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While the success of the specialist author comes from prompting readers to see some aspect of the world in a fresh way, the success of students may lie in the degree to which they can articulate and validate views of the world which are already familiar to the tutor. Secondly, specialist authors generally choose their own theme and write because they have something they want to communicate. For students, however, the initial stimulus comes from outside, not within. They are required to say something on a given theme whether or not they feel drawn to the topic and whether or not they feel they have something to say.
Indeed, essay assignments are what Shaughnessy (1977) calls stipulative: not only topic but mode of expression, depth of treatment, sources, length and preparation time may all be specified in advance. These contextual features determine the V: conditions of studying, but they do not necessarily create an ideal medium in which learning can flourish. LEARNING AND ESS A Y-WRITING 105 problem may come into conflict with the obligations of the task as assigned. Even in study skills manuals, where essays are normally a prime concern, there is a preoccupation with form rather than substance. Accomplishment in essay-writing is aften seen in terms online paper writers of style or bibliographic finesse or as a matter of systematic planning and organization.
Previous Research The neglect extends also to research (Hartley, 1980, p. Most studies of undergraduate essay-writing derive from an interest in the reliability of essay-grading rather than in student learning (see Rowntree, 1977 pp. The second is a questionnaire study of the essay-writing procedures of 80 Psychology students (Branthwaite et al. Other findings, however, are more specific to essay-writing. While originality and understanding were high amongst the criteria advanced by students, none of the seven tutors who also took part in the study mentioned originality and only one mentioned under- standing.
This online paonline paper writers per writers lean harvest of findings reinforces rather than removes the impression of neglect. How students experience essay-writing, what the demands posed by english paraphrasing 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 online paper writers 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 online paper writers 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, and the tutor for the course module usually recommends books to 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.