American Studies Study Skills Guide — Single Honours American Studies

American Studies Study Skills Guide — Single Honours American Studies
American Studies
— Single Honours American Studies
— Dual Honours American Studies
— English and American Literatures
Study Skills Guide
Introduction
38
1.
Time Management
32
2.
Note-Making
32
3.
Planning and Structuring
34
4.
Arguing Your Case
34
5.
Writing: First Draft
36
6.
Editing: Final Draft
36
7.
Presentation and Style
Spelling
Punctuation and Grammar
Style
Four Problem Areas
37
8.
Style Sheet
Footnotes
Bibliography
39
9.
Evaluation
42
10.
Summary
42
11.
Prompt Sheet
43
1
Introduction
Essay writing is the primary means of assessing your performance as a student (whether as a
submitted essay or written in an exam environment), so it’s important for you to try to develop your
essay-writing skills as far as possible. What follows outlines just some of the skills that will help you
write better essays.
Most people accept that there is no single, standard way to write an essay or to develop effective
study skills. Everyone who writes an essay will have their own styles of working and writing. The
likelihood is that you’ll already have some of the skills described in this guide. One of the early things
to develop is a sense of your own strengths and weaknesses. One of the most important purposes of
this guide is to encourage you to be self-aware. It should prompt you to recognise your own
particular needs, and to think about and take responsibility for your own independent learning.
Rather than passively receiving knowledge, you have to work at understanding issues and concepts,
and developing your own abilities.

To succeed you must take an active approach to learning.
However, there are certain skills you will definitely need to develop to write good essays. Applying
certain principles will support your learning and help you in your assignments, and there are also
standards by which you will be assessed. This guide attempts to set out what is expected of you and
offers examples of ways to achieve it.
What are essays for?
Many people see essays only in terms of assessment and grades. However, it is just as important that
essay-writing allows you to assess your own progress. In the process of writing, you generate ideas
and clarify thoughts, and this gives you a good idea of how well you understand the subject and how
well you can put this into practice. It is hard to be a successful student if you don't know how much
you have understood or what you have achieved except for when your tutor tells you. Furthermore,
essays are also important chances for you to pursue your own interests. You have to be both
academically disciplined and intellectually creative to write a really good essay, and this helps you find
and express your own voice.
You will, though, still get essay grades. Essays are set as tasks to measure your success in meeting
the objectives of a module. That is to say, an essay provides evidence of knowledge, understanding
and skills on the basis of which your tutor can assess your progress. We have developed a series of
assessment criteria to give you a better sense of how any essay will be assessed: knowing these
criteria may help you to plan your work.
A weak essay tends:
•
to be poor on presentation and expression;
•
to wander off the point;
•
not to have selected the most relevant material;
•
to either argue a case that isn't worth arguing (being self-evident, too familiar, or
implausible), or that would need better evidence;
•
to show failures of understanding or knowledge;
•
to draw on too little information or too few details;
•
to just list material rather than have a coherent, purposeful structure;
•
and to be descriptive rather than critical or analytic.

The essay requires greater attention to all aspects covered in this guide.
2
A middle-range essay still tends:
•
to be over-descriptive;
•
to rely too heavily on secondary sources (i.e. opinions of critics);
•
not to develop an argument very far;
•
and to be lacking in originality.

It may be a potentially much stronger essay, held back by weaknesses in structure,
research, in-depth thinking, or application.
A high quality essay usually:
•
is well-researched;
•
shows intelligent structuring;
•
balances secondary and personal material;
•
is written and argued persuasively and critically;
•
and shows creativity, flair, and original thinking.
70% and over
60-69%
50-59%
40-49%
=
=
=
=
First Class
Upper Second Class
Lower Second Class
Third Class
What follows…
If you’re keen to write the strong essays described above, you will need to develop effective habits of
organised study; and to be effective these habits have to give you regular feedback, so that you can
stay fully aware of what you are doing and how well you are doing it. To begin with, each stage of
essay-writing requires essential learning and study skills that you will also need to develop for
other purposes. Hence this guide focuses on time management and note-taking as well as the
more obvious writing skills, such as planning, structuring, argument and communication.
3
1
Time Management
Writing an essay is one part in the on-going process of learning and studying, and each part takes
time.
The better you manage your working time, the more effectively you will work, and the more free time
you will have. Poor time management is one of the main reasons why students under-perform and/or
feel excessive stress. Yet the principle of good time management is simple:

Plan ahead and prioritise your tasks.
So, draw up a schedule for your weekly workload each semester. Set down formal commitments
(classes, lectures, etc.), and then mark out all your deadlines. If some of them clash (e.g., essays from
different courses to be submitted in the same week), then bring some deadlines forward yourself.
At all levels it pays to think and plan ahead. Just as you must buy the set texts before the bookshop
has run out, so you must get to the library before your choice is limited to the books others have left
behind. It is also effective in terms of simple psychology: it is easier to stay motivated when you have
turned what can seem limitless work into a series of specific goals. Organising your working time and
tasks into smaller, more manageable parts, lets you remain in control, and gives you positive
feedback. The tasks don’t seem so overwhelming if you address them piece-by-piece.

Planning is not an extra activity or an extra claim on your time, but the basis to using
your time more efficiently.
The best organisation is often the simplest: draw up a list and tick things off as you do them. When
you have an essay assignment, itemise the tasks involved and, being realistic, allocate blocks of time
to each stage so that you can spread the work and meet the deadline. The point of the exercise
should be clear: having made a plan, at any point you can immediately see how far along you are.
2
Note-Making
Good note-making is itself a skill to develop, and an effective system is important to all
aspects of learning and studying.
Think ahead: when the time comes to revise for exams, you need clear, concise, and well-focused
notes. When you sit down to plan and write an essay you want to have a file of clear, relevant notes.
You should have a range to draw on:
•
•
•
Notes made from your reading of the main text / primary source
Notes made from lectures and seminars
Notes made from critical works / secondary texts
At the same time, don’t shut your intellectual eyes when you close an academic book: you and your
studies are part of a world of information and events. For example, politics students should take note
of current affairs. Making notes or, better, collecting cuttings from quality newspapers about
American politics is a good way to keep up to date with what is happening, and will provide useful
material for your essays.

Always make notes with a clear sense of purpose in mind.
4
Lecture notes should be outline sketches, not an attempt to transcribe every word. In particular, you
should pay more attention to the key stages of the argument than to the supporting illustrations. This
allows you to listen attentively so that you understand what is being said, using your notes to signpost
the essentials. Leave space to fill out your notes afterwards.
Seminar notes should be even briefer sketches. In a class, you need to be attentive and also to
participate; afterwards is the time to look over your notes and use them to stimulate further thought.
This is, in fact, the last of three stages in seminar work. You must prepare for classes; you have to
contribute to classes; and you need to follow up on what happened in them.

Seminars do not begin when you walk in nor end when you walk out.
Making quality notes on the main text forms, for literature students, a key element in the essential
critical practice of making a close textual reading. To make a "close reading" you need to have read
the whole text and grasped its basics of plot, character, and theme. Having identified these, you can
move from the general overview to a detailed, line by line analysis:
1.
Select a particular passage or chapter which focuses the key issues. Construct detailed
accounts of how "character," "image," and "plot" work in your chosen section.
2.
Locate metaphors and consider implications of their kind and use.
3.
Consider the relation between events and what different characters say or think about events.
Pay attention to point-of-view, and be alert to ironic or multiple interpretations.
4.
Think through any marked formal features of your chosen section, and/or of the work as a
whole. What makes it distinctive, and how does this relate to its central concerns?
However, much of your note taking is likely to happen when reading a critical work or secondary
source. The following tips may well help you make good use of your time and effort.
1.
Check the index and then skim the work to see if it is going to be worthwhile.
2.
Some people prefer to find and read through the relevant part, before they make any notes.
3.
Think before you take notes, making sure that you understand the ideas, and questioning
whether you agree with them. Then put the ideas into your own words (this shows the
degree to which you have understood).
4.
Don't waste your time: be selective. Quality counts, not quantity.
5.
You will want to use some parts as quotations: be accurate (double-check the original and
your copy), and make sure you have all you need for references (bibliographical details,
page numbers, etc.). This saves time in the long run.
6.
Take time and care as to how you lay your notes out. You want to be able to use them
efficiently: don't crowd the page so that they are hard to read and impossible to add to:
make use of headings, coloured inks, highlighter pens.
7.
Keep your notes well-organised so that you can find things.
5
3
Planning and Structuring
Before you can get from notes to writing you have to plan and organise your material.
Before you spend time on this essential stage, you need to be sure that you have the right material.
What is the right material? Firstly, it must be relevant to the essay title. Consider the title carefully, and
re-read it regularly. You need to understand the key terms and the directions in the title to know what
is or is not relevant. Avoid simple mistakes, like confusing "compare" (find similarities) and "contrast"
(find differences).
Wherever your planning goes next, you should always keep the essay title in mind. The title, and your
response to it, should be the crucial factor in shaping the essay. Planning and structuring depend
upon generating a response to the question.
One way people come to an answer after reading material (as described above in section 2) is to try
jotting down their thoughts quickly. This breaks the ice, generates ideas, and gives the writer
something to start from. Much of this early material may be dropped later, as the writer moves on to
more analytical and organised critical thinking, but a ‘brainstorming’ session early on can help
establish first directions. Just as any plan is better than no plan, and all plans can be changed to suit
your needs, so too with structure and ideas. You need to get something down. Knowing that you will
change it can actually be a great help: it makes you aware that you learn by doing, and that the
process can be extended and refined.
However, there comes a point in planning when you have to stand back and evaluate your approach.
This is the time to question your assumptions, and to look for contradictions in your argument. Does it
add up? Can you take the argument further? Is it interesting or challenging enough - or is it too
adventurous: do you have the evidence to support your argument? Ask yourself questions at this
stage - before you find yourself half way into an essay that has no clear argument, or one you can't
develop with any conviction.
4
Arguing Your Case
The essence of structuring your material is putting the argument in its most effective order.
Some people see an essay as a narrative, with a beginning, various episodes, and an ending.
Your argument is the plot: you don't want to reveal the whole conclusion, but you do need to start from
the right place to get there by a convincing route. Others (particularly those in the discipline of politics)
see an essay like a court case: after an opening statement, you present your case (pro or con), and
then summing up at the end.
Whichever approach you adopt, your essay has to take your reader with you, and that means making
it clear you are going somewhere. Your beginning may be a certain thesis, or proposition - you intend
to show X, or to question Y, or to examine Z - and you proceed through various parts as evidence
towards a conclusion. So divide your material up, and think carefully about the sequence. Map out
your essay in outline, so that you can see it clearly all at once.
An example of this process follows. Don’t be fooled by the focus on a literature question: for all
essays—whether literature, film, geography, politics or history—the general principles are the same.

Every essay needs a central thesis and progression towards a conclusion
6
For example. . .
Essay Title: Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself": A Democratic Poem
Thesis: You intend to argue that the form of Whitman's poem embodies his ideas about democracy.
Part 1: Set out what democracy meant to Whitman, and what aspects of his poem you are going to examine.
Establish your thesis, the range of your material, and the sequence of your main points.
Part 2: Dividing your ideas into sections, divide up each section paragraph by paragraph into points and
evidence.
Part 3: Consider objections to your argument, material that might contradict it, and make your conclusion.
In this sketch, Part 1 signals what you intend to do and how you are going to do it; Part 3 shows your awareness
of possible counter-criticisms, and that your argument has had to be strong enough to survive them.
Part 2 is where you build your argument and supply evidence. You don't have to spell out the logic at every step
of the way, but there does need to be a logic. Signalling the key stages of your case can be helpful to the reader,
and it enables you to keep a grip on what the main points of your essay are.
Typically you work by asserting a general point, and then supplying detailed evidence to support it. You move
from a large claim ("Song of Myself" is democratic in addressing the whole of America as its readership.) to
precise analysis (Whitman calls to the President and the prostitute in exactly the same way, using the same
sentence structure so as to act out stylistically his refusal to see any social or moral hierarchy.), etc.
Your essay will have a larger structure, by which you move from an initial thesis, address it using
evidence, progressing towards a conclusion. This structure should involve delivery of evidence to
make a convincing argument. However, there is also a structure to each of the essay’s parts and
paragraphs. Each paragraph will play a role in sustaining the argument.
However, since you are rarely arguing in terms of "right" and "wrong", there are always alternative
readings: arguments generate counter-arguments. It is always important to remember that "evidence"
is not "proof". Bear this in mind when using or quoting from critical works: critics argue - but so can
you. This also applies to tutors and lecturers. Take issue with them: they advance interpretations, not
the last word on a subject.
On most subjects you’ll be asked to write on, there are a number of viewpoints or critical
interpretations. You should expect to position yourself in relation to critical interpretations. Who do you
find convincing? One way of starting an essay, therefore, is to cite a critical argument (especially one
that seems convincing), in order to challenge it.
For example. . .
Numerous critics have interpreted "Song of Myself" in terms of Whitman's democratic values. Critic X
is typical in arguing that the common sentence structure used to hail President and prostitute alike
acts out verbally the poet's "refusal to see any hierarchy". That is to say, equality in style
demonstrates, as well as states, Whitman's vision of equality in social value. [so far so good - your
reader has followed the line of argument, and probably goes along with it: now for your counterreading...] But it is surely a questionable vision that depends upon a "refusal to see". Whitman's
democratic vision, so clearly stated and demonstrated inside his poem, can only convince by ignoring
the reality outside it, where President and prostitute did not have an equal place in society. Critic X is
typical in seeing the poet's vision, but not the blindness to reality it requires.
7
5
Writing: First Draft
After you have researched, made notes, thought about the subject, jotted down ideas, made a plan, or
two, of your argument, outlined a structure, only then can you begin writing. Everyone works in
different ways, but to begin with you may not know your way, the one that really works best for you.
So here are a couple of suggestions.
Option One: Put all your notes and outlines and texts together, and double-check that everything you
want is there. Then, if possible, spread your notes out around you, so that you can really see all of
your material all at once. If you have too many sheets of half-relevant notes, it is worth re-doing some,
or using a system of colour-coding to link up ideas on different pages.
Option Two: Gather all the most important ideas you’ve discovered on one sheet of paper. Work out
how each is relevant to your argument, and build a structure from the list you’ve generated.

Whatever system you use, be in control of your material before you begin.
Most important of all, as you actually write, remember what it was that you wanted to say: if a line
comes out confused you will only have to go back and rewrite it. Keep reviewing your work in the light
of your title. Keep in mind the gist of your argument and the structure of your essay. Make each
paragraph serve a particular role in making your argument: present the material in an order that the
reader can understand and follow it. Don’t forget the importance of writing in strong, clear sentences.
And, as you write, don't close your mind off to new ideas: there's always room for a bright new
thought, or an inspired turn of phrase.
For many, writing often means word-processing: typing your essay is highly recommended. Wordprocessing certainly improves presentation, and makes editing much easier. However, wordprocessing does involve some extra considerations. If you work directly onto a PC you may miss out a
first draft altogether, and rewriting a rough stage is often where you rethink the most effectively. Also,
it is especially important that you don't let busy machines in the PC labs or faulty disks wreck your
deadline. Allow time: the responsibility is yours.

Word-processing is an essential skill: take this opportunity to develop it.
Take advantage of the one-hour Word Processing and I.T. Skills courses offered by the Library. Just
go to the Help Desk in the I.T. Suite and ask for details.
6
Editing: Final Draft
The difference between first and final drafts may be tiny, but is often critical. It may be a matter of
correcting spelling, or noticing that your essay was meant to be about slavery in the North, not the
South. More likely is the realisation that some paragraphs are weak, sentences muddled, or a key
point is not made clear. As you read your draft, ask yourself questions, such as:
•
•
•
•
•
•

Is your main argument well-focused?
• Is it clear that all the material is relevant?
Is the essay interesting?
• Does your material support your case?
Do the paragraphs link up and follow logically?
Is descriptive material justified by analysis?
Have you thought through the implications of your argument?
Have you corrected grammar and spelling errors?
Editing is a vital part of the process: allow time for it.
8
7
Presentation and Style
Spelling, punctuation, grammar, prose style — these all affect the power of your essay and influence
its grade.
Poor presentation will undermine your work. On the other hand, don’t be fooled by the brilliance of
word-processed appearances: it won’t make a weak essay any stronger. As for style, aim to be fluent
and succinct. Rework what seems clumsy or repetitious.
Always get the basic conventions right, such as italicising book titles.
Basic Style
Spelling
Use a dictionary (or a spell-checker, with care: it can’t distinguish between same-sounding words;
e.g., “there” and “their”). Take note of your most common errors, and make sure that you don't repeat
them; you may lose marks if you do.
Punctuation and Grammar
There is no easy equivalent to a dictionary here, but again, when errors have been pointed out to you,
make sure that you don't repeat them. Once you have been reminded of the distinction between “its”
and “it's”, it's likely that your tutor will view its confusion as a sign of poor concentration. Remind
yourself that commas, semi-colons, dashes and full-stops are all there to break up sentences, and so
help the reader to make sense of them. The main test is clarity: is it clear, or is it ambiguous? When in
doubt, read it through again, and re-write if necessary. Avoiding long and complex sentences can
avoid some mistakes. Remember that the reader has to be able to follow the argument. On the other
hand, all sentences must be grammatically correct and punctuated.
Advance (Academic) Style
Style is individual. Nobody else talks like you, and nobody else writes like you. But remember that, in
an essay, the distinctive personality of your style must also match your purpose and your reader.
Assume a generalised reader who is sceptical — but persuadable — and familiar with the
historical/political events, or with the text (you do not need to summarise plots or events), but who
does not have the set text or literary work in front of him/her (you need to quote key lines and maybe
give their context).
You might find it helpful to read your essay out to a friend, as a way of anticipating objections.
Alternatively, read it aloud to yourself: if it isn't clear or persuasive to you, it is unlikely to be clear or
persuasive to your reader. Give yourself time and distance to reflect on your essay: when you are in
the middle of writing, it is hard to stand back and be constructively critical. Read it as if it were
someone else’s work.
Clarity is essential: developing and communicating strong ideas and arguments is hard if your
language is confusing. Once you have clarity you can introduce emphasis and variety.
Emphasis means constructing your sentences so that the main point is given prominence. It also
means using your paragraphs to make a point. Variety of construction can help here. A short, final line
can deliver a crisp punch after a series of quite long sentences.
Watch out for lack of variety. Line after line structured in the same way makes for dull reading.
Likewise, watch out for not just repetition of ideas, but of phrases. Six uses of "it is obvious that" on
9
one page strains the reader's patience, and may imply a deeper problem: that either it is far too
obvious to need stating, or that it is not obvious at all.
Look at the style of writers you especially enjoy, and take note of their techniques. You don't want to
mimic their voice, any more than you want to imitate their critical position: you must develop your own,
but you can learn from good models.

Always keep the reader in mind: both what he/she knows and needs to be told.
Four Problem Areas
Presentation:
Paragraphs are important in terms of both style and structure: they get too long when you have failed
to break up your argument into parts, or to separate one idea from the next. On the other hand, when
they are too short you risk fracturing your argument. A paragraph is a number of sentences on one
theme and, as a unit of argument, should contain its "case", the evidence for that case, and
(sometimes), the claims that run counter to that case. So, don't think in terms of a certain number of
lines; think in terms of the unity of your paragraphs. Take time to consider your breaks carefully.
Quotations have to be incorporated into your essay carefully. Long quotations should be set apart.
Short ones should be included inside a sentence or paragraph, unless you want to make a special
emphasis, or are quoting lines of poetry.
Quotations must be accurate (always use the spelling of your original source, e.g., if it is in American
English), and they have to make sense. If you are quoting only a short phrase, make sure that it forms
a proper part of your sentence, and is grammatically correct just as if the words were your own. (See
the “hierarchy” example above.) Quotations longer than a phrase are usually introduced by a colon and again, they need to make sense as sentences:
Critics have commented on the way Whitman's language embodies his ideas on
democracy: "to act out stylistically his refusal to see any social or moral hierarchy".
The slice of quotation here isn't a complete sentence. You should either include it inside your own:
Critics have commented on the way Whitman's language embodies his ideas on
democracy, noting, for example, that he uses "the same sentence structure in order to
act out his refusal to see any social or moral hierarchy".
Or you can quote the whole original sentence. You have a range of options to choose from. Again,
take note of how other (scholarly) writers use the conventions. And finally, ask yourself: why am I
using this quotation? Does it support a point you have made, or one you are about to make? You
can’t just leave it there and hope it works. Analyse and discuss how a quote supports your argument.
Advanced Style:
The personal pronoun — I — becomes a problem when it is over-used. It tends to draw attention to
itself too much, to over-emphasise what needs no emphasis — namely that something is your
opinion. There are usually other ways of phrasing that avoid the repeated use of I, and there are
impersonal substitutes, such as "the reader".
But, I isn't the same as "the reader": "I think that Whitman is a democratic poet" is not the same as
"The reader thinks..." On the other hand, "Whitman makes a convincing democratic poet" solves your
problem. It is obviously you thinking and stating this, but you avoid the personal pronoun.
10
8
Style Sheet
Style conventions can be difficult to manage at first, but with practice you will master them. Since
footnotes for references and a bibliography of works used are essential for all Assessed Essays, you
are well advised to follow the layout conventions closely and consistently.
However, tutors place the highest priority where you should; on the strengths of the essay itself.
Footnotes/Endnotes
Footnotes, remember, are numbered in sequence and placed either at the foot of each page, or all
together at the end of your essay as endnotes. If you’re writing a literature essay based on a particular
text, you do not need to footnote quotations from that main text (e.g., The Great Gatsby, in an essay
on that book): page references can be given in the body of your essay, and you give details of the
edition used in your bibliography.
However, when quoting from another work in your essay, follow this layout:
1.
Henry Miller, The Time of the Assassins (p. 26).
Author's name - comma - title of work (preferably in italics, although underlined will do) - open bracket
– p – stop – space – page number – close bracket – full stop.
This is the layout for the first time you quote from a work. After that you can keep the reference inside
your paragraph and avoid another footnote:
The spirit of Whitman's “Song of the Open Road” contrasts sharply with the "ambulatory
paranoia" of Rimbaud's travels (p. 26).
You have a choice here of referring to "Miller" or to "Assassins". That is, to an abbreviated form of
either the author's name or the work's title, whichever is more suitable, so long as it is clear. Try not to
let such references clutter up your sentences, by placing them at the end where possible.
Alternatively, you could do it this way:
The spirit of Whitman's “Song of the Open Road” contrasts sharply with what Miller calls the
"ambulatory paranoia" of Rimbaud's travels (p. 26).
If quoting from a text within a text — i.e. an essay by one author in a collection of essays, or a shortstory in a volume — follow this layout:
1.
George Hugnet, “The Dada Spirit in Painting” (1932), in The Dada Painters and Poets: An
Anthology, edited by Robert Motherwell (pp. 125-196) (p. 131).
Author's name – comma – title in inverted commas – year of the piece (if known / appropriate) –
comma – then the work it is in, italicised – and then the page numbers of the article – followed by the
particular page cited. (If you have only referred to an article in general, you give just the page numbers
of the article.)
Internet Citations
A superb source for internet citations can be found at: http://www.h-net.msu.edu/~africa/citation.html
11

Each academic discipline has slightly different conventions: if in doubt you should ask
your tutor. What matters most is that your references are consistent and give the
details so that a reader can trace your sources.
Bibliography
Books –
Miller, Henry. The Time of the Assassins: A Study of Rimbaud. New York: New Directions, 1946;
London: Quartet Books, 1984.
Motherwell, Robert. Editor. The Dada
Wittenborn, Schultz, 1951.
Painters
and Poets:
An Anthology.
New
York:
Notice the entirely different punctuation, and also the indentation after the first line of an entry.
Author's last name – comma – author's first name(s) – full-stop – title of work (underlined or in italics)
– full-stop – place of publication – colon – publisher – comma – year of publication – full-stop.
Articles –
Kenner, Hugh. “Walt Whitman’s Multitudes.” Gnomon: Essays in Literature 48.2 (1958): 21-50.
Author's last name – comma – author's first name(s) – full-stop – inverted commas – full name of
article – full stop – inverted commas – italicised name of journal – volume number – full stop – number
of individual issue – (month and) year of publication in brackets – colon – pages – full stop.
If you’ve downloaded an article in a PDF format (that is, with page images the same as the paper
version), there is no need to include the URL in the bibliography. Just proceed as in the example
above.
Note that in a bibliography you are expected to include all the relevant information: i.e. to cite also the
publisher, and details of the first publication if it is not the same as your edition - compare the two
Henry Miller citations.

So long as you have been careful and consistent you will not lose marks.
9
And Finally: Evaluation
Your essay isn't over when you hand it in. When you get it back from your tutor it will be graded and
commented upon.
If you don't understand the grading, then ask: make sure you are aware of your tutor's criteria. If you
don't understand your tutor's comments, ask him / her to explain them.
Be sure that you understand what you need to do in order to develop and improve. You should use
your tutor to help you to recognise your strengths and weaknesses, and if you have any problems,
talk to your tutor about them. He / she is not there only to mark your work. But, finally, you must rely
on your own self-assessment, your own motivation, your own curiosity and desire for development.

Above all, use your essay to learn for the next one.
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10
Summary
•
Take an active approach to learning
•
Maximise your work by managing your time
•
Plan ahead and prioritise your tasks
•
Get into the habit of making high quality notes
•
Read and note with an eye to what is relevant
•
Allow plenty of time at the planning stage
•
Think around your subject and consider various approaches
•
Reflect on the material you can select from
•
Structure your argument and evidence carefully
•
Map out your outline: Thesis / Evidence / Conclusion
•
Be aware of your prose style
•
Allow time for editing
•
Don't start to write until you are ready
•
Check your argument is persuasive and your style fluent
•
Learn from each essay
•
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
Prompt Sheet
•
Choosing the title
•
Reflecting on the title
•
Initial thoughts
•
Listing the key tasks
•
Timetabling the tasks
•
Research
•
Note-making
•
Ordering and reviewing notes
•
Sketching a structure
•
Writing a draft
•
Restructuring if necessary
•
Editing and proof-reading
•
Completion of final draft
•
Submission by deadline
•
Tutor's assessment
•
Self-assessment for further improvement …
Always allow yourself time to reflect on what you are doing, and how you could be
doing it better. . .
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