the different books. Donna: I read through my notes and try to split it up into sections, so that I can get an essay plan. Where by contrast the conception is of essays as arguments or viewpoints, questions of organization and interpretation are seen as interrelated.. Then I went on to discuss the argument for Tudor despotism, and then try and take, uh, the elements of those who argued for, and argued against them. These accounts could not be analysed in their entirety because of the large number of essay topics tackled and the almost limitless range of library sources upon buy coursework online the students could draw, but it was feasible to adopt the stratagem of focusing upon essay , 116 THE EXPERIENCE OF LEARNING conclusions as the key criterion. This analysis showed that, generally speaking, when asked about their conclusions, in the argument concep- tion the students stated wfyat their conclusion to an essay was, while in the viewpoint conception the conclusion was stated or students said they had arrived at a conclusion but did not specify what this was. The overriding aim was to look at the extent to which the essays mirrored conceptions, regardless — it should be stressed — of the historical plausibility of the content or its accuracy.
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