Help to write a research paper
This lean harvest of findings reinforces rather than removes the impression of neglect. How students experience essay-writing, what the demands posed by essay-writing tasks might be, and what significant variations might exist between one discipline and another — all these are unexamined questions. As a learning activity, essay- writing remains virtually uncharted territory. The students took part in two sets of semi -structured interviews, each focusing upon a recent essay prepared for a specific course module. The students were invited to describe both the content of the essay and how they went about preparing it, to draw comparisons and contrasts with other essays written for the course unit concerned, and to discuss various aspects of the activity of essay-writing and the course setting within which it took place. The students were invited to bring to the interviews copies of their essays and other associated notes and materials.
For reasons of space, the discussion 1 which follows deals in the main with the findings for the History students. Essay-Writing in a History Course The History students are prolific essay- writers, spending on average almost two-thirds of their working time writing essays. Overall essay workloads vary as a function of different combinations of the five course modules taken by second year students, but some of the students say that they have to write a total of between 18 and 20 essays over the year as a whole. Within the particular course module investigated, students submit three essays of 2,000-2,500 words in the first two terms and an extended essay of 3,000-3,500 words in the final term. The average time spent on a History essay is 13-15 hours, but individual estimates range from eight hours in the case of one student to nearly 30 hours for another. Students normally have four weeks in which to prepare the essay, help to write a research paper and the tutor for the course module usually recommends books to help to write a research paper be consulted. The first three essays are linked to fortnightly seminars, where students submitting an essay summarize its contents and respond to questions. Teaching during the term consists of four lectures, each of which introduces and comments upon one of the four topics assigned and relevant source documents. The context in which essay-writing takes place is outwardly excep- tionally well-organized. Most of the students not only comment on what they see as a heavy essay workload but feel this has unfortunate consequences for how their time is allocated. In addition to this source of tension between learning and the requirements of studying and assessment, there is a further contextual feature which is striking. Essay-writing seems therefore an essentially private activity. There is evidently little or no discussion of the problems or processes it entails. Conceptions of Essay- Writing In analysing the interviews, the unit of analysis initially adopted was that of the individual essay task. The aim was to look for evidence of differences in how students went about essays which might parallel the well-established distinction between deep and surface approaches to academic reading (see Chapter 3). As the analysis proceeded, however, it became apparent that essay-writing, as an activity, had distinctive meanings for the students which extended beyond the particularities of any one essay assignment and which lent a broadly consistent character to their essay-writing. In the case of the History students, three qualitatively distinct conceptions were identified, and these can be summed up as argument, viewpoint and arrangement.
At the core of each conception is a global or overall definition of an essay, and it is this definition which gives the conception its distinctive character. Will: Whereas in an essay you really have to think about something, and then. Will: Well, you have to follow a coherent argument, basically. Each of these students seems to share a common definition of an essay, seen as an ordered presentation of an argument well-supported by evidence. And if we penetrate beyond this global characterization, three sub-components of the definition can be disentangled. And I got as good a mark for that, or as good comments, as I would for any History essay. And yet for me it was just reading a text and putting my own opinion forward. An argument therefore pivots upon a distinctive position or point of view on a problem or issue. Within this global definition, the interpretive sub-component is superordinate, subsuming the other two sub-components. This sub-component therefore reflects a concern with an essay as an integrated whole, in which the point of view to be presented informs the structural conventions of introduction, main text and conclusion. The second of the two subordinate sub-components of the definition is concerned with data in the form of evidence substantiating or refuting a particular position or point of view. For an argument to be authentic, it must be demonstrated and buttressed by supporting evidence:...
This global definition, therefore, can be seen as comprising three sub-components, representing specific stances towards three elements of essay- writing: Data The subject-matter which provides the raw material or bedrock of essays. Organization The structuring of essay material into a discussion of the topic which follows a particular sequence or order. 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 help to write a research paper 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.