Individual Study



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Individual Study

  • The Critical Essay
  • Thorough investigation of both texts
  • A well developed question
  • The importance of the polishing process

THE QUESTION makes all the difference

  • THE QUESTION makes all the difference

1. LIMITED QUESTION:

  • 1. LIMITED QUESTION:
  • Compare the ways in which the central characters of the two texts you studied learned from their mistakes.
  • GOOD QUESTION:
  • Compare the ways in which the authors present central characters’ journeys of healing. (The Sound of One Hand Clapping, and Away.)

2. LIMITED QUESTION:

  • 2. LIMITED QUESTION:
  • How do the characters of the two texts gradually come to the same conclusion about the absurdity of war?
  • GOOD QUESTION:
  • How do two authors, in similar and different ways, explore the idea that war is absurd? (Catch 22 and Dr Strangelove)

3. LIMITED QUESTION:

  • 3. LIMITED QUESTION:
  • ’Obsessive love is deep’. How do the characters of Enduring Love and Lolita come to the conclusion that this is true?
  • GOOD QUESTION:
  • ’Obsessive love is deep’. How do the authors of Enduring Love and Lolita explore the linked themes of obsession and love?

A TEMPLATE FOR CREATING A ’GOOD QUESTION’

  • How do authors of particular text types use specific techniques to have precise effects on their audiences, in the exploration of significant ideas?

2007 Assessment Report – the question

  • “ Good questions were those that allowed students to discuss technique at length and often included key phrases such as ’in what ways’, ’compare the ways’, ’in what different ways’, ’what techniques’ and ’how have the techniques used by…’ Some examples of successful questions are listed below:
    • Compare and contrast how the two authors position readers to sympathise with central characters.
    • In what similar and different ways do the authors use setting as a catalyst for characters to come to terms with the past?
    • Compare the ways in which the authors of two modern Australian texts explore the nature of mortality.

2007 English Studies class

  • How do the authors of Japanese Story and The Piano Tuner use the journey motif to explore their protagonists’ transformations of identity? Danny Brookes
  • How do the authors of Pan’s Labyrinth and The Book of Lost Things explore symbols of gender in the journeys undertaken by their central characters? Maddie Mitchell
  • “A great civilisation is not conquered from without until it is destroyed from within” – Will Durant. How do the authors of Apocalypto and Cat’s Cradle use negative perspective and symbolism to explore the universal causes of social collapse? Jessica Taylor

2008 Assessment Report – Question Development

  • Best questions were those which provided students with the opportunity to address the criteria for the Individual Study and which protected students from the temptation to provide recounts and speak of characters as real people rather than as devices of the author. As was stated in the 2007 report, questions that have a specific focus are much more successful than those that incorporate too many tasks for the students to address.

2008 Assessment Report – Question Development

  • Words such as ’discuss’ provide little framework for comparison, and open-ended or overly long questions or statements often leave students in a situation where they ’discuss’ so much that their argument ultimately and ironically lacks depth and focus. Questions should be tight and focused and reflect the particular study of texts that the student has undertaken. The stem of the question should directly take the student into a comparative analysis and argument.

2009 Assessment Report – Question Development

  • The range of questions was again broad with the most successful being those which presented the students with a clear focus and manageable task. Questions that directed the student to discuss a topic rather than texts did not encourage them to address the learning outcomes of this section of the program. Similarly, convoluted questions often left students struggling to maintain their focus, as did essay ’topics’ that were based on a social issue or comprised a quotation without any other task than ’discuss’.

2009 Assessment Report – Question Development

  • Evaluative questions such as ’How effective are the authors…’ forced the students into a false position of critiquing the works they had chosen and did not produce strong responses. It was the straightforward, relatively short questions that required:
    • comparison and contrast
    • an acknowledgment of the role of the author
    • a focus upon the relationship between an idea(s) and techniques,
  • which culminated in the more successful answers.

Some question foci which worked well were those which explored:

  • the idea of the reliable or unreliable narrator
  • literary genres
  • the withholding of information
  • use of perspective
  • the differences between the texts as well as the similarities
  • the differences between text types

2008 English Studies class

  • In Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote and Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, how do the authors establish patterns and tropes of repetition to explore the notion of a cyclical human condition? Peter Beaglehole +1
  • In what ways do the authors of Candide, or Optimism and Forest Gump use the picaresque narrative form to interrogate their respective societies’ cultures of logical positivism? Bryn Adams +2
  • How do the authors of Music Box and Death and the Maiden use narrative devices to explore the theme of divided loyalty? Lexie Matthews +5

2008 English Studies class

  • How do the authors of The Bell Jar and The Diving Bell & the Butterfly use point of view to explore extremes of isolation within their consolatory narratives? Phoebe Bowden
  • How do Peter Carey’s True History of the Kelly Gang and Jason Teplitski’s Gettin’ Square explore stereotypical Australian working class culture through the ideas of loyalty, oppression and hierarchy? Jesse Daughtry +1

2008 English Studies class

  • ’[Humans] may face a glass ceiling in their quest to reach their ambitions, but in Africa, an iron plate bars the way.’ Linda Seig
  • How do the authors of Blood Diamond and The Last King of Scotland use an anti-heroic pairing of black and white protagonists, in connection with common techniques, to explore Western misconceptions of Africa? Robin Garvie +2

2009 English Studies class

  • Compare and contrast the ways in which Julian Barnes’ A History of the World in 10½ Chapters and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey explore the nature of human evolution. Nick Mitchell
  • How do Tim O’Brien’s In The Lake in the Woods and John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meaney use ambiguous narrative structures to explore America’s post Vietnam loss of faith in politics? Graeme Riddell
  • In what ways do the authors of Doubt and The Crucible explore restrictive societies through the downfall of their protagonists? Georgia Hagias -1

2009 English Studies class

  • Oscar Wilde described homosexuality as ‘the love that dare not speak its name.’ In what ways do Donna Tartt and Alfred Hitchcock explore the destructive effects of secrecy on impressionable youth in The Secret History and Rope? Holly Richter -1
  • In what ways do Arundhati Roy in The God of Small Things and Danny Boyle in Slumdog Millionaire use the repercussions of childhood trauma as a motif to explore the realities of post-colonial India? Kate Rushforth -1

2009 English Studies class

  • In what ways do the authors of Revolutionary Road and A Doll’s House present the disintegration of the protagonist’s relationships as a critique of their respective societies? Tom Taylor -2
  • How do the authors of The Colour Purple and Madame Bovary use the journeys of their female protagonists to examine their respective societies’ attitudes towards women? Anneliese Herbert
  • ‘Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.’ Heinrich Heine. In what ways do the authors of Fahrenheit 451 and The Lives of Others explore dystopian societies through censorship of artistic expression? Jessica Todd +2

2010 English Studies class

  • Compare the ways in which Daniel Mason in The Piano Tuner and Ann Patchett in Bel Canto use the idea of music to explore the breakdown of cultural barriers. Georgie Simmons +1
  • What techniques do Dennis Hopper and Robert Pirsig use to explore the counter-culture of 1960’s America in their texts Easy Rider and Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? Michael Huxley +2
  • In what ways do Rachel Ward and Georgia Blain explore the construction of the feminine in the Australian texts Beautiful Kate and Candelo? Isobel Grear

2010 English Studies class

  • In what ways do Margaret Craven in I Heard the Owl Call My Name and Kay Pollak in As It Is In Heaven explore themes of healing and death through the journey of their protagonists? Miranda Daughtry+1
  • Compare the ways in which Frank Wedekind in Spring Awakening and Joss Whedon in season six of Buffy the Vampire Slayer use the liminal experience of adolescence to critique their respective societies. Mia Ryan
  • How do Thomas Hardy and Margaret Atwood explore the subordination of women in their novels Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Alias Grace through the motif of the male gaze? Hannah Korhonen-Bannister +2
  • Appropriate register
  • Acknowledgement of the text types

2007 Assessment Report – the essay

  • Markers were impressed by the range and depth of writing ability in evidence within the Critical Essays. Well structured arguments with relevant embedded quotations and integrated discussion points across both texts attracted the high scores as these essays consistently addressed the criteria for the critical essay. Those students who relied too heavily on verbose language or extensive block quotations did not score as well. Markers acknowledged the importance of utilising pertinent, succinct references from both texts within the argument to support discussion.

2007 Assessment Report – comparison

  • Because this is a connected texts study, those students who scored well integrated their discussion of texts within each point they raised, thus displaying a balanced depth of understanding of both texts. Students who produced essays that favoured one text over the other or discussed each text in an isolated way, limited the final score their work could attract.

2008 Assessment Report – the essay

  • One [issue] that has surfaced this year and should be actively discouraged is the over-reliance on external sources. Students who chose to research and expound the ideas of others hindered their ability to comparatively analyse the texts, and limited their development of a strong, original argument in the essay. Similarly, students who extensively quoted other sources and in some cases even critiqued the sources they had referenced, were not meeting the criteria of the course. … Best responses were those where students confidently expressed their own ideas about the texts they had chosen to study, rather than using ‘experts’ to support them.

2008 Assessment Report – the essay

  • Connected with this issue is that of the use of footnotes. Some students incorporated these into their essays, even footnoting the texts on which the essay was based. As this is an essay in which students are presenting their own argument in relation to the texts they have chosen to study, footnotes to the texts themselves are not required and external sources should not be referenced in the essay. If used, they should be accessed only as part of the formative processes which the student undertakes and, therefore, be confined to the supporting materials.

2009 Assessment Report – the essay

  • Something frequently commented on by markers this year was ‘over-writing’: many students used a thesaurus or other sources in an attempt to elevate their writing style. Such essays lacked a personal voice and often, rather than refining their argument, the student had in fact made the discussion unwieldy and the essay less coherent. Colloquial language and abbreviations should be avoided in the critical essay as it is a polished document.

2009 Assessment Report – the essay

  • At times, introductions and conclusions were problematic as were repeated key phrases and words. Being mindful of their style of expression, students should develop a clear structure for their argument so that it engages the reader from the outset and maintains their interest throughout.

2009 Assessment Report – the essay

  • One experienced marker observed, ‘Most essays were structured well with integrated discussion of both texts throughout; very few students dealt with one text then the other in two separate sections. It is a joy when students are able to construct an argument and lead the reader through to a thought-provoking conclusion.’

2009 Assessment Report – the essay

  • The issue of lengthy paragraphs is still evident. In an effort to appear to be linking the two texts some students abandon paragraph points and present ‘sectioned’ discussions instead. As one marker observed, ‘Because students were conscious that they were meant to be developing comparisons, they used connectives without really unpacking the ideas… many students began a paragraph with “similarly” (to the ideas in the previous paragraph) and yet made no attempt to explore any element that was similar.

2009 Assessment Report – the essay

  • The better responses were those where the student guided the reader by providing clear topic sentences to tighten their focus and fluent discussion divided in a controlled way. Such essays culminated in the student drawing the threads of the argument into a natural conclusion.

2009 Assessment Report – the essay

  • One of the marking team observed that ‘coherence of argument is fundamental in allowing access to the discussion. Many students presented a myriad of accurate observations and demonstrated a sophisticated knowledge of their texts and their texts’ techniques.’ The best essays, then, were those in which the students were able to move with seeming ease between the two texts, linking them within a common point of discussion.

Some typical characteristics of better essays are:

  • fluent and polished style
  • appropriate register
  • sophisticated, sustained and concise use of language which is clearly part of the student’s natural style of expression
  • strong sentence structure

Some typical characteristics of better essays are:

  • acknowledgment and confident discussion of technique, pertinent to the focus of the question and the argument being developed
  • fluid movement across the discussion of both texts, incorporating comparison/contrast
  • the effortless inclusion of textual references into the line of discussion
  • a strong, focused introduction and conclusion

Some typical characteristics of better essays are:

  • well-integrated discussion of texts within each point
  • a balanced depth of understanding of both texts
  • perceptive and insightful analysis of authors’ purposes

The Language of the Critical Essay Discourse Markers:

  • Managing Comparisons
    • Similarly …
    • In the same way …
    • Also …
    • We can see a similar effect …
    • Just as … so …
    • This is also true of …
    • Equally …

The Language of the Critical Essay Discourse Markers:

  • Managing Contrasts
    • On the other hand …
    • But when we look at …
    • Although …
    • Whereas …
    • While …

The Language of the Critical Essay Discourse Markers:

    • Possibly, …
    • Probably, …
    • Superficially, …
    • Of course, …
    • To be precise, …
    • In my experience, …
    • This could mean …
    • It may be …
    • Perhaps …
    • It seems to me that …
  • Expressing attitude and feeling

The Language of the Critical Essay Discourse Markers:

  • Exploring different approaches and interpretations
    • Some people may think that …
    • It is often said that …
    • It could be that …
    • Alternatively, …
    • On the other hand, …

2007 Assessment Report – word length

  • Students are definitely working hard to keep within the 2000 word limit set for this section of the course. Of some concern, however, were those students who disregarded this requirement, some for as little as 3 or 4 words, and others for as many as 500. Because the critical essay is a polished piece of writing, exceeding the word count suggests a lack of polish and should be discouraged as nothing over 2000 words is read by the marker.
  • Protecting the anonymity of the process
    • SACE registration numbers on each page
    • NO student names to appear anywhere
  • Adhering to the cumulative word count
    • Every page must have a cumulative word count in the footer

Students’ performance in the Individual Study will be judged by the extent to which they demonstrate:

  • Knowledge and Understanding
    • KU1 Knowledge and understanding of a wide range of ways in which authors use stylistic features and language techniques to communicate complex and familiar ideas, and to influence the reader’s response.
    • KU2 Detailed knowledge and understanding of the ideas, values, and beliefs in familiar and unfamiliar texts.
    • KU3 Knowledge and understanding of the ways in which creators and readers of familiar and unfamiliar texts use a range of textual conventions to make meaning.

Students’ performance in the Individual Study will be judged by the extent to which they demonstrate:

  • Analysis
    • An.1 Analysis of complex connections between personal experiences, ideas, values, and beliefs, and those explored in familiar and unfamiliar texts.
    • An.2 In comparative exercises, a perceptive analysis of connections between texts, based on analysis and synthesis of similarities and/or differences.

Students’ performance in the Individual Study will be judged by the extent to which they demonstrate:

  • Application
    • Ap.1 Use of a wide range of language skills and techniques to create sophisticated and coherent texts that address the meaning and intention of the task.
    • Ap.2 In comparative exercises, a perceptive recognition of connections between texts, through responses that integrate discussion of texts and move easily between them.
    • Ap.3 Detailed and appropriate use of evidence from texts to support responses, with textual references incorporated fluently in discussion.

Students’ performance in the Individual Study will be judged by the extent to which they demonstrate:

  • Communication
    • C1 Fluent and precise writing, using appropriate style and structure for a range of mainly unfamiliar audiences and contexts.
    • C2 Appropriate use of form and register to convey mostly complex meaning in a range of unfamiliar contexts.
  • “It was a wonderful experience to read the highly sophisticated and expressive work of those students who had given the Individual Study the time and thought it requires, and had clearly grown as a reader and writer as a result of this experience.”


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