Ace Your Assignments: Undergraduate Essay Writing

Hello! I am back with another installment of my ‘Ace Your Assignments’ mini-series. Previously I have shared my top tips for presentations and handling assignment feedback, so today I will be revealing my advice for undergraduate essay writing. When I was waiting to start university, and during my first ever essay, I was really worried about how best to approach essays so here is what I wish I had known.

  1. Reference as you go
    PLEASE don’t worry about referencing, you will be shown what to do in your first semester and before long it will be second nature. However, get in the habit of referencing as you go or at least having your reference list ‘almost right’ as you go. Getting to the end of a 3,000 word essay and then realising you have a list of 20 articles and 10 books to go back and reference is soul-destroying.
  2. Make rough notes in another colour as you type
    As I start writing my essay based on my plan or draft, I will get new ideas or angles to use. I have learnt the hard way that you will not ‘remember that later’, so quickly switch to another colour and type your new idea next to the point it sparked from. Once you’ve typed the bulk of your essay, you can go back and add in those in.
  3. Get the nonsense out of the way first
    At college, I got away with never planning essays properly or doing drafts but my best work at university has stemmed from a solid plan that was talked through with a tutor followed by submitting a draft to check my style was a good fit for the assessment. Plans and drafts get the bad ideas out of your head and into the bin, leaving you with the good bits. Even after the drafting stage, I combat writer’s block by just typing all my thoughts onto a page and then deleting the nonsense.

If you have any pearls of wisdom to add, feel free to share them below!

Sam xo

Tackling Assignments

Hello everyone, since we are in the midst of the time of year when everything is due I thought what better way to take people’s minds off the subject then by talking about it some more… I study Film and TV production which deadline wise finishes pretty early with all my deadlines about to be wrapped up by tomorrow so here’s some things to keep in mind if your still going.

Learn from your mistakes: First year for most is kind of an introductory year in some ways, for most degrees, first year assignments don’t actually count towards your final third year grade although I know this can be different depending on what you study. Whether you enjoy this idea or not for me personally when it came to essay writing making more mistakes in first year meant that as I was working through essays this year, I knew certain things not to do.  I even compiled a word document with all the don’ts I had learned of essay writing, which I look at before starting a new essay because I keep forgetting, some examples include:

• Explain things in detail

•  Don’t go off on tangents

• Don’t ask questions, answer them

Pick something that isn’t too hard to research. Some assignments require finding external literature on your own chosen subject, while this can make it tempting to pick something niche that is interesting to you, it is also important that you pick a topic with readings already on it or you could find yourself spending a lot longer researching than if you picked something easier in my opinion.  Basically, just make life easy for yourself!

I find breaking up work into sections makes it easier to complete, so for example on one day doing work I would focus on deciding what I’m going to write about then plan it into sections with bullet points, another day gathering readings/ researching what I’m going to write and then subsequent days doing maybe a 1/4 to a 1/3 of the essay. I’m not a big fan of doing a whole essay in one day as my brain tends to turn to mush after a few hours looking at my screen.

Hope these help at least a little bit and if your here  reading this rather than doing an essay then hats off to you buddy.

Jordan

 

 

 

 

Creating a study environment

Hi everyone,

Something that has taken me so long to get right is finding the right place to study and somewhere that I can really focus and get on with my work, as I am very easily distracted! Obviously these are things that work for me and everybody works differently but I really hope these tips help!

1. Find somewhere you won’t be disturbed.

One place I definitely make full use of are the private study rooms in the library which are located in the new catalyst building. All of the rooms contain a huge desk space along with a computer. Being on my own in a private space really helps me concentrate as I know that I won’t be disturbed.

2. Working with friends

I know this is the complete opposite to my previous tip, but sometimes working with your course mates can really help you with studying, as you can all help each other and ask them to read over your work if you feel the need to.

3. Turn your phone off

Going on your phone is 100% going to put your productivity to a halt. Set yourself a timer for 30 mins to an hour and you will be surprised at how much you get done!

4. Listen to calm music

I have a playlist dedicated for when I want to concentrate and it really is helpful, Spotify and YouTube also have lots of concentration playlists from the ocean to film scores! Someone I went to sixth form with used to listen to the Harry Potter films soundtrack when she was revising to help her concentration!!

Thankyou for reading!

Ellie 🙂

These Are Not the Grades You Are Looking For

Hi everyone!

(Yes the title of this blog is a Star Wars reference.)

Today I wanted to talk a little about the tutors at university, and the kind of support and advice you can expect.

When you come to Edge Hill you are assigned a Personal Tutor. This is usually a member of staff in the department running your degree (they are your real life Obi Wan Kenobi.) If you have any problems with your degree, or have any worries they are a great place to go.

I spend a lot of time meeting my personal tutor when I have a coursework deadline looming. This is really helpful, as it calms me down and my personal tutor gives me advice and guidance on essays, how to cope with stress levels and occasionally we will just have a small chat about life.

Since there are so many members of staff it can be daunting knowing who to talk to, but as a personal tutor could be with you throughout the duration of your studies, you always have a friendly face and an open ear.

Your seminar tutors will also become very familiar during the years of your degree. I guarantee you will be sending them a lot of emails, whether that is about an upcoming essay, how to reference properly or to let them know you’re ill and can’t make it to a class.

As the end of the semester is fast approaching that means there are more deadlines. Thankfully, seminar tutors are super supportive. The last week of semester you can arrange a meeting with specific tutors for advice and guidance on essays.

Lectures and seminars can give you a great overview and introduction to a topic, but most essays will require a lot of independent research. Since there is so much independence though, it is always nice to check that you’re heading in the right direction.

A seminar tutor can prevent that last minute essay meltdown, and give you that little extra push so you have confidence in your essay. It’s always nice to know you’re not alone, and have someone to help you.

The thing I love most about Edge Hill is the fact that there is so much support on offer. The tutors are always ready to help, no matter what the issue is. Never be afraid to ask for help!

Quote for the day: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” -William Arthur Ward

Hope you all have a great week.

Until next time 🙂

Exams and Coursework!

So for all you A-Level students exams are not long away and unfortunately at Uni you may not escape this lovely past time! However some courses, like the Primary Education and Early Years course do not involve exams- just coursework, so you may be in luck!

However some courses (including mine) have both exams and coursework, for me this is a great combination as it does not solely rely on exams which as we all know provokes some major stress!

Plus with coursework your feedback from your tutors allows you to improve in your next assignments as some of the topics you study will overlap over the three years. So having this information to know where to improve next time is great as by using this information you can easily attain a higher mark.

Coursework  may not always be just essays as they may take other forms, for example for my course I have had to create an academic poster and a presentation/powerpoint that I have presented to my peers and tutor. For you that have not done many presentations before or you get nervous about presenting… honestly it is nerve-wracking! But practice makes perfect and the more you do it the more you become accustomed to it.

So definitely check how you’re assessed on your course so you’re prepared in September for whatever comes your way!

Goodbye 2015. Hello 2016…

Hey guys,

Hope you’re doing well. Just a quick one…

So, it’s that time of the year again. Saying goodbye to the old and hello to the new. Well, let’s summarise the goods of 2015 and make goals for 2016, shall we.

Goods:

  • Made it through the year smiling, a few stumbles along the way, but well done Jen you got there.
  • Completed all uni work- even managed to get some amazing grades (again well done Jen, if I do ay so myself).
  • Went on my first ever group holiday with the uni lot… Amsterdam, I miss you dearly.
  • Ready for 2016, I think.

Goals for 2016:

  • Graduate with an amazing grade. (PLEASE)
  • Have some sort of plan for after uni… It doesn’t have to be a life plan, but a plan would be helpful.
  • Have an amazing 2016, of course.

So, what’s your goals? To get amazing grades and come to EHU, yep that’s what I thought. so here’s the game plan. WORK HARD! I know exams are fast approaching and you’re probably swamped in assignments and essays, but believe me, it’ll all be worth it in the end.

Hope you had an amazing Christmas and a fantastic New Year.

I’ll speak to you next year… 😉

Until next time…

Getting My University Work Done

(The things I’m about to say really only come from my own experiences, we’re all different and all courses are different so please don’t assume that what I’m saying will definitely be applicable to you)

The summer before I started university, I was keen to be as prepared as possible before I started my course. I bought the books on the reading list as soon as I could. Despite this, I was only a couple of weeks ahead (at the most) of my classmates who hadn’t done anything to prepare, so I wouldn’t worry if for whatever reason you can’t start reading in advance. However, once you’re at university the reading really must be done as soon as possible. To be honest, I found first year easier than Sixth Form. I could easily handle the essays and reading that I needed to do. The only thing that took a bit of time to get used to was learning to reference my essays properly, but this became second nature to me eventually. First year went by in a blissful haze full of relatively good marks.

When I started second year I went into a state of shock for about a month. I would say that the workload tripled. I don’t want this to scare any of you like it did me; it’s not as bad as it seems, honest. But at the time I didn’t know how to handle it. But I eventually did, and this is how:  I read three books a week, every week (one for each module) and completed any additional work for seminars that I was asked to do (there was a fair bit – but this all depends on the tutor and the module).  I also squeezed in writing essays whenever I needed to, normally over the holidays and Reading Weeks when I had a bit more time. It wasn’t easy, my grades weren’t as good as first year (although still decent), but eventually I made it through.

Third year was less of a jump in terms of workload. Although it did still increase a bit from second year, I was able to manage it better. I’d perfected my technique in getting my reading done and I learnt how much time to put aside to get my essays written properly, even though now they were required to be longer than ever before. My grades went up, and I managed to have a really decent social life at the same time. Third year was wonderful, I really enjoyed it. It really was all about gathering the skills I’d learnt over the years and pulling them together to succeed. Tomorrow I will be graduating with a 2:1 and I couldn’t be happier!

Lecture, seminar, assignment… Repeat!

So what’s going on in my course recently?

(For those who have just started reading these blogs, I’m a second year Sociology (BA Hons) student.)

Well, for starters, I’m half way through a 3000 word essay- I’m so beyond stressed it’s unreal. I seem to enjoy leaving everything until the last minute to finish. I have moments of panic, waves of stress and on some rare occasions I have shed a few tears over essays (a bit dramatic or?). I do this every time to be honest. About a month before an essay is due, I have a really positive attitude. I’ve got my books all set to read, I’ve booked into my academic diary the days I’m going to dedicate to it and I’ve done my research. I’m ready…

Fast forward three weeks and I’m not even close to being ready. The positive attitude has faded and my lazy side has arrived. The books I got out three weeks ago have hardly been touched- and I forgot to renew them so I have a lovely big fine, yay. I look through my academic diary and count all the days I didn’t bother to do any work that I scheduled in and regret it instantly. But, and there’s always a but that saves me, I still have a week to fix things. So I have been reading non-stop for 7 days now. When I do stop for an hour here and there, I’m researching case studies to back up my evidence. I’ve started typing up my findings and I’m almost halfway through. Things are looking bright.

Aside from my essay stress, my course has been interesting. I’m currently doing modules covering Conflict, focusing on the troubles in Ireland. In another module I’m studying Diversity and Equality. This is my favourite topic as we cover gender, race, disability, class and education (all very interesting issues). I’m also doing a module on Sexuality and Research Methods.

So, yeah, things are busy with loads of assignments and exams coming up. LUCKY ME!

Until next time…:)

New Year, New…Reading List?

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a lovely festive period and are feeling relaxed and ready for the year ahead.

These first few weeks of term are the assessment period for my course, which means if you have any January exams this is the time you’ll be taking them. Luckily for me, I don’t have any exams this semester but I do have a lot of assignments due in at the end of this week and early next week. I’ve put off doing my essays over Christmas which means I now have to catch up on work quickly. Can you blame me for not doing it all though? I’ve been so busy catching up with people from my hometown and doing Christmassy things I really haven’t had time! In order to make myself concentrate, I’ve come back up to Ormskirk where I find there are less distractions because most of my housemates aren’t back yet. I will also use these few weeks to get a head start on the reading for this semester as I have a ton of books to get through!

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but if you have a course that requires you to read a lot of books, like English Literature, it can get pretty expensive. But there are ways to keep your costs down. The library has a wide selection of books, however be wary that a lot of people have the same idea so if you plan on borrowing a book from there last minute it might not be available. I buy all of my books second-hand because it’s so much cheaper, and sites like Amazon are great for this.  Also, a lot of older books that are no longer in copyright can be read online or on an e-reader for free which saves a lot of money if you’re studying the classics.

Assignments

It’s nearing the end of the university year which means that I have a ton of assignment deadlines at the moment. University assignments differ somewhat from the ones I had to do whilst I was at school, and the procedure for handing them in is extremely different. Before I started at Edge Hill I had lots of questions about assignments, so I’ve written this for anyone who might be in the same position. However, every department has their own way of doing things, so bear in mind that I only know about the procedure for those studying English Literature.

Once we’ve written an essay, the first thing we do is upload it to an online system called Turnitin. This checks the work for plagiarism, after which you are given a similarity percentage. Our tutors use this to check that our work is all our own, and that is why we very often get reminded about how important it is to reference accurately. For English Literature, we use the MHRA style of referencing. It can be difficult to use at first, but I found it quickly got a lot easier with practice.

We are also required to hand in a physical copy of our work, which most tutors will annotate and add feedback to when they mark it. There are lots of regulations regarding how work should be presented, such as spacing and font size, but you’ll be told about all those things when you start the course. Assignments are always submitted alongside a coversheet which has your name and details of the essay on. We pick these up from the copy room which is located next to where we hand our essays in. Here’s what the English Literature coversheet looks like:

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In the English and History department we hand our assignments in in drop boxes located down the Clough corridor. The boxes are emptied at 4pm each day and stamped so they know which day you handed it in (not that it matters as long as it’s before the deadline.) Once they’ve been marked, our tutors either hand our essays back to us during seminars, or leave them in the English and History office for us to collect.