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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsOK. So the discussion we're going to have this morning is all about structure, how you structure writing, how you think about the structure, and the things that are important to develop structure. What does it mean in terms of education, in terms of writing? How do you think-- what makes something have structure? In essays, they use that term "sign posting." So it's your point, your evidence, your explanations. You want to make it really clear what you're trying to get across. And then you explain that. And you develop your answer and really make it really clear.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 secondsIf you have an obvious theme running through it, it makes it much more clear than if it's just a series of abstract paragraphs which aren't really linked. So it makes your argument much more powerful if it's linked to all of your paragraphs rather than just one on its own. I think there's often a particular formula that you have to follow in order to get the right marks. So if you had, for example, an essay on global warming, what would you use? What material would you use in the main part of your essay? You'd use statistics and data. But you'd also look at both sides.

Skip to 1 minute and 17 secondsSo perhaps there might be an argument for or against, and you'd base some evidence for and some evidence against and then explain. But then your conclusion, you'd conclude what you, perhaps, agree with and what you believe to be correct. That's what I'd really do in my conclusion. Right. So you have pieces of evidence, you draw them together, and you come up with an opinion at the end of your essay. Is that right? You have to make judgments of what in each paragraph when you address a question. So you say how a point would relate to the question.

Skip to 1 minute and 52 secondsAnd then you would say at the end of that paragraph, I think that this is actually important, or, actually I don't think it's that important to the overall argument. And then in your conclusion, you'd say, on the balance of evidence, I decide to come down on one side of the other. Yeah, you sort of weigh it all up and summarise. So how are you coming to this opinion, then? With an essay, you start with the evidence, you say? You evaluate the strength of the arguments have been presented. They often load the question. You very rarely get a very open question. So there's always specific points which they're looking for you to make after they've set the question out.

Skip to 2 minutes and 40 secondsAnd so often from the question, you can work out what they want you to say. With essays at university level, we're particularly interested in structuring an argument. Now, what do you see-- what you take as the meaning of if I say, I want you to structure an argument? What do you think you would do? Instead of structuring so you're giving or you're fighting for and against, you kind of choose a side. And you structure all your evidence towards that side. And you're really trying to convince the reader, whoever's reading your essay, that your argument is correct and it's the one you'd like them to agree with. And what you think makes a good argument?

Skip to 3 minutes and 22 secondsOne with lots of points, so one with evidence and things to back up your points, and not just saying a point. You need some proof. You need evidence. Yeah, maybe balanced, because that way, you probably have evidence to support you from both sides. At school in your essays, the structure you're given is quite formulaic. At university, the idea is you have this opinion. You are given a title. You have your opinion. You have something to grasp, your own thoughts, things on which you base your argument. And you're given that freedom. Do you feel that that would be a more exciting way to approach an essay?

Skip to 4 minutes and 3 secondsOr do you feel that having the constraint and the in-built structure is a sort of better way of dealing with an essay? I think the structure which you learn-- the biggest difference is at university, you're doing a subject which you really are passionate about. And maybe at school, sometimes you're not as passionate about it. So to learn the structure at school, then you have an in-built which you can then use. Even when you're talking sort of in a more abstract way about something at university which you're more passionate about, you'll still have a structure to your answer. But it won't be so formulaic. But you'll still have a basic structure, which will make it a better piece of prose.

Skip to 4 minutes and 50 secondsYeah, I do think you are quite restricted, in a way, with your school essays because you're essentially learning to jump through leaps and pass an exam. So there's obviously far more scope for creativity in an essay without the formula. I suppose I'm more scientific in the way I think. So I like having a set thing that I'm working through, and I know what I'm going to say next. I think that still, even at university, if you have a bit of structure, you have the independence to do your own points and convey your own opinion. But I'd still much prefer to follow a routine and a formula.

Skip to 5 minutes and 25 secondsIf you had to give one piece of advice to anybody about structuring an essay, what would it be? Make sure it's clear and well set out so that your answer flows and people really understand what you're trying to get across. I think you've always got to make sure you're always addressing the question. So that if you're speaking for a paragraph about something which doesn't really affect your argument, then you probably shouldn't make that point. Yeah, and make sure that you've thought about your view and you can find evidence to support it.

Seminar about structure

Do the students in this video raise similar points that you have thought about? Do you agree with what they are saying? How would you answer the questions the lecturer is asking?

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Preparing for University

UEA (University of East Anglia)

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