Writing a university essay – OurWarwick
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Writing a university essay


Hi everyone!

So I have just submitted my first piece of assessed work, and final essay for this term (Woop).

The thought of writing a university essay can be very daunting, especially if you didn’t do an essay based subject previously. It seems like my peers are expert with all things essays, such as with referencing whilst this was my first time! However, PAIS is honestly amazing, I organised a meeting with my PR21 seminar tutor to discuss essay structures and how to reference, which helped get up to speed quickly. The module handbook (available online) also has all the information you need to write an essay so you really don’t need to worry.

Difference between formative and summative essays:

Formative essays are ones which do not count towards your overall mark, but you do receive feedback which can be really beneficial for your exams and overall understanding of the content. This term I wrote 3 formative essays and one summative. If you study Politics, your Introduction to Politics and World Politics module will be 100% exam based, whilst your optional module will be assessed through a summative essay (you get to write a formative essay before your summative so that you can use any feedback to improve).

A summative essay is assessed and does count towards your mark. In the case of PR21, you write 3 summative essays and the best two will count towards your overall mark for the module. This gives you the opportunity to take risks, which you may otherwise not. I just submitted my essay on survey research, where I researched different political surveys and discussed their importance in the study of politics along with their principal limitations. I was, therefore, able to be creative in the sources I used, rather than limiting myself to the more ‘well-known’ literature.

Difference between A level and university essays:

PAIS really encourage you to be critical when writing essays and want to read YOUR opinion, not just one that your teacher has said, or is written in a specification. At A level, you are limited by textbooks, which can prevent you from writing about your interests or exploring your opinion deeper. This isn’t the case at university, where you can read outside of the set reading list (in fact, to achieve the best marks, you have to). For instance, for my Introduction to Politics essay, the broad question meant that I could choose the approach I took, where I took a more economics-focused approach. This brings me onto my next point, you are given a choice of questions which tend to be broad and you can decide which one to answer, and the route you will take in answering it. During your A-levels, it is likely that you were limited in options (if there was one available) and your teacher told you exactly what the exam board are looking for.

Referencing is crucial at university, which I never had to do during my A-levels. It may be a good idea to look over different types of referencing beforehand such as footnote and Harvard so that you are in a strong position when you write your first essay.

Good luck for when you write your essays or anybody who has already submitted theirs! If you have any specific questions, feel free to comment 🙂

Shanita 🙂 xo

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