Oxford english essay book


Culture and Anarchy and Other Writings

Think of your conclusion as the climax of your speech, the bit everything else has been leading up to, rather than the boring plenary at the end of the interesting stuff. To return to Of Mice and Men once more, here is an example of the ideal difference between an introduction and a conclusion:. Although she suffers in many ways, she is shown to assert herself through the manipulation of her femininity — a small rebellion against the victimisation she experiences.

Hannah is an undergraduate English student at Somerville College, Oxford, and has a particular interest in postcolonial literature and the Gothic. How to Write the Perfect Essay Jan 29, Have a clear structure Think about this while you are planning. A close reading of your quotations can enrich your appreciation of the question and will be sure to impress examiners.

Go to Interesting Literature. Go to The Guardian.

Selected Prose

Go to Englishbiz. Hannah Patient Literature Editor Hannah is an undergraduate English student at Somerville College, Oxford, and has a particular interest in postcolonial literature and the Gothic. Related posts:. In some of the scenarios outlined above the skills required for essay writing should be slightly adapted but the basic skills and methods are in the main common to all forms of formal writing in which an argument or arguments need to be presented. The focus here is primarily on writing essays concerning literature.

You may have many great ideas and be a very intuitive and fine reader of literature, but no-one will ever know if you cannot express your ideas properly and your communicative skills are not developed. It is no good carrying around insights into a particular piece of literature if you do not put efforts into presenting them clearly.


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Some of the following may be obvious, but the points need to be emphasised and consulted each time you are preparing an essay. An essay should not be merely a list. Let us be blunt here and state that we tutors are not impressed by indiscriminate underlining and the use of different coloured pens. Sub-headings written in magenta, underlined in ochre, followed by a list of quotations in vermilion are pointless.

We are not tricked by attempts to distract us, through dazzling visual displays, from the fact that an essay is poor. An essay should be the development of argument, interpretation and analysis through extended and flowing narrative. To do this you need to work at the level of the sentence, of course, but also, very importantly, you need to work at the level of the paragraph.


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  7. The paragraph is a coherent passage of logically connected sentences usually concentrating on no more than one or two ideas relevant to your argument. Do not use very short and unconnected staccato sentences. It takes experience and practice to develop a sense of when a new paragraph is needed and when it has been finished. Examine the introduction to this booklet and this guide to get some sense of how paragraphs, or ' idea units ' as they have also been called, can be developed and constructed, and how their 'natural' beginnings and ends appear.

    The first sentence of the paragraph should generally be a 'strong' one, used to signal or indicate the idea to be discussed within the paragraph. Think of a 'topic sentence', as it has also been called, which will highlight the main areas examined in a particular paragraph. Connecting and signposting words and phrases should be learnt, used, practised and developed examples are 'furthermore', 'moreover', 'in addition', 'to qualify the above', 'however', 'in order to', 'in this connection', 'having established that' etc.

    The argument should develop through the language you use and therefore in a short essay sub-headings are unnecessary. Several stages are involved in essay preparation, choosing which points are to be considered, deciding how you will deal with them, and the actual writing. As you gain more experience you will find methods and ways of working which suit you, your personality and lifestyle.

    Generally, however, the process will involve the following. You should examine carefully the statements made in the essay question , making sure you understand each word and what is being asked, as misreading and misunderstanding at this stage can be fatal. Essay questions can be very general, very specific and sometimes deliberately provocative, and an understanding of them is essential.

    Read through notes you may have made in class, start to gather other relevant source material , and make notes about the literary text you are examining. Ask yourself questions concerning style, content, and imagery etc. Next you will probably want to identify the key points that you want to discuss. There may be many points you find generally interesting, but ask yourself if they are relevant to the essay in question.

    To do this it can be useful to try to think of a title for your essay. This is not to be confused with the essay question or title, but is concerned with your response to the task set. What title would best give the reader an overview of your approach and analysis, and highlight the main points you examine and the conclusions you reach?

    Suggestions concerning conclusions will be given later. You should not assume that an essay has to include and cover all the possible points an interpretation may offer up. A short, well organised and structured essay focusing on some of the main points is far better than an over-long and unwieldy attempt to say a little about everything. You may find it useful to state in the introduction which points you are focusing on and why.

    Keep your reader informed of the development of your argument. Let her or him know which direction is being taken and the reasons why. Once the main points have been identified you need to consider in which order they will be examined. Students often do not make the most of the good ideas they have because they get lost if the argument does not develop coherently. Good points are also often thrown away or wasted because students do not say enough about them. Make sure the relevance of each point to the main argument is clearly stated and demonstrated. You should dwell and linger on the points: often this requires no more than two or three extra sentences, particularly if your writing is concise and focused.

    A good essay takes time to prepare and write, so start to think about it and do the groundwork well ahead of the essay deadline even in timed conditions, such as exams, it is important to take the time to organise and structure the essay before starting to write. You will probably find that you need to work out your ideas on paper before writing the essay, and are encouraged to prepare an outline of the essay: a point by point series of key words, phrases and ideas.

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    This will help you to organise the structure and to recognise what is relevant and irrelevant to the essay as a whole. Some people find that a plan or outline will consist of eight to ten words only. Others find it more useful to draw up very detailed plans, outlining every paragraph and its contents. Again you will discover which method works for you as you go along.

    Tips For Writing Essays | Lexico

    Some students find it easier to think and plan the essay point by point before beginning to write, whilst others find that after some initial preparation, reading, organisation and thinking they can only develop their ideas through writing. Both these approaches take time, if the essays are to be done well. It should be stressed here that the first plan does not have to be binding and may change as the work begins and develops.

    The main point here is that essays involve a certain amount of planning and preparation even before the actual writing begins. Having emphasised that essays are hard work and take time it should also be stressed that it can be very stimulating and rewarding to work through a number of ideas in depth and detail.

    Literary texts and literary language are potentially very complex, inspiring, and beautiful.


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    The ideas and images often demand careful thought and attention. Computers are essential in terms of using the time you spend on an essay efficiently and productively.

    How to Write the Perfect Essay

    As stated earlier, good essay writing demands time spent on every stage of the process: reading and research, making an outline, ordering and structuring your ideas, writing and changing various drafts, and final editing and presentation. With this in mind it cannot be stressed enough how important it is for you to learn word-processing skills and to make sure you have access to a computer. Use the university resources. Admittedly the space available is limited at times but this is no excuse not to learn the skills, if you do not already possess them, and to find out where there are available computer terminals.

    Of course if you use university resources it is even more important to start your essay early in order to avoid the last minute rush as most students, not only from this department, search for terminals in a panic on the Friday before a Monday deadline.

    It is appreciated that students are very busy and do have a lot of work, but it is a mistake to claim, as some students have been heard, that they are too busy to learn word-processing skills. Ultimately word-processing will save you a lot of time. It is far easier to add and delete material, and to restructure and reorganise essays by moving material around, on a computer than if you are writing by hand.

    Software has become really user-friendly; 'Word', for instance, will tell you what to do in explicit English or French, and typing skills can be learned whilst typing. Your essay will be the representation of an argument on a given subject or subjects.

    It will include only points which are relevant to the subject, so be careful to get rid of material that is not directly relevant. Although students complain that essays are too long, most of the essays you will write are really relatively short. Part of the skill of writing is to write concisely and economically , without wasting material or 'padding' the work with irrelevant diversions and repetition.

    Once the points have been chosen they should be presented logically and coherently , so do not leap about from point to point. Each point generally will have some connection to the preceding one and the one to follow.

    Homework for me

    If you do leave one area of the essay to move into another, but intend later to go back to the point you have left and show, for example, how the points may be connected or related, then it can be useful to say so by 'signposting', e. After each draft of the essay check that each point is presented in a logical and coherent order.

    Read each draft carefully and critically. Is there a significant idea you have not included in the essay? Do you need to expand some of the points you have chosen to write about? Are some of the points, after due consideration, not really relevant? Have you been too long-winded or repetitive?

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