Dr. Ian Gordon ASC NUS Back to AS3216 Back to AS3217 Back to AS3219

Guide to Essays

Students in my course AS3216 are required to write an essay of at least 3,000 words on an aspect of one of the weekly lecture topics. Students need to formulate their own essay topic and consult me for approval. You will be required to submit an essay outline as part of your continuing assessment.

The essay is due at 5pm on Friday September 15.

An initial approach to formulating an essay topic is to ask yourself "what am I interested in?" You should then ask yourself a series of questions about the topic you select: "Why is this subject important?" "What do I think about it?" "Why do I think that?" "What evidence do I have to support what I think?" "Where can I find evidence to support what I think?" "What counter arguments might be used against my interpretation of this subject?" "How can I refute those arguments?" "Where can I find evidence and sources of information to help me refute those arguments?" Eventually you should arrive at a thesis questions, that is a question that focuses your essay on a specific subject.

It is of utmost importance that your paper has an argument, that it is interpretative. A paper that is merely descriptive - that simply describes some event or institution - is not satisfactory. A key point to keep in mind when you write your paper and exam is that your argument is an empty argument, a mere assertion, unless it is backed up with concrete pertinent evidence drawn from the books and other sources you have seen or read. You must support your generalisations with examples drawn from  texts or movies. By all means strive to write papers that are imaginative, but avoid papers that are simply fanciful.

Students should note that academic papers require footnotes or endnotes, and bibliographies. Click here for my brief guide to footnotes and bibliographies.
Plagiarism, defined as "the act of taking the writings of another person and passing them off as one's own" will result in an F. When you use someone else's words use quotation marks. When you paraphrase someone's writing put a footnote.

Essays should have page numbers.

Students may find the following essay writing guide useful: http://www.eslplanet.com/teachertools/argueweb/frntpage.htm

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Last update May 9, 2000.                                            © National University of Singapore - American Studies Centre
Contact: Ian Gordon