As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.
Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.
“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”
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The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.
“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”
But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.
“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?
“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”
Critique your own arguments
Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.
“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”
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Fine, use Wikipedia then
The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.
“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”
Focus your reading
Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.
Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.
You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.
“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”
There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.
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Look beyond the reading list
“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”
And finally, the introduction
The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.
“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”
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What is a coursework and why to write a coursework
A coursework is a written or practical work done by student in form of thesis, dissertation, project or paper as a part of course. This is often an essential requirement for being awarded a degree and counts towards successful completion of the course. A coursework is assessed by class instructors or by other teachers in the school. Many students cannot clearly define what is a coursework. In a nutshell, at the “A” and GSCE level, a coursework is written in the form of projects or essays. There are few guidelines and good practices which should be followed while writing a coursework. Perfect examples of a coursework include extended essay, field studies, practical activities, design studies and internal assessment test set. Conversely, each coursework have differing objectives from one course unit to another. In addition, a coursework may incorporate work for which the experiments, topics, themes or parameters of a project or essay have been designed by the teacher, or specified in the syllabus, or selected by the students themselves. Therefore, a coursework is presented in a form of a research assignment meant to reflect the understanding of topics and concepts by the student. Students can handle their coursework either at school under the controlled conditions in class sessions, and/or as homework.
Coursework writing varies from one subject to another as the need differs for each subject. For example, an English coursework differs from a geography coursework. Whereas the former requires the student to present coursework in an essay format where a student has to select a title of their choice. Whereas the latter highly focuses on collecting, and examining, inferring and reporting data, answering a certain geographical question. For example, in English coursework, a student is often assigned to choice of themes or text excerpt to write on a format of their choice. One can either employ a comparison approach or the cause-effect method. Conversely, coursework in subjects, such as geography coursework, requires scholars to conduct investigations. For example, students can explore on the desert features, river formation or usage of social facilities such as halls, schools and hospital and report the findings. For online help with coursework writing students may visit sites like essaybasics or essayzoo.
Some rules & guidelines for writing a coursework
So how to start a coursework? Just like any other academic piece, there are some rules and guidelines that determine what makes a coursework good and exceptional. It is significant for scholars to consider all the following points for writing a coursework to score good grade and avoid having their paper disqualified:
- Students are not allowed to seek help from the instructors or from fellow students unless it is a group coursework or instructed. Though, an instructor is only permitted to deliver directions on how to handle a coursework paper as well as pointing out specific areas that are critically checked by examiners.
- Students should avoid plagiarism. It is a rule that is considered as a serious academic offense if committed. Under this rule, a student is expected to submit an original work written and not copied from other source. This is checked by using various softwares that checks for plagiarism. Therefore, students should make sure there work is their own words by signing a declaration asserting that it is your own piece of work. Buying coursework is also an offense if it is discovered.
- Also, a student has to confirm the word count on their paper to ensure it has the instructed word limits without the consideration of the appendices, references and footnotes.
- Students have to be keen and careful when they are selecting the topics to avoid writing on a wrong topic that is not covered in the coursework. A topic already covered should also be checked or discussed with concerned faculty before writing.
All these rules are constantly restated in coursework prompts and rubrics to ensure one does not derail and violate them when they are figuring out on how to start a coursework.
Deciding good topic for a coursework
The capability to choose a good topic to write on is a vital skill in coursework writing. All the work and efforts will revolve around the chosen topic. If given the liberty to choose, then the topic should be something you would love to write about.
- Sometimes instructors can assign you to handle a specific topic, but often, as a writer, you are required to develop or select a topic that interests you is the one you may enjoy writing about. For example, you may decide to settle on a topic from either an area you understood well in the syllabus or from an area in the course that you enjoyed.
- However, before deciding on your topic, you need to examine whether you can control, measure and change the topic by conducting a fair taste. It is advisable not to select topics that appear ambiguous or which have a wider scope as it might affect the developing of a precise thesis statement, as they make it difficult to reach the word limit as well as failing to satisfy the topic. Also, students are allowed to seek guidance and assistance on choosing suitable topic to write in a situation where you are not sure on what to write about. For example, you can check previous assignments done by other students to get idea about their approaches on particular topics.
Steps for writing a coursework
- Planning- First and foremost step is to give a thought about before writing. Deciding the objectives, scope, limitations of your work.
- Before writing a coursework, a student has to plan based on duration and the materials needed and as instructed in coursework tips. Concerning the deadline, a student must not wait until the last-minute for the paper to start writing. Last minute rush in completing a paper can cause students to make common grammar mistakes that will affect their final grade.
- Deadlines are normally indicated in all the coursework assignments and a student has to understand when the deadlines are due for the final assignments as well as time for submitting a first draft for comments from your teacher.
- Proper time planning will spare you plenty of time to make corrections based on teacher’s remarks, as well as creating time for final editing and proofreading.
- To achieve this, you have to set up your own deadlines that are far or within the actual deadline to ensure you complete your coursework writing in time.
- Research – Many coursework writing help insists on conducting research and gathering of background data on the topic selected. Since coursework is a pure research primarily, conducting thorough research on the topics to avoid mere skimping and that could lead to a shoddy work.
- Research is about collecting significant and supporting literature from both primary and secondary sources. You will be required to collect data and know methods of data collection as a part of this step. Conducting surveys and preparing good questionnaires will be a much needed skill in many cases.
- Some coursework subjects such as sciences and geography are written based on the premises or hypotheses that are stressed as an essay’s thesis statement to offer a ground for researching. Since subjects should be backed by reliable experimental data that was obtained through rigorous scientific approaches and rational model.
- Structure Planning
- The actual writing of your paper commences after gathering sufficient data that will do justice to the topic.
- Student has to write down the paper structure before writing. Though, the outline provided in the essay instructions where students are expected to follow.
- A standard essay format comprises of an introduction, body and conclusion. In particular, structure planning in important for big projects, because there is a likelihood of having disorganized and waffling writing since it entails a lot of information to convey that needs to be arranged. This has a significant impact on your data analysis and presentation.
- Writing – Writing is a sensitive part as aspects such as grammar, choice of words, punctuation and word limit are checked during the marking.
- Consequently, one has to perfect their writing abilities to produce a high quality paper that bases around the standard essay format. For complex projects in science, you need to be more analytical and interpretive to get the accurate inferences of the data collected in your writing.
- In addition, you look for a quiet and conducive environment that is free from unnecessary distractions to earn the greatest concentration required for thinking and writing. Switching off TV and logging out from all social media accounts help in reducing external distractions.
Supporting Materials – deal breaker for writing a coursework
Supporting materials are defined as the evidencing materials that are included in the writing to reinforce the theories explained. For example table, graphs, charts and images are mostly applicable and relevant in subjects such as geography and sciences. Supporting materials are written in the appendix part of a paper to avoid cluttering of information in the main part of the paper. For instance, the coursework focus is survey oriented, you could put the raw survey responses, survey templates, questionnaires, in an appendix and present the analysis and discussions in the main body of the coursework.
Finalizing Your Coursework
The steps on how to finish a coursework is easy as it necessitates one to edit their papers prior to the submission. Prior to the submission, students would have time to proffered and confirm features such as word count, word choice, grammar errors, spellings as well as the punctuation mistakes. It is advisable to carry out a manual proofreading as the modern spell checking and grammar checking software can overlook some common mistakes. Importantly, a student is required to include in text citation according to the writing style used. A well written coursework is thought provoking, enjoyable for reader and enhances the reader’s knowledge.
Author Bio: Charmin Patel, a 21 years old guy who is blogger and digital marketer by choice and student of chemical engineer by chance. Computer and internet geek person who loves to do something new every day.