Essays and feedback
by Samantha Holden
With a new term beginning, there is an opportunity to reflect on last term’s PPL coursework and ways we can improve and learn. As PPL essay feedback was returned this week, here are some things to remember from it:
Feedback on your essay is not a personal criticism; it is there to help you and improve. When getting one of my essays back I was not happy with the result. This means that I must examine where I went wrong and consequently put this into practice for the next one. Coming to university means that everyone has different ways of writing essays. You will no longer be writing mini-essays for the exam board but an academic essay for specialists in that subject, therefore whatever your style of essay, make sure you compare your next essay against the marking criteria as well as essay advice given by the individual department on the Warwick website.
Get peers to check your work. ‘A’ levels are independent but university has a collaborative perspective and your peers have different ideas and theories about things. It is important to discuss with others what is interesting about your essay and what they think you could do to improve before you submit your final essay. This is also a good revision technique as you are unlikely to have chosen the same essay question. It will allow you to see how others write and what interests them.
Feedback allows you to see if there are particular areas for improvement across all three disciplines. For example, a lot of PPL feedback was ‘not to make bold claims without justification’. Many PPL students (myself included) received the feedback that justification must be given either by academic literature or examples.
Another skill to learn at university is referencing. If your feedback is about referencing, ensure that you pay particular notice as plagiarism carries penalties.
Whilst some grades are important, many of your essays in the first year do not count to your overall grade, so just see it as good practice and make sure it is submitted on time. Do not be too harsh on yourself as these are your first essays and you are not expected to get a First; that takes time, learning and work.
This blog is to give you some things to remember when receiving feedback. If you are unsure about your feedback ensure to see your seminar tutor, lecturer or module leader. Patrick Tomlin (PPL module leader) gave a lecture this week about a bad philosophy essay with reference to James Lenman – ‘How to Write a Crap Philosophy Essay’ – http://myweb.facstaff.wwu.edu/~wasserr/classes/417/crap_essay.pdf