How to Write the Perfect Essay Dr Colin Tyler Contents Summary



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Appendix A: Marking criteria

Appendix B: Legibility, layout and word-processing


Appendix C: Apparatus of scholarship

Appendix D: Plagiarism

Appendix E: Seminar preparation and presentation

Appendix F: Essay feedback form

Appendix A

Marking Criteria
The following criteria are for guidance only, and do not preclude the need for the application of sensible discretion by examiners. They are used in the context of nationally developing norms for the standard of a degree (including the Table on Threshold levels of Achievement in the Politics Benchmarking Statement and Qualifications Framework) and discussion with external examiners.
First Class (70% and above)

An outstanding answer to the question:

• Clear, sharply focused and incisive argument displaying impressive skill in elucidating concepts, conducting analysis and marshalling evidence.

• Shows wide knowledge of the topic, with signs of sophisticated understanding and negligible errors and omissions.

• Displays originality in handling the problem.

• Excellent literary style and presentation, including economy of expression, good grammar and punctuation, and legible text.

• Referencing up to current professional standards.
Upper Second Class (60%-69%)

A very good answer to the question:

• Clear, well-focused and logical argument displaying skill in elucidating concepts, conducting analysis and marshalling evidence.

• Shows evidence of reading in breadth and depth, with signs of sound understanding and minimal errors and omissions.

Adopts a thoughtful, non-standard approach in handling the problem.

• Effective literary style and presentation, including adequate economy of expression, good grammar and punctuation, and legible text.

• Referencing of a high standard.
Top Lower Second Class (55%-59%)

A good answer to the question:

Reasonably clear, fairly well focused and generally coherent argument displaying some skill in elucidating concepts, conducting analysis and marshalling evidence.

• Shows familiarity with the main sources, with signs of a satisfactory grasp of the main points, few errors and omissions, and minimal padding.

• Adopts an acceptable but rather standard approach in handling the problem.

• Adequate literary style and presentation, including reasonable economy of expression, generally acceptable grammar and punctuation, and legible, text.

• Referencing of an acceptable standard.
Bottom Lower Second Class (50%-54%)

A fair answer to the question:

• Somewhat vague, ill-focused and/or inconsistent argument nevertheless displaying some skill in elucidating concepts, conducting analysis and marshalling evidence.

• Shows evidence of reading of the main sources, but some of the main points poorly grasped, some significant errors and omissions, and/or some padding.

• Approach in handling the problem either quite routine or compromised by uneven understanding.

• Weak literary style and/or presentation, possibly including clumsy expression, some unacceptable errors or grammar and punctuation, and/or illegible text.

• Referencing of a questionable standard.
Third Class (40%-49%)

A poor answer to the question:

• Unclear, ill-focused and/or illogical argument nevertheless displaying some skill in elucidating concepts, conducting analysis and marshalling evidence.

• Shows some evidence of reading or other learning but only limited understanding of the issues raised, with some major errors and omissions, and/or significant padding.

• Approach in handling the problem not completely unsound but superficial and flawed by limited understanding.

• Poor literary style and/or presentation, probably including clumsy expression, many unacceptable errors of grammar and punctuation, and/or illegible text.

• Referencing of a barely acceptable standard.
Compensatable Fail (35%-39%)

A minimal answer to the question:

• Unclear, unfocused and/or illogical argument displaying only minimal skill in elucidating concepts, conducting analysis and marshalling evidence.

• Shows some evidence of reading or other learning but poor understanding of the issues raised, with many errors and omissions, and/or significant padding.

• Approach in handling the problem largely unsound on account of carelessness or lack of essential information.

• Poor literary style and/or presentation, probably including clumsy expression, many unacceptable errors of grammar and punctuation, and/or illegible text.

• Referencing of an unacceptable standard.

Appendix B

Legibility, Layout and Word-Processing



(A) Legibility:

Every piece of work that you submit for assessment (including examination scripts) must be legible. Your tutors have the right to refuse to mark any piece of work that cannot be read easily. Bear this in mind, especially if you hand-write your essay.


(B) There are other formal requirements for the layout of your essay:

General:

  1. All essays must make proper use of the apparatus of scholarship (detailed in Appendix C below).

  2. The main text of each piece of assessed work must be written completely in English (foreign quotations can be included in footnotes or endnotes if necessary, but the rest of the note should be in English).

  3. Essays must be submitted on A4 sized white paper.

  4. Every page of each assessment essay must have margins at the left, top and bottom so that the marker to write comments. Each of these margins must be at least 2.5cm (1 inch) wide.

  5. All of the text and notes must be either written in black or blue ink, or laser printed in black. The only exceptions are where using different colours is absolutely unavoidable to ensure clarity in complex graphs, and so on.

  6. Titles of books must be either underlined or italicised (and a full reference given – see Appendix C).

  7. Titles of articles or chapters in edited books must be given in single quotation marks (and a full reference given – see Appendix C).


Quotations:

  1. Quotations must be marked with single quotation marks: for example: ‘Mill saw democratic participation as a process of education.’

  2. Quotations within quotations must be marked with double quotation marks: for example: ‘Mill saw democratic participation as “the chief instrument” for “the public education of the citizens”.’

  3. Quotations of less than 40 words carry straight on in the text. For example:

In The Downing Street Years, Margaret Thatcher saw it as significant that, ‘[t]here are differing views even now of what the Westland affair was really about.’ (Thatcher, 1993: 423) Yet certain views are more plausible than others.



  1. Quotations of 40 words or more should be placed on a new line and indented from the main text. For example:

In The Downing Street Years, Margaret Thatcher saw it as significant that,
‘[t]here are differing views even now of what the Westland affair was really about. At various times Michael Heseltine claimed that it was about Britain’s future as a technologically advanced country, the role of government in industry, Britain’s relationship with Europe and the United States and the properties of constitutional government.’ (Thatcher, 1993: 423)
Yet certain views are more plausible than others.
(C) Word-processed essays:

It is far better to word-process your essay, as this will:



  1. make it easier for the marker to read your essay

  2. help you to edit the essay

  3. make it far easier to reproduce the different drafts

  4. be excellent preparation for your dissertation if you write one (dissertations must be word-processed)

  5. be a vital transferable skill when you complete your degree. Employers will expect if not require you to word-process reports, and so on

The University’s Computer Centre provides word-processing courses for any student who is interested, and there are programmes on the computer system itself if you prefer to learn on your own. Take advantage of these opportunities for free IT training.


In addition to the formal requirements for all assessed essays (above), word-processed essays must have the following features.

  1. All text must be double-spaced, using a font no smaller than 12pt.

  2. Footnotes and endnotes should be single-spaced, using a font that is both no larger than the text font and no smaller than 10pt.

  3. One easily legible font must be used throughout the essay: for example, Times New Roman, Palatino or Ariel.

  4. Bold must be used only for the essay question/title.
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