Writing advice for undergraduates (2014)

Fortunately, the conditions under which a TA will read your essay are much like those in which everything else you ever write will be read, from reports written for your future employer to love letters written to your future spouse. This means the skills required to write these papers are generally applicable in life. Especially with dealing with an inattentive reader who isn’t especially interested in your thoughts, a special effort must be made to put forward an argument that will lead the reader along while rewarding their attention. In every case, the reader will have other demands on their time and other things on their mind. Your purpose is to convey something convincing and scholarly under those conditions. Your two real tasks are to develop an argument and then to convey it in as clear a way as possible.

Essay writing tips for undergraduates (2013)

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

One thought on “Writing advice for undergraduates (2014)”

  1. Thus the last and most important thing I am trying to train is not the form of the essay nor its content, but the basic skills of having a thought and putting it in a box that we outlined earlier. Even if your job or hobbies do not involve formal writing, chances are (especially if your job requires a college degree) you are still expected to observe something real, make conclusions about it and then present those conclusions to someone else (boss, subordinates, co-workers, customers, etc.) in a clear way, supported by convincing evidence if challenged. What we are practicing then is how to have good thoughts, put them in good boxes and then effectively hand that box to someone else. That can be done in a formal written form (the essay), in informal writing (emails, memos, notes, Slack conversations), or verbally (speeches, but also arguments, debates and discussions). The skills of having the idea, supporting it with evidence, organizing that evidence effectively to be understood and then communicating that effectively are transferable and the most important skills that are being practiced when a student writes an essay.


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