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Issues with college classes: Essays

from BCB2005 - Friday, November 16, 2007
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Issues with college classes: Essays

I'm having issues with essays in my college classes (something I've never done). Any suggestions?

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from Missm
Monday, January 28, 2008 - 17:25

I am in my first semester and am finding the essays to be a challenge as well. So, I am taking English 300 (college writing) and taking advantage of the free tutoring! It makes a big difference and will make the rest of college a breeze - well that's what I am hoping!! =)
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from sar
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 - 04:21



If you're worried about poor grammar and writing style, I would recommend using Word's grammar checker. Word can pick up poor sentence structuring, passive phrases and informal writing (i.e. using "I" throughout the text). As a general rule essays should be written in a formal style. Word won't pick up slang and will miss out on some colloquialisms, so you would need to check for that yourself.

I would also recommend getting a book on writing essays. There are some taylored specifically to mature students. I've found them helpful when analysing the question set and when drawing up plans. When you are required to "analyse" an issue, you will need a slightly different plan and structure than when you are required "critically evaluate" the same issue. Most books on the subject will list out various phrases used in essay questions and tell you what you should be doing in order to answer it. Its very important that you answer the question set, when one is set. Putting in information that is not directly relevant to question set will lose you points, even if it is fascinating.

If you have to write essays in exams, try to prepare them before hand, just make sure you taylor them to answer the question, and practice by writing lots of essays to similarly worded questions that you think will come up within the time limits that you will be given in the exam itself.

Your lecturer should be able to give some advice as well. Don't stress or worry about it too much. As long as you answer the question set, show that you understand what you've been taught in lectures and reference the course material, you should do alright. Good luck with it.
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from Fish
Tuesday, November 20, 2007 - 03:53

Average visitor agreement is 1 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)
I'm a brilliant writer. If you email me your assignment Ill consider writing it for you, particularly if you offer some kind of incentive. If it doesn't get a B or better I offer a refund.
(reply to this comment)
from Jules
Monday, November 19, 2007 - 22:35

Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5Average visitor agreement is 5 out of 5(Agree/Disagree?)

Most colleges and universities have workshops and tutoring programs for support with the educational process, especially if you are a mature student. My first year in uni I took as many of these as I could, as I had no idea how to do any of this at all either. If you are feeling overwhelmed and frustrated, I would recommend attending some of these.

Also for some reason a significant number of us SGAs (thereís a study in there somewhere as these are genetic) have learning disabilities such as dyslexia and ADD. Most schools also have specific support for people with learning disabilities, such as extra time on essays and exams, free computers, extra tutoring, etc. so it might be worth getting tested.

Frankly, the most important thing, in my opinion, is to not procrastinate and to take the time to work through the process of creating a good essay. It does help you get good grades, but for me, it significantly lowered the stress involved in submitting something to my prof.. I am a horrible procrastinator, but I absolutely hate being stressed out.

Figuring how long something would take me to do and then being able to create a schedule for myself to do it in was very helpful for me. Of course sometimes you have to write essays (sometimes a number of them) in an exam. A number of these steps have worked for me then as well though, with the main thing being having studied the material and thought about it.

The formula I learned to write an essay is the following:

a. Start by Brainstorming.

Read through all of your reference material and jot down any and all ideas you have while reading this, no matter what they are. Note the references to your research material in relation to your idea (this will save you a lot of time later on).

Even if you donít have any ideas about your material, if you think something is significant, note the subject matter and page number in your notes. Mark the page with a post it facing out of the book.

Take some time to think about the material and your topic and continue to write down ideas as they come.

b. Create an outline.

When you have a general idea of your premise, check your notes and start to create an outline of your essay. DO NOT do this at the last minute, but allow yourself enough time to work through the whole process.

When creating your outline, donít go from top to bottom all the way through, but start with the main sections and then go back and fill in the sub-points.

The main sections of an essay follow this progression:

1. Explain the question that you are answering.
2. Give a clear and definite answer to the question.
3. Give a fully developed argument and support your claim in detail.
4. Consider the objections to your specific argument and refute them.
5. Consider the alternatives to your claim and explain why your proposal is the superior one.
6. Wrap it up in a conclusion, summarizing your argument and restating your claim.

Write just a one sentence statement to answer these points. Once you know what these will cover, go through them and create sub-points in your outline.

Points 1 and 2 are often one paragraph, so you donít usually need to create sub-points for these. Points 3, 4 and 5 however are the places to expand. For point 3, use your one or two best arguments and write a one sentence statement to support this (I often use bullet points under this to remind me of how my argument is structured.)

I donít know what courses you are taking, but I found Philosophy 101 to be an excellent introduction to the basic structure of argumentative essays, the structure of arguments and how to write and think critically. A little book I found incredibly helpful is ďA Rulebook for ArgumentsĒ.

With points 4 and 5, the sub-points are self-evident.

c. Write up your draft.

Write through your essay. If you have read the material, thought it through and have the structure of your essay in your head, this can be a straight run through. Leave notes in brackets for where to insert references and quotes, because you can look them up later and insert them then. You will lose your train of thought if you stop to look everything up. Get everything down on paper that you want to say. Donít worry about the grammar or spelling, etc.

d. Review your draft.

Give it a day or so and then go over your draft. I usually review my draft the first time on the computer. I correct my spelling and grammar, add and delete from my paragraphs and flush out my arguments. I also look up my references and quotes and insert these, as well as the bibliography.

Give it another day or so and then print out your essay. Go somewhere quiet with this and a red pen and read it over. For some reason, looking at it on paper is different than looking at it on a computer screen. Mark it up where needed and edit with your red pen. Make the changes on your document on your computer.

e. Finalize your essay.

After another day or so, read over your essay one final time.

Does it express what you really wanted to say? (Edit and/or add what would not)
Would it convince you of your argument?
Double check all the spelling and grammar.
Is it too short or too long? (A quick surefire way of expanding the word count is to insert a relevant long quote--and your notes will come in handy here.)

I hope this is in someway helpful.
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From neez
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 22:32

I would have to agree with this guys reasoning about the main differences between reading on-screen vs paper.

Basically the 'problem' with computer screens, is that they are attached to computers offering endless possibilities for procrastination.

Things might look different if you plug that same monitor into an offline Windows 3.1 box. And delete solitaire!(reply to this comment
From BCB2005
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 10:27


This is extremely helpful.

I'm ordering that book now and looking into other review programs.

So far I've only encountered short essays in exams and am really not looking forward to the long essays and presentations but, will take your good advice and start working on it early.

Thank you!

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from ESJ
Monday, November 19, 2007 - 03:45

What kind of issues? a) Difficulty knowing anything about what you're supposed to write about? b) Difficulty because TF training taught you to be really biased about the subject matter? c) Difficulty trying to figure out how to write so many words about something you're not interested in or don't want to write about? d) The subject matter is bringing up emotional blocks or triggers or feelings you don't know how to deal with? e) You didn't get enough schooling in English, grammar and spelling to feel you can write a whole lot of words competently and make sense? f) You can't focus and concentrate enough to do it. - Or a combination of some of these - or some other reason?
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From BCB2005
Monday, November 19, 2007, 09:13


A combination of a lot of those.

Mostly: Difficulty knowing what to write about, trying to figure out how to stretch it (my method is usually short and sweet - way too short), can't focus at all and emotions arise due to frusteration for lack of schooling and irritation about having to do it so late in life.

So, most of the above.

Let me know if you have any suggestions for these issues.


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From ESJ
Monday, November 19, 2007, 13:03


Sorry, I only just got around to checking your profile. I thought I was talking with someone younger who'd recently left TF. Didn't realize you've been out for awhile. Nevertheless, what I was saying is still relevent due to the lack of schooling and TF background having such a long term effect.

People who write very succinctly (short and concise) often turn out to be good writers. Whenever I have to write an article or essay, I start out writing 'haiku'. Haiku is an ancient form of Japanese poetry that is very short and visual. (Look it up on the net or get a book of haiku.) It only has three lines and few words. It describes a small point of focus the writer is 'seeing'. Get a blank piece of paper and, in short, poetic, descriptive sentences, list your memories and thoughts and ideas, no matter how irrelevent or 'innane' they seem to be, in no particular order. Make it a game and see how descriptive you can be about small memories, impressions or events. Then once you have quite a few of these nuggets, sort them, change or rewrite the ones that need it, and then see if you can flesh it out and string them together and fill in the gaps.

Re: essays where you have to talk about your own background or experience/s: Try just picking one (or more) specific personal experiences that could be 'made' to relate somehow to the subject matter. Just hone in on specific periods of your life (not the 'whole story') using the above method of haiku/brain storming. If you're ready to start talking about your upbringing in TF candidly, look up on the net and/or read a couple of books about cult mind control and abuse(Stephen Hassans 'Combatting Cult Mind Control' is very good) and put what you're reading and learning about into your own words, perhaps from an objective, psuedo-academic stand point if you don't want it to sound too personal.

With having to write essays on other subjects, just get a couple of books and/or research on the Net and just regurgitate what you're reading and learning from them, in your own words. (This is what all college students do for assignments). When you find just the right chapter or material that covers your siubject matter well, read a paragraph, think about what it actually means, then write a couple of sentences to explain what you've just read, in your own words. Do this paragraph by paragraph, and pretty soon you have an essay. Rewrite it to your satisfaction - or get help from someone more experienced in writing to go over it with you and help you fill in the gaps and polish it. All the best.(reply to this comment

From BCB2005
Tuesday, November 20, 2007, 10:49


I haven't heard of Haiku before but, am checking out a few books now.

The only essays I've had to do so far are short essays in exams and I found that even when compiling a "decent" essay before hand when going in to the exam my mind would go blank and it was hard to remember what I had previously thought of putting down.

Practice makes perfect though so, I'm going to start working on it now.


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