Essay Skills 1: Understanding the Essay Question

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Published on January 11, 2009

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TECH1002 Studies in Media Technology lab presentation week 16 on analysing the essay question.

Essay Skills 1: Understanding the Essay Question TECH1002 Studies in Media Technology Andrew Clay

Essay: What are we expecting you to do? Before you begin the essay task, make sure that you know exactly what you are being asked to do We expect you to understand the question Analyse the question Identify the information that you need Raise questions or investigate ideas that your essay can address

Before you begin the essay task, make sure that you know exactly what you are being asked to do

We expect you to understand the question

Analyse the question

Identify the information that you need

Raise questions or investigate ideas that your essay can address

What is the essay question obviously (explicitly) about? What is the essay explicitly asking you to do? One way to do this is to identify: The essay topic – what the question is generally about The essay focus – what the question is specifically about The essay instruction – what the essay wants you to do The essay viewpoint – some essays include a particular point-of-view

What is the essay explicitly asking you to do?

One way to do this is to identify:

The essay topic – what the question is generally about

The essay focus – what the question is specifically about

The essay instruction – what the essay wants you to do

The essay viewpoint – some essays include a particular point-of-view

Explicit demands of the essay Essay Title or Question Example: ‘ Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content’ (Henry Jenkins). Discuss the current technology of media convergence with reference to specific examples of new media cultures and the relations between media producers and consumers. Topic Media convergence Focus Media consumption and production Instruction Discuss Viewpoint Convergence is a cultural shift

Some examples of instruction words Instruction Word Meaning Analyse Study something in detail identifying the main components or characteristics and how they relate to each other Assess Study the importance or value of something Discuss Explain the meaning of something and explore the meaning in a logical way Outline Present the main features or the general principles of a subject only and emphasise their structure or arrangement

What is the essay less obviously (implicitly) about? The essay is set to test your critical and academic writing skills We expect you to be able to have a broad understanding of the topic and to be able to analyse specific examples We expect you to demonstrate some understanding of the theory and practice of media technologies We expect reading, research and to use standard academic conventions of presentation (spelling, grammar, punctuation, references and bibliography)

The essay is set to test your critical and academic writing skills

We expect you to be able to have a broad understanding of the topic and to be able to analyse specific examples

We expect you to demonstrate some understanding of the theory and practice of media technologies

We expect reading, research and to use standard academic conventions of presentation (spelling, grammar, punctuation, references and bibliography)

Implicit demands of the essay Essay Title or Question Example: ‘ Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content’ (Henry Jenkins). Discuss the current technology of media convergence with reference to specific examples of new media cultures and the relations between media producers and consumers. Academic standards Reading and research, organisation, structure, presentation Understanding of subject area Engaging with the subject of new media studies Theory and practice Thinking about the relationships between technology and cultural change

First Steps 1. Look at the essay question and make a list of the key words, phrases, and ideas that you will need to think about 2. Identify the topic, focus, instruction and viewpoint (if any) of the question 3. Identify any other, less obvious or implicit things that the essay is expecting you to do 4. At this point it is useful to represent all this as a diagram, so use a mind mapping technique to visualise and organise your first thoughts about the essay task – using pen and paper and/or electronically using software or online tools

Mind mapping ‘ Mind-mapping can be a particularly powerful visual tool for shaping thought. The basic principle here is to note down the central topic or idea in the centre of a piece of paper and work outwards adding the points which flow from and connect to it’ ( http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=193370 ) Mind maps can be quite basic lines, shapes and words or quite elaborate uses of drawings, symbols or images:

‘ Mind-mapping can be a particularly powerful visual tool for shaping thought. The basic principle here is to note down the central topic or idea in the centre of a piece of paper and work outwards adding the points which flow from and connect to it’ ( http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=193370 )

Mind maps can be quite basic lines, shapes and words or quite elaborate uses of drawings, symbols or images:

This mind map was drawn by someone writing an essay about memory Source: http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/file.php/1644/LDT101_2004i.jpg

This mind map was drawn by someone writing an essay about memory

Essay title ‘ Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content’ (Henry Jenkins). Discuss the current technology of media convergence with reference to specific examples of new media cultures and the relations between media producers and consumers . Analyse the Essay Question Write the essay title in full in the centre of the page Circle/underline key words Draw lines from key words to sub-ideas/questions Identify the explicit demands of the essay: TOPIC: FOCUS: INSTRUCTION: Identify the implicit demands of the essay VIEWPOINT: An essay waiting to be mind mapped...

Analyse the Essay Question

Write the essay title in full in the centre of the page

Circle/underline key words

Draw lines from key words to sub-ideas/questions

An essay waiting to be mind mapped...

Essay title ‘ Convergence represents a cultural shift as consumers are encouraged to seek out new information and make connections among dispersed media content’ ( Henry Jenkins ). Discuss the current technology of media convergence with reference to specific examples of new media cultures and the relations between media producers and consumers . Analyse the Essay Question Write the essay title in full in the centre of the page Circle/underline key words Draw lines from key words to sub-ideas/questions Identify the explicit demands of the essay: TOPIC: media convergence FOCUS: media consumption and production INSTRUCTION: discuss (explain / explore) Identify the implicit demands of the essay Reading and research, organisation, structure, presentation Engaging with the subject of new media studies Thinking about the relationships between technology and cultural change Convergence A shift implies change what kind of change is taking place? cultural shift The conduct and significance of everyday life What is convergence? A key definition – EXPLAIN what convergence is consumers Consumption – a traditional way that media is used – implies a commercial relationship? new information The new of ‘new media’? – related to change, difference, novelty? connections among dispersed media content The availability of media on different platforms and different formats – joined together by the active consumer? Henry Jenkins Who is he? Why is he writing about convergence? In what context is he writing about this topic? media examples build a main case study to develop argument and evidence - 1 idea relating to production-consumption in convergence culture new media cultures producers Production – the way that media is made relations A key thing to address The examples should EXPLORE how convergence is changing the relations between producers and consumers of media The way that new media is brought into everyday life – see e.g. Marshall (2004) VIEWPOINT: convergence is a cultural shift

Analyse the Essay Question

Write the essay title in full in the centre of the page

Circle/underline key words

Draw lines from key words to sub-ideas/questions

Mind mapping Once you have analysed the question and identified the topic and focus of the essay title you can mind map them as key words: Media consumption and production Media convergence

Once you have analysed the question and identified the topic and focus of the essay title you can mind map them as key words:

To begin mind mapping Write your main idea, word, topic, focus, question or whatever in the middle of the paper Draw a shape around it Underline or draw around key words Draw lines away from the shape or shapes as sub-ideas, words and so come to mind Create new labels, colours, shapes, drawings, symbols, words and link them together in whatever way helps you visualise and organise your thoughts

Write your main idea, word, topic, focus, question or whatever in the middle of the paper

Draw a shape around it

Underline or draw around key words

Draw lines away from the shape or shapes as sub-ideas, words and so come to mind

Create new labels, colours, shapes, drawings, symbols, words and link them together in whatever way helps you visualise and organise your thoughts

Online mind mapping tools Online whiteboard and mind mapping tools are useful because they can be used for sharing or collaborating ideas Create user accounts to access additional features and to save and link to your work online from the lab group wiki http://www.dabbleboard.com http://bubbl.us

Online whiteboard and mind mapping tools are useful because they can be used for sharing or collaborating ideas

Create user accounts to access additional features and to save and link to your work online from the lab group wiki

What to do after analysing the essay title Complete this week’s directed study task After completing your analysis of the question make a plan (again you can use an online whiteboard tool like Dabbleboard ) about what you have to read, research, the examples you need to look at and so on Use your mind maps to guide your reading and research as you start to put all the parts of the essay together

Complete this week’s directed study task

After completing your analysis of the question make a plan (again you can use an online whiteboard tool like Dabbleboard ) about what you have to read, research, the examples you need to look at and so on

Use your mind maps to guide your reading and research as you start to put all the parts of the essay together

Other online whiteboard and mind map tools

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