As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.
Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.
“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”
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The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.
“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”
But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.
“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?
“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”
Critique your own arguments
Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.
“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”
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Fine, use Wikipedia then
The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.
“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”
Focus your reading
Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.
Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.
You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.
“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”
There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.
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Look beyond the reading list
“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”
And finally, the introduction
The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.
“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”
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Does computer gaming addiction lead to more dangerous consequences among children or adults?
The contemporary world develops extremely fast and becomes more globalized and digital in comparison to the previous times. Advanced technologies resulted in the creation of a new lifestyle among society, which has rather different features. Within the digital world, people gained an opportunity for a self-realization in the online realm, which can be considered as an adverse outcome. Video games are one of the most popular and widespread ways for realizing personality and expressing the character. Realization in the virtual world may stimulate a person to further self-development. In most cases, however, computer gaming leads to addiction and causes harmful effects, and even dangerous consequences on the children and adults’ by influencing their physical and mental health, and relationships with society and close people.
Computer gaming addiction causes violence among adults and children, where the latter social category is exposed to making it more than the first one. Violence can be manifested in various ways, although the most frequently used is attacking, which means demonstrating disrespect in uniquely rude manners to the people around a person. One of the main reasons for both social groups is that computer games consist harmful content in the form of violence itself. If a person becomes addicted from such type of games, they start to follow the behavior of the game characters, whose primary goals are making physical and moral harm to others, killing them with different weapons, and even being able of conducting the most severe crimes. As the addiction itself takes a long time, it means that youth or adults spend it by playing games. In other words, they obtain a particular habit, which in its turn, reduce their repugnance to being involved in the virtual world of violence. Consequently, the players overcome the psychological barrier and develop the desire to harm instead of being an upstanding citizen. When it comes to children in the young age, they have much exposure to the violence because of unstable character. It is said that “At school age, teenagers have less experience in life and less knowledge than adults in identifying reality from a simulation, and these young people may be more easily drawn to the borderless web game world or even aberration than are adults” (Harvard Publications, 2017). Undoubtedly, children can hardly differentiate the real and virtual worlds, and thus, their ability to take responsibility for their actions becomes very small. It mainly happens in cases when parents do not follow the adequate norms of upbringing their children, do not pay attention to their development, and, moreover, have no interest in them. It also correlates with the situation when teenagers have a particular stress situation, in which they easily fall under the influence of the video games system.
Raising children in disadvantaged families together with a tendency to abuse causes addiction among the children, which may lead to more dangerous consequences. As it was mentioned above, stress can become a trigger for addiction. Those children being raised inadequately, face the problem more frequently in comparison to their opponents. Moreover, the problem is also about the adults who had a difficult childhood. Physical abuse can always serve as a reason for the occurrence of mental problems of children in the young age. When a parent demonstrates some disrespect or ill-treatment to their children and family itself, family members try to either solve or avoid it in a various way. For children, it is likely to choose the second option, what they do in many cases because of inability to defend themselves and stand to be under the psychological pressure. One study revealed a clear example of this issue when analyzing the relationship between the family and the influence of the abuse problem on the child’s behavior. It proved that the computer gaming could cause danger to a child’s mental health. When it comes to a boy as a participant of the investigation, “the mental state that he attained while playing assisted his avoidance of the family problems and repression of aggressive and violent feelings toward his father” (Keepers 50). Chiu, Lee, and Huang (575) suggest parents take much part in the lives of their children and make an attempt to decide this problem in the way of developing their worldview and improving skills needed for self-realization. From these researches, one can see the negative consequences of the video games.
What is more, such process can also be followed by forming of another issue like isolation among children. Trying to escape the reality, they go to the virtual world feeling themselves much better. This tendency is also common for older people, who have been suffered in the childhood. As a result of avoiding communication, the building of some relationships with others, and socialization, they develop an addiction to gaming. This influences the lifestyle of children and adults, making them be out of the society and spending a lot of time alone with themselves. Such consequences are considered as negative as they have adverse impact on the individual growth, mental and physical development, the realization of personality in a particular, professional sphere. A study of computer gaming addiction among young people reveals the idea of their involvement in this process as the way of emotional compensation for those who had experienced some issues in the childhood (Chiu et. al. 272). The scientists make an argument that there is “a close relationship between sensation seeking and drug abuse, smoking, playing video games, sexual activities, high-adventure sports, and crimes” (Chiu et. al. 272). To clarify, this relationship finds its realization in various negative and dangerous consequences revealing through the chain of addiction, isolation, demonstration of aggression, violation, conducting the crime and even using alcohol and drugs with the aim of reducing the influence of the childhood background. Thus, personal isolation, inability to proper self-realization in real society, aggressive behavior, the disposition to conducting the crime, the possibility of becoming addicted from certain substances can be identified as the dangerous consequences of the computer gaming addiction.
In conclusion, video games are one of the most popular things to cause addiction, which has an adverse impact on various things in the psychological and sociological contexts. Being a subject of virtual reality, a game creates an illusion of a world very similar to the real but comparably useful for the players. Addicted children and adults consider it as an opportunity to live the better life and thus isolate themselves. However, within such a result, computer gaming addiction lead to dangerous consequences as violence, aggression, and crime. These problems prevent the social welfare and growth as well the personal development, and for this reason, should be addressed.
Chiu, Shao-I, Jie-Zhi Lee, and Der-Hsiang Huang. “Video Game Addiction In Children And Teenagers In Taiwan.” Cyberpsychology & Behavior 7.5 (2004): 571-581. Print.
Keepers, George A. “Pathological Preoccupation With Video Games.” Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry 29.1 (1990): 49-50. Web.
Harvard Publications. “Violent Video Games And Young People – Harvard Health.” Harvard Health. N.p., 2017. Web. 22 Aug. 2017.
The argumentative essay above is dedicated to one of the most acute modern problems – computer gaming addiction. This psychological phenomenon is common both for adults and children. Computer games are an easy and quick escape from reality. Children hide behind their virtual life from real problems: bullying at school, bad parenting, and communication issues. Addicted teenagers hardly see the difference between the real and virtual worlds. They begin to copy a behavioral manner of game characters that commonly includes violence, committing crimes, etc. Video games addiction influences physical and mental health, perverts their relationships with relatives and society. The obsession with computer games is also widespread among the adults who have had troubled childhoods or suffer from failures in professional and social spheres.
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