Writing essays: one of the greatest struggles students face throughout the whole university experience. It would seem that this issue, due to its common recurrence, should be dealt with better by the university since students still experience an immense amount of stress during the whole process of essay writing. One of the obvious reasons is that we simply do not know exactly what the essay is supposed to look like, or what tutors are looking for. Even if we are lucky enough to receive a guideline, it proves to be rather vague and we are still left with a piece of work we do not know if it is appropriate for this level of writing.
But do we perhaps expect too much to be fed the answers by the tutors? Possibly. However, first-year students come from various different countries with various different educational systems and courses, thus have different essay writing skills. It would definitely be helpful if the guidelines and tutors’ expectations were more informative and straight-forward so each of the students would get the same opportunity to submit a valuable paper. Moreover, there are not many essays written per semester – often it is just one – so if the instructions are not precise, the students might not even have an opportunity to improve their writing and their final grade.
However, the generosity of the tutors that do provide guidelines, essay plan reviews, or arrange workshops, like the PPLS Writing Centre did a couple weeks ago, should not be ignored. Workshops like those are needed specifically for the reason that different courses require different styles of essay writing. I am sure you have experienced the confusion of whether to use the word “I” in an essay or not. In some courses, this might be perfectly acceptable while in another it might be as close to being prohibited. Now, I am not saying that essay writing should be standardised across courses because different disciplines require different kinds of papers. However, more help with such papers would definitely be appreciated.
Lastly, I believe it would be of great help if students were shown support not only in the making of the structure and content but also the emotional side of the process of essay writing. While I am aware that university demands more independent work – including an independent search for help – and we are supposed to be ready to take on such pressure, the truth is that sometimes, this is simply not the case. Countless times have I heard the same conversation about “the essay that is due in two days” and never has it been a cheerful one. We need guidance and we need to reduce our stress and increase our confidence and emotional stability, and the university could do a better job at enabling that.
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