Course, Study

Lessons in Writing Essays

This morning I handed in a piece of coursework, though my head is not feeling so great now, probably due to working till late last night pulling together the bilbliography and double checking it. So, to help those of you who might not yet be so well acquainted with essay hand-ins, I thought I’d put together a few pointers, which I’ve picked up from my own experience.

1) Make sure you know the deadline, how long the essay is meant to be and that you’re actually answering the question

2) Know what books and journal articles you might be required to read

3) Make sure you actually read the right stuff

I must admit I failed on most accounts with this essay. I erroneously believed the essay needed to be a thousand words longer than necessary, although I realised my mistake before much work had been done (I suppose it’s better to overestimate the word count than underestimate it!). I thought I knew which books and journals to read, so I dutifully took out the books about 3 weeks ago and started reading. Then last night (the day before the hand in) as I was making the finishing touches to the essay, I realised that half the books and journals I had read, although very much related to the topic, were not actually those specified by the lecturer, which we were specifically asked to use in the essay! 😦 Suffice to say, this was not a pleasing moment. I think I was able to skim read and incorporate enough of the required material in the essay at the last minute to make it look convincing! One crucial mistake I made was to get confused with two similarly named books on similar topics by the same author.

I could add another point here –

4) Don’t leave it to the very last day (try and finish it early!). But let’s be honest, is that really going to happen?

Let me know any of your coursework related tips in the comments!


3 thoughts on “Lessons in Writing Essays

  1. Lily says:

    Hey Blake,
    I’ve applied to do English and American Studies at Portsmouth, I just wanted to know how you’re finding it, truthfully? 🙂 It would be a big help on my decision of differing for a year or not.
    Thank you.

  2. Blake says:

    Hi Lily. Thanks for reading the blog!

    I started writing my response to your question, but I soon realised I had so much I wanted to say that I thought it would be better to share my insights in some new ‘Blake’s view’ posts.

    I see a number of people doing combined American courses in my lectures, such as History and American Studies and English and American Studies. If you’re looking at doing English and American Studies then English would be your main subject, so you’d probably not have that many units on the American side. You may know that my fellow blogger Kathryn is taking English Literature, from which I gather she has to read a lot of books! She might be able to better advise you on the English.

    I’ve personally found all the lecturers and admin staff in this department highly approachable and I am genuinely enjoying the course so far, and looking forward to Year 2! You mentioned deferring for a year. Personally, I found having some time after college helped me focus on what I wanted to achieve from University, which lead me to the American Studies course. But there are many factors to consider and I guess you’ll never know until you give it a go. I did lots of internet research and spoke to many people who had been to Uni before I made up my mind.

    I think the ‘University Experience’ is different for everyone. I know a lot of the people on my course, and I’ve been out for a few socials, but to be honest I’m not that bothered with clubbing and drinking. The quality of the course was my main priority and I have not been disappointed. However, for many people the experience of being away from home and the social scene is very important. I think the reasons for coming to Uni are different, but none are better or worse. Maybe you should think about what it is you hope to achieve from Uni, and what you might do afterwards.

    American Studies, as well as English courses, are part of the School of Languages and Area Studies (SLAS) at Portsmouth –

    Check out the staff tab on the bottom left of that page. Dr Lee Sartain is the head of the American Studies course and you’ll find his email there. He’s a great guy I’m sure he would be happy to answer any specific question you many have.

    I wanted to be a student blogger so that I could share my experience with others, so once again, thanks for reading! Coming to Uni was a difficult decision for me, but I’m really glad to be here now. If you’d like to know anything else, please leave a comment!
    Best wishes,

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