Contextual English Essay

An essay is a well researched and logically structured answer to a particular question, or questions, usually presented as an argument. It is a point of view formulated by critically assessing the information or ideas relevant to the essay topic. It is presented in the form of a series of main points which support your direct answer to the question. Each of these points is addressed in a separate paragraph and is supported with evidence, explanation and/or examples. The argument presented in an essay should be supported by referencing authorities in the relevant field. The argument should also form a cohesive whole: this means the paragraphs need to be logically ordered and connections made between the points presented in those paragraphs.

Essays are used as an assessment tool to evaluate your ability to research a topic and construct an argument, as well as your understanding of subject content. This does not mean that essays are a 'regurgitation' of everything your lecturer has said throughout the course. Essays are your opportunity to explore in greater depth aspects of the course - theories, issues, texts, etc. - and in some cases relate these aspects to a particular context. It is your opportunity to articulate your ideas, but in a certain way: using formal academic style.

In any type of writing or presentation you need to consider the institutional context (the university), and your audience (who will be reading your essay). These elements influence the style and tone of your writing. In most instances your writing should be formal and typically objective. This means everyday language and slang as well as unsubstantiated opinion is unsuitable in the context of an academic essay. Furthermore, students write essays for their tutors and lecturers: in other words, as a student you are in the uncomfortable position of writing about a topic for someone who most likely knows more about it than you do! You are writing for someone who is familiar with the content, as well as the conventions and practices of the discipline, and in your own writing it is expected that you adapt your writing to suit this context.

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Farida, Nevin (2008) A textual and contextual study of English language and literature essays: the case of First Year English Department students' writing in Dhaka University, Bangladesh. PhD thesis, University of Warwick.


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This research examines English language and literature essays written by First Year students of the English Department at Dhaka University (Bangladesh) using multi-method genre analysis. The first method used was text analysis. Essay topics were analysed from the two contexts to identify their topic fields and main rhetorical functions. This helped develop the two models to analyse the structure of essays: an Exposition-Discussion model and a Description-Recount model. Then, a total of 100 essays from the two contexts were analysed on the basis of Move-strategy structure to see what structural patterns the essays possessed, what tactical choices the students took to express the moves and what was presented in terms of content matter within those moves. The second method was a questionnaire that was distributed to students in the department to discover their perceptions of the writing tasks given. And the third method was interviews conducted with teachers and students of the department to find out about their perceptions of student writing. This, then, is a genre-based study which draws both on written data and on interaction with community members.
The multi-method approach to genre analysis revealed that students of the English Department write three different kinds of essays, Description-Recount language essays, Exposition-Discussion language essays and Exposition-Discussion literature essays. The study further revealed that although students wrote these different kinds of essays, they were unable to make connections between their language essay writing tasks and literature ones because of the disciplinary variations. Moreover, the literature essays were found to be much more challenging to write than the language ones. In the light of this, the need for a fourth type of essay writing is identified.
This research contributes to the fields of applied linguistics and education in several ways. Firstly, the models developed not only give insights into the generic structure of the essays students write in the English Department at Dhaka University, but they could also function as a starting point for other researchers working with similar texts. Secondly, the analyses of the high and low grade essays explain how some features of writing are more highly valued than others in this context. Thirdly, the study has pedagogical implications that can benefit students and teachers who would use genre based approach to teaching language and literature essay writing. Fourthly, this research demonstrates a multi-method approach to genre analysis which brings out complementary and sometimes contradictory perspectives on the same written products. Fifthly, it can help university planners and policy makers to consider the relationship between main discipline courses and support courses and minimise any gaps. Finally, it can raise awareness among the global applied linguistics community about the kind of student writing produced in contexts such as the English Department of Dhaka University.

Item Type: Thesis or Dissertation (PhD)
Subjects:L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB2300 Higher Education
P Language and Literature > PE English
Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH):University of Dhaka. Dept. of English, English language -- Study and teaching -- Bangladesh, English literature -- Study and teaching -- Bangladesh, Education, Higher -- Bangladesh -- Evaluation
Official Date:July 2008
July 2008Submitted
Institution:University of Warwick
Theses Department:Centre for English Language Teacher Education
Thesis Type:PhD
Publication Status:Unpublished
Supervisor(s)/Advisor:Wharton, Sue ; Gardner, Sheena ; Smith, Richard C., 1961-
Sponsors:University of Dhaka ; Commonwealth Commission
Format of File:pdf
Extent:420 leaves : charts

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