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Key Assessment Areas in the Faculty of HUMSS

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Presentation on theme: "Key Assessment Areas in the Faculty of HUMSS"— Presentation transcript:

0 Writing an Academic Essay in the HUMSS Faculty


2 Key Assessment Areas in the Faculty of HUMSS

3 In the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, students are assessed on key skills including:
Grammar and Expression Research (locating and analysing information) Referencing Essay Writing

4 Which of these are about:
Essay Writing University of Adelaide


6 In this presentation Developing a central argument / thesis statement for an essay Planning an essay The essay structure: Introduction, Body and Conclusion Developing a cohesive argument using topic sentences and paragraphs

7 The secret to writing an effective essay
What do you think academics in the Faculty of HUMSS most want to see demonstrated in your essay?

8 An argument ‘A good essay will have a thesis, a point, an argument’.
Taken from Barnet & Cain, A Short Guide to Writing About Literature. ‘The most common issue with essays is not a lack of information but a lack of ARGUMENT!’ Taken from the History and Politics School ‘Resources and Materials’ Section - So what do we mean by argument?

9 An academic argument The Associate Dean of Learning and Teaching, Dr. Lucy Potter, has endorsed the following as an excellent example of an academic argument: ‘One of the most common kinds of assignments set in university and college courses asks students to argue for or against a certain proposition…writers (are usually expected) to develop and expand a logical case by integrating research and analysis of other people’s ideas with their own.’ From Structures and Strategies: An Introduction to Academic Writing. Lloyd Davis and Susan McKay (Melbourne: Macmillan, 1996), pp Available in the Barr Smith Library as an ebook.

10 Coming up with an argument
How does this Faculty encourage you to make an argument? By asking you a certain type of question.

11 The kind of question you will be asked in HUMSS
There are many questions, but basically three types of questions. Which of these three kinds of questions do we usually ask in the Faculty of HUMSS? A. Those with one right answer (factual questions fall into this category). What is the boiling point of lead? B. Those with reasoned answers. Should we ever enforce the death penalty? C. Those with answers that tend to be based on personal opinion. Which would you prefer, a holiday in the country or one at the sea? (From the Foundation for Critical Thinking,

12 Giving Reasoned Answers
Looking at a Question requiring a Reasoned Answer: Should we ever enforce the death penalty? Why is the question difficult to answer? How would you give yourself the best chance at answering it?

13 Giving Reasoned Answers cont.
As previously mentioned, the best way (and probably the only way, unless you are Solomon), to answer a question like ‘Should we enforce the death penalty?’ is by producing a reasoned argument. You may well start with an opinion, while wanting to leave yourself as open to your thinking being challenged as possible. (A good article on open-mindedness, ‘Becoming a Critic of Your Own Thinking’, can be found at You will then research the strength of this opinion.

14 First Steps to Writing an Essay
Even before you start researching your essay, it can be effective to do a plan, outlining a basic approach. ‘Make a very basic concept plan of how the essay might develop before you have done much - even any - library research. Just a few points on a bit of scrap paper will help clarify your ideas and guide your reading.’ History and Politics Resources and Materials Section

15 Don’t take a question at face value
‘Before, during and after choosing a question or topic, think hard about its precise wording, and all the different possible meanings or interpretations, both obvious and implicit.’ Seemingly simple essay questions can actually be difficult to answer (indeed, the really short ones can often be the trickiest!) Looking at this ‘garden variety’ HUMSS question: ‘When did the Modern World begin?’ (Compulsory Question for the ‘Europe, Empire, World’ Exam Paper, June 2003 – Available online through the Barr Smith Library) What are ‘all the different possible meanings or interpretations, both obvious and implicit’ in this question?

16 Structuring Your Essay
Essays need a beginning (introduction), middle (body of text - exposition and argument), and an end (conclusion, or summing up.) Why is the Opening Paragraph of an essay so important?

17 Thesis Statement The Opening Paragraph is where you introduce your argument, or thesis statement. INTRODUCTION

18 One sentence Ideally, you will always be able to sum up your argument in one sentence (called a thesis statement). The thesis statement sums up the overall idea or message of your essay. An essay answering the question, ‘Should we ever enforce the death penalty?’ might have as its thesis statement ‘We should not ever enforce the death penalty, as this would compromise everything our society values.’

19 Ideas in Introductory Paragraph
In addition to containing a thesis statement, an introduction should also touch on the points that will be made in the essay to support the thesis. An opening paragraph about why we should never enforce the death penalty might read: ‘We should not ever enforce the death penalty, as to do this would be to compromise everything our society values. [Thesis statement]. Our society believes everyone is essentially equal; who then can be entitled to put another person to death? [Point 1] Our society believes that human life is more valuable than anything else; to enforce the death penalty therefore means committing the worst act that can be committed. [Point 2] Some may say that the death penalty should be enforced to deter people from committing murder; this essay argues, however, that a society that engages in such an act of revenge lowers itself to the level of the murderer it is seeking to punish. [Point 3]’

20 Topic Sentences in Paragraphs
Each paragraph in the body of your essay needs a topic sentence. This sentence, which is often the first sentence in a paragraph, should: A. Support your main argument, or thesis statement B. Make it clear what the paragraph is going to be about

21 Other Points on Paragraphs
Paragraphs almost work like mini-essays within essays; ideally each paragraph has its own introductory and concluding line (in which you sum up what the paragraph was about). Paragraphs are the building blocks with which you make an argument. Each paragraph contains one idea; when you are making a new point, it’s time to start a new paragraph.

22 Concluding Paragraph: What to include and what to leave out
The concluding paragraph is often the paragraph most of us are least certain how to write (and many of us are tempted to skip it all together, as we are pretty much over it by then!) A concluding paragraph is basically a summing up of the argument that has been given. It’s important to reiterate the thesis statement you have made without just repeating it word for word. As Lloyd and McKay note, sometimes people only realise what their argument is when they get to their conclusion, at least in the first draft of their essay. It’s important, if this happens, to rewrite the introduction so that your thesis statement appears in it (this can have the wonderful effect of tightening an essay, which is why it’s always important to do drafts.) It’s also important to not introduce any new material in your conclusion.

23 Works Cited and Further Resources
The following are highly recommended: History and Politics Resources and Materials Section: Structures and Strategies: An introduction to Academic Writing by Lloyd and McKay, available in the Barr Smith Library. Other ways in which your Essay Writing Journey can continue: Use our especially devised resource in Academic Preparation - Join our Facebook Page to post your questions: ‘Uni Adelaide HUMSS First Year Group 2014’ Check out the wide range of resources online and in-text in the Barr Smith Library:

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