Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds EMMA: Once you’ve gathered all the sources needed for your research, you probably feel like you have this jumbled mess of your core books, websites, journals, newspapers and all those other types of sources that you might have found, with no idea of what to do with them or how they fit together. I like to lay my sources out, either physically or digitally, working out which ones fit to which parts of my essay. If I was going to write a for or against style essay, for example, I’d arrange them on two sides as clearly as I possibly can, so that they make more logical sense to me.
Skip to 0 minutes and 40 seconds They won’t necessarily fit into either side particularly well, so you have to interpret them and work out how they fit within your argument. I would do the exact same thing if I were writing sections or chapters as well, putting sources towards the introduction or the methodology. Obviously, to be able to logically order them like this, you have to have an idea of what you want the order to be. Always start with an introduction. It sets out the context for your work and will tell the reader exactly what they’re going to be told, what your overall position will be and exactly how you plan to guide the reader through your work. So remember those three things; context, hypothesis, and structure.
Skip to 1 minute and 21 seconds Next comes the main body of the work. Here you have the opportunity to explore in more depth the importance of your research, what the background to it is, and what work has already been done in this field. You can show examples as evidence of the issues that you’ve considered in shaping your general point of view. So for each section; outline your point, provide evidence for it, then link it back to your research question, and on again to your next point. Try and remember to be balanced. So, for every point you make, make a counterargument to show that you’ve thoroughly considered all sides of the argument. Again, consider three things; overview, examples, and paragraphs. Finally, you will reach that conclusion.
Skip to 2 minutes and 5 seconds Give a very clear statement of your argument in a way that satisfies your research questions. It’s also worth considering, at the end of every piece of research, exactly what the implications of your work are, who agrees with you, and where further research might be useful. So; answer, argument, implications. Some research, a little bit like my own, will need a bit more structure than this. It might include, but isn’t limited to, a literature review, where you document work that exists in your field already, its significance, and your take on it. Also, a methodology section, where you can explain complicated methods, or forms of analysis.
Skip to 2 minutes and 47 seconds You then go on to reveal your results, followed by a discussion which indicates what their significance is and the impact on your research questions. To use the for and against argument again, what you’re doing is taking a source as evidence for your point, analysing it and evaluating it before linking it on to another point. And so the process goes on until you reach your conclusion. Effectively, what you’re trying to do is tie all the strands of evidence together into one coherent piece of work.
Organising your sources and structuring your essay
Once you have gathered all the sources you need for your research, it might seem like you have a jumbled mess of books, journals, websites, newspapers, all different types of resources that you just don’t know what to do with or how they fit together.
Some might contradict each other, even though they make the same point. It’s all about working out where exactly to place them.
In this animation with voiceover Emma, illustrates an approach to structuring and writing up your report so that you end up with a coherent piece of work.
© University of Southampton 2015