(2) Set out clearly in the introduction (a) what you are focusing on (a particular author or text) and (b) the direction of the essay (what you are arguing and/or what perspective you are taking).
(3) Always give the date in brackets the first time you mention a text in the essay: for example, Toni Morrison, Beloved (1987). You need only do this on the first occasion: it will help to give the essay more historical specificity.
(4) Try to organise the essay around a number of key ideas or points (for a 2000 essay, perhaps three or four ideas) and think about the most logical order of these points for progressing your argument.
(5) Always use specific examples or quotation to support your ideas.
(6) Don’t be over-reliant on a single critic, nor let them speak for ideas that you want to express or develop yourself. We want to hear your voice in the essay; critics should support and amplify your voice, not muffle it.
(7) Don’t let quotations speak for themselves. Always comment directly on long quotations to let the reader know why they are significant; a rule of thumb is that your commentary should be at least as long as the quotation. You should also double indent long quotations (those over 25 words).
(8) If you are quoting from texts then use either a footnote or endnote system for identifying the source of quotation and the page number.
(9) In the conclusion summarise what you have been arguing, but also try to make a concluding statement that clarifies or advances the argument slightly.
(10) Try to write as clearly as you can, making sure your prose conveys ideas in a precise and succinct way. It is important that you read through the essay on completing it, and rewrite or edit where necessary to ensure you have done this. If you can convince a friend to read the essay and point out areas they don’t understand or need more clarification on this is often a great help.
(11) Always include a bibliography, no matter how short. Remember published texts such as novels or published collections should be italicised (e.g. Anzia Yezierska, Bread Givers or Nella Larsen, Passing), but single poems, short stories or essays should use single inverted commas (Walt Whitman, ‘Song of Myself’, Robert Polito, ‘Last Seen’ or Mike Topp, ‘Bad Luck’).
(12) Assessed essays should normally be word processed or typed, using a suitable font and size (such as 11pt or 12pt Times New Roman). Permission must be sought in advance from the Senior Tutor for hand-written essays.
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