The essay

The titles were given out just before Christmas and I went into panic mode. I doubted my ability to write an essay at Masters level. Here I am, putting myself through the agony I experienced in my 3rd year of my degree, But I slowed down, re-read the titles several times, eliminated the impossible, that is the ones I don’t understand what is asked of me and have been left with three possibles.

So, its a 3000 illustrative essay and I think I’m going for
‘Identify and discuss what you perceive to be the most important social functions of your chosen area of practice’.

It will help me focus on defining what my practice is about, who its for and where I want my work to be seen.

The study skills tutor has given some pointers.

Start with the conclusion – what have I to say about the title of this essay? It can and most probably alter over the course of writing.

Start with a few words but always write in sentences rather than notes. Questions will arise and these then will turn into the body of the essay.

Don’t leap into masses of reading. It’s important you think through for yourself.

Remember the free writing exercise when you get stuck.

Bring in other experts to enrich your own thinking.

Answer the question ‘Why did I choose this title?’

What are going to be the difficulties?

What do I want to say?

Do I agree/disagree with others?

Reading is to develop your own thought, to compare and contrast with other writers.

Do introduction last as you can take it from the conclusion.

Define concepts and keywords in the introduction. It will help not to use the same words over again.

Your reader needs to know you understand the connection between your ideas and that you are able to follow through your interpretation.

Identify the ideas you want to work with and if you have too many then drop some.

Choose about four illustrations that are tied into your discussion. Analyse why you have selected them. If the essay still makes sense without them they are not valid.

Start by choosing image of your own work and building the essay around it.
What is your conclusion about each image?

That’s given me plenty to think about. I stopped myself going to the library to borrow a heap of books I’ve listed – the reading will come later as advised.

UPDATE  Study Skills 13/01/2014

Looking at the title I’ve chosen key words are perceive to be (the need to explain my work as someone else will have a different view of it) and social function. Give definition of this.

Mind map the definitions – use free writing  – make lists, scatter words on a table and see what joins up.

Concept map – the concepts that link the mind map words. Define the concept words and that will lead onto the content.

Example – the word freedom leads to mountain, landscape, land space…….. concept of space and that leads to gallery space, outside space.

Keep focused by grouping the concept words together. Put ideas into piles or colour code, this will give you paragraphs

As this is a personal essay bring in research to inform your ideas – it can only be written in the 1st person. But open it up to 3rd person. Step back from yourself to talk about this as from the point of view what other artists do. Avoid ‘it could be said that’ as if it could be argued that way then it could be argued another way.

Look at how authors write.

If you say ‘I agree with ……’ then have to substantiate why.

Write in a lively fashion, you can say ‘This is fascinating’ then explain why, backed up  by research. Have a dialogue with the author – write a letter to the author after reading the text – this is informal and may raise questions you wish to answer or clarify why author is important to you.

In the introduction define the terms – they may mean different things to different people. Define them in context to the title – not too open. So we all know what we’re talking about.

Have a conversation with your topic – who are you, what are you?


Read the title of a book, chapter, article etc. and brainstorm your own ideas as to what it may be about. Stop to think, can you write a summary of what you’ve just read? The ideas that come out of that are the ones you are interested in. Take one of these ideas and free-write. Then stay focused, keep it on target and write..

With a book read the introduction and conclusion – don’t think you have to read the whole lot. It may be the first and last sentence of a paragraph, section. get a feel of the article first. After reading then make notes and decide where they are going in your essay – colour code.

Get a structure going although this may change.

Have a conversation with the author as you read. Question the sentences – what do you mean by this, that, the other? Then you can go on with your own thoughts.

Two line quote at the most as the points need to be discussed. Brake it up if needed to discuss point by point.

Can use footnotes to give more information i.e. the venue of an exhibition.

Keep your own style.

Keep questioning ‘Do I need this?’ ‘Why am I telling the reader this?

Paraphrasing gives your own understanding of the text – read the text then put it away. Paraphrase it after a period of time – re-read it and you may need to refine it.

What’s the thing that really interests you? Maybe it’s found mid paragraph. If its a very close paraphrase then page number is needed.

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