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Postgraduate Essay Examples

Is Tess in ‘Tess of the d'Urbervilles' portrayed as being responsible for her own demise? [pdf 40 KB]

Yours is a beautifully clear essay. You write very well, and your prose is delightful to read. You've also done your research and it shows. There is a remarkable lack of vagary about society or feminism in your piece, and you've picked canny quotes from your secondary sources that elucidate and situate your arguments.

You've also located some wonderfully specific quotations from your primary source to support your argument that Hardy's narrator sympathises with Tess. Some of your close readings are wonderfully astute, as when you point out that Tess implores Angel, rather than commanding him. Slightly less persuasive is your assertion that Tess is the victim of Alec's eyes; I suspect you might have found better quotations, descriptions, or incidents denouncing Alec's gaze.

You are clearly very good at pursuing and proving an argument. I encourage you to be a bit more experimental in your next essay; perhaps choose a less straightforward topic and see where it takes you.

Please see penciled notes throughout on shortening sentences and watching for comma splices (please look this term up in a style manual if it is unfamiliar).

When considering how to write a Masters essay, it can be tricky to understand and achieve the subtle differences between Masters and undergraduate level work. In short, a Masters level essay will generally require a deeper level of independent thought, which can be shown by adopting the following tried-and-testing tips.

Mastery

As the name of the degree suggests, you should ideally demonstrate a mastery of your subject by confidently contextualising your arguments and making reference to trends, themes, theoretical paradigms and traditions within the discipline.

Delineate the scope of your paper

Position the issues you intend to discuss within the broader field of your subject area. This will demonstrate not only your understanding of the breadth of the academic landscape, but also your ability to focus on a particular part of it. It is not enough to analyse certain idea;, you must recognise their place in the whole.

Independence of thought

All parts of the essay must show more than a regurgitation of ideas and a proficiency in collating material. Discussion, analysis, evaluation and argument must all demonstrate your ability to interpret, understand and critique from a unique perspective. Challenge assumptions and explain the reasoning behind your contentions.

Conceptual thinking

Abstract reasoning and comfort with interpreting unfamiliar concepts is a necessary requirement of work at this level. Do not be tempted to critique the academic literature through vague and impressionistic approaches; demonstrate instead a genuine conceptual engagement.

Compelling conclusions

When considering how to write a Masters essay, you need to ensure that your arguments and conclusions are plausible; try throughout to make them properly convincing. Weigh evidence, analyse arguments and develop your own position. If on reading you have successfully convinced yourself, you will more likely convince the reader.

Substantial originality

At undergraduate level, evidence of genuine originality almost certainly ensures top marks. At Masters level, originality is more routinely expected. A key aspect to this – the most challenging element of academic work – is confidence in your intellectual acuity. Lay the foundations through mastery of the more prosaic elements, then develop the confidence to speak with a new voice.

Research skills

One of the biggest step-changes between undergraduate and Masters studies is the premium placed on research. Go beyond the reading lists provided by lecturers and directors of studies to demonstrate your initiative in finding your own sources. Live in libraries, use internet resources, become familiar with useful journals and, perhaps above all else, follow the footnotes!

Operate within the academic conventions

At this level of academia you should be fluent in your understanding of appropriate referencing, attribution of borrowed ideas and the proper approach to research. Much of this area can be solved through simple diligence, so don’t let minor errors erode the credibility of your essay.

The academic register

Spelling, punctuation and grammar are such basic considerations as to be taken for granted. Instead, the major linguistic concerns at this level are those of tone and style. An academic register is based in precision, formality, thorough understanding of subject-specific vocabulary, and an avoidance of familiarity and inappropriate use of the first person.

Immaculate presentation

Perhaps seemingly trivial, presentation should not be disregarded. Demonstrate scholarly professionalism through due care and attention to all aspects of your work.

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