31. Foundation For Essay Writing

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Hi, Ms Harris. Here we are, talking once again.
Well, I'm always willing to help out wherever possible.
Is anything troubling you?
Well, your advice last week about writing summaries was very useful,
and I'm using these summaries a lot in order to prepare my final master's thesis.
But you're having problems, right?
Yes, I have a few issues to discuss.
Obviously I want a good essay, and I want to achieve high marks.
But I'm not sure on the best way to start.
That's an easy question.
Start with a topic, but not one that I necessarily suggest,
but one that you want to explore.
You'll always write better when doing so on a topic you're interested in,
not one imposed upon you by others.
Well, I'm interested in management theory.
Then pursue that.
However, that alone is far too broad.
Break it into various current areas of discussion and relevance,
then look more carefully at one of them -
say, management and cultural differences,
or management and motivation,
or other aspects, such as the role of salary, group cohesion, or leadership.
I would say I'm interested in group cohesion,
that is, how people interact in the workplace.
Well, that's a start,
but you can't then just write planlessly,
without defining exactly what you intend to do within the area you've chosen.
You'll have to think of a thesis, and this statement could be of several types.
Such as what?
Oh, you could argue a point, something that you believe in;
or discuss an issue, looking at its various perspectives;
or critique the opinions of others, pointing out the pitfalls and flaws.
The thesis statement will make that very clear because it will say,
in simple terms, what you intend to achieve in your essay.
I see. And then I can just begin writing, right?
Wrong!
If your essay is going to be clear, it needs to be logical and organised,
and this means you'll need an outline.
This could be written as a flowchart, or spider graph,
that is, a series of connected lines,
but whatever shape the outline takes,
there must be a sense of progress, in, more or less, a straight line, towards a goal.
And then my essay will be good?
With such progression, definitely
as long as you do achieve everything that you set out to do,
as specified in the beginning, okay?
Well, Ms Harris, your advice about essay writing all sounds very useful:
solid, and step by step, so I'll certainly follow that.
But can you tell me in more general terms,
what constitutes the best essay?
Oh, there are many aspects to consider,
but one of the most important is certainly, original thinking.
The best essays are written by people who think for themselves,
and not just copy or imitate established views.
I think I can do that.
But remember, you can't just give a list of unsupported assertions.
There needs to be support as well -
a chain of logic linking each step in your argument.
Right!
Yet that alone is not enough.
Your argument may be logically sound, but is it practically so?
For that, you need examples, from real-life, to illustrate your points or sub-points.
I've got lots of examples from my course readings.
I suppose I could use them.
But remember, whenever you use an example,
or facts or figures that are not commonly known,
you must give a reference.
That's an academic necessity, without which your writing will automatically fail.
So, it's necessary to give these. Right.
Absolutely! And with that, your essay will be fine,
but always ensure that you format it clearly.
What do you mean?
I mean the practical considerations,
as written in the university style guide,
such as leaving appropriate margins,
using double spacing, Arial font, and so on.
You see, your writing must look good, as well as be good.
I can certainly do that.
And, finally, related to the previous point,
you need to respect the number of words required.
Your individual lecturers will give you a word-count figure,
so follow what they say, making your essay neither too long, nor too short,
perhaps 10% either way should be acceptable.
15% was common when I was younger,
but it's a lot stricter now,
and 20% would be pushing the boundaries just a little too far.
I guess I can do all that. Thanks for your advice.
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