If you don’t analyse it fully, you may not avail yourself of all marks on offer. Assessment topics always have the same key ingredients: direction words that tell you what to do, topic words and limiting words that set the required scope. Be very clear that you understand what your topic is asking you to do and what your tutor requires from you. There are several possible genres that might form part of your writing assessment. Be sure that you know what each genre entails. The Library’s Research and Learning Online is a useful resource to guide you. Several faculties at Monash have their own style guides, like BusEco’s Q Manual and IT’s Style Guide. Check your unit guide and Moodle sites for further information.
Have you done your research?
This does not mean using Google - anyone can do that. The Library spends millions of dollars on subscriptions to databases and journals, and it is your privilege as a Monash student to use them. So use them! Library Guides are a good starting point for finding discipline-specific databases and journals, but a librarian can help you choose some great databases to start with, and also work with you to build your skills so you can get the most out of your searches. Also, don’t forget your lecture and tutorial notes and required/recommended weekly readings. When you start writing you’ll probably find you’ll need to go back and research some aspects of your topic more. This is normal and to be expected. It means you are becoming suitably focused on key aspects that require rigour. Good for you!
Make a plan, Stan. Then use it to structure your work, Björk.
An unplanned essay is potentially a recipe for disaster. As a bare minimum, note your academic position/thesis and the subject of each body paragraph. This should assist you in maintaining a clear, structured response to the assignment question. Remember that each paragraph should consist of one idea that is explained in detail, supported by evidence and examples and linked back to the topic in order to prove its relevance. To do this in 1 - 3 sentences is impossible. If your paragraph is longer than a page, there is probably more than one main idea or there is too much detail. Don’t forget a clear introduction that
- provides a general intro to the topic
- tells your reader about your particular focus
- offers a thesis statement indicating your academic position
- previews your work’s structure, showing how you intend to achieve your stated goal.
Ready? Set? Write!
There are countless excuses to stop you from sitting down and typing your assignment. None of them is likely to justify your inertia. Once you actually start writing, you should find all that research, reading, planning and thinking has put you in a position where the flow quickly becomes a torrent. Get it all out of you as fast as you can! You can edit and proofread it all later. Go!
You may have doubts about whether your work is at the level your tutor expects or not. This may be because you are new to university, the first in your family or your friends to undertake tertiary study, or you are returning to study after a long break. See our Librarians and Learning Skills Advisers in your library’s Research and Learning Point -- they are available a few hours a day to see students or groups. At drop-ins, experts can provide tips, advice and feedback on all the research and academic work you need to do. There is no need for an appointment and you’ll be seen on a first-come, first-served basis.
Tami Castillo is a Learning Skills Adviser and Damian Gleeson is a Research and Learning Coordinator.
Images: Monash Image Library