Common Problems That Students Encounter with Essay Writing

                                                                                                             Firangiz Azadi

Essays, such as critical analyses, argumentative essays, and research papers are a common assignment for many students. Following are the common challenges that students may face in writing these essays.

  1. Lack of evidence:

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A mere statement of the argument is not sufficient unless relevant evidence is provided in order to make the claim valid and effective. If a lawyer does not use enough evidence in a court, he will not be able to support and prove his argument effectively. Similarly, a writer should have relevant evidence in his essay in order to persuade the readers and increase the validity of the argument. The best solution is to study well and get acquainted with the topic. While reading about your topic, take notes on the most relevant issues and store them for later use (for references and citations). There are various ways to use the evidence and persuade your readers:

  • Provide evidence that agrees with your stance up to a point, and then add your own ideas to it.
  • Present evidence that contradicts your stance, and then argue against (refute) that evidence to strengthen your position.
  • Use sources against each other, as if they were experts on a panel discussing your claim.
  1. Relevance:

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Students sometimes include evidence that is not relevant to the main topic. This is a result of not spending enough time for planning the essay or trying to reach the word limit. It may also be the case that even relevant facts can seem irrelevant because students sometimes do not use appropriate wording and fail to link different paragraphs and ideas with each other. As a result, even relevant facts and arguments sound irrelevant. This problem can be avoided by following several simple solutions:

  • Before you start writing an essay, make an outline and plan your essay carefully. Connect each part of your essay, arguments and facts to the main idea and the topic.
  • At each stage of the essay, keep asking yourself “Is this relevant?”, “Am I answering the question?”, and “Does this relate directly to the subject I have been asked to discuss?”
  • If you begin to introduce a new and separate problem or topic to discuss and prove a part of your argument, make sure that you return to the main subject and explain how these secondary facts are relevant to the main argument.

 

  1. Clarity:

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One of the key elements of a well-written essay is clarity. A reader can be confused about what exactly is being said in the essay. What is clear to you may not be so for the reader. Therefore, it is important to consider the audience. Some students may use ‘big’ words and complex language in order to sound “smarter” and more “academic”. However, good writing is to express, not to impress. General guidelines that presented here are useful for writing clearly:

  • Assume that the readers do not have sufficient information about the topic and try to define the key words and give explanations for the main problems you are discussing in the essay.
  • Explain the reader what you are going to tell them, and then remind them what you told. According to this formula, in the introduction you should explain what you are going to discuss, elaborate on your ideas in the body paragraphs, and then summarize and remind the reader of all your main arguments in the conclusion.
  • Write cohesive paragraphs constructed around a single idea. All sentences in a paragraph should relate back to the main point. Try to put the main idea of the paragraph in the first sentence of the paragraph.
  • Avoid jargon, slang, unfamiliar words, and complex language. It will only confuse your readers.
  1. Weak Analysis: 
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An essay with a perfect structure, organization, and grammar may get a low grade due to weak analysis. Analytical writing skills involve finding relationships of different facts and ideas, providing possible situations and alternative solutions, and comparing and contrasting. There are several ways to have strong analysis in your essay:

  • Read critically. Take your material apart so that you thoroughly understand its contents and structure.
  • Brainstorm a list of possible points, theories, and other’s views that you could analyze.
  • Try to answer the questions of “Why?, “How”, “What if?”, “So what?”, and so on.
  • Identify propaganda and bias.
  • Investigate interrelationships of different issues and connect disparate pieces of issues.

 

 

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The art of writing

Discovering a pearl while writing

Aynur Asadli

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Writing is a cognitive process when we dive deep into our thoughts, swim through ideas, discover pearls, collect them, and make a valuable necklace. Pearls are our thoughts on the subject we choose to write about, collecting pearls is organizing and describing our thoughts, and the valuable necklace is the piece of writing we come up with at the end of the process. But what happens when a person does not know how to ‘make a necklace’? A person may have the most beautiful pearls at hand, but if he does not know how to line them up correctly, he will end up with an ugly necklace that nobody wants to wear. Organizing and describing one’s thoughts in an understandable manner while writing has the same effect on the end result of the writing process. Writing is not an easy process, it is definitely not an easy process to think and write in a foreign language.

Screen Shot 2017-12-12 at 4.16.17 PMWriting in English is a common difficulty that most of local ADA students experience. They think in Azerbaijani or Russian, and write in English. As a result, when expressing their thoughts, they  come up with wrong word choices. Most often, wrong word choices do not happen because of the limited vocabulary of the writer, but due to the attempt to write in an ‘academic’ way. Plain words get replaced by fancier words to make the essay look more ‘academic’. Unfortunately, those ‘academic’ words are often used out of context, and do not exactly replace the plain words in the sentence. Alongside, students have a similar approach when it comes to the sentence structure. They assume that having complex and longer sentences will make their writing look more academic. Why is it an issue after all? The answer is simple: words make up sentences, and sentences make up the essay. Wrong word choices confuse the reader, and complex sentences increase this confusion.

While learning how to speak in a new language, the first advice that learners hear is about ignoring grammar mistakes they make while speaking, and focusing on communicating precisely what they have in their minds. In the writing process, it goes in the same way. What is important is organizing thoughts in a cohesive manner – in a way that paragraphs of the essay meaningfully relate to each other and together make a big picture. Writing coherently also means that paragraphs should also be logically related and complete. Cohesive and coherent writing allows the writer to fluently communicate with the reader. However, most students pay attention to having their writing seem academic rather than fluently communicating with the reader.

Picture12pngWhat happens as a result of it? When a student starts to write, instead of putting all his thoughts on the paper, each time he interrupts the writing process to find the ‘academic’ word to explain himself. Instead of diving deeper and deeper into his thoughts, he stops to ‘Google’ the ‘academic’ synonym of the plain word he has in his mind. Again, and again, every time he stops, he gets away from his coherent and cohesive thinking. Ideas do not flow, but jump from one to another. Ideas also become incomplete because the writer mentions some part of his thinking and does not explain properly what he means, assuming that the reader knows how the writer thinks, which is never the case. The writer could notice the lack of cohesiveness and coherence when he reads his essay at the end of writing. However, he is more likely to neglect it again, as he focuses on how ‘academic’ his essay seems. Consequently, it becomes a tiring process for the reader to understand the given piece of writing.

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The process that the writer undergoes to have his writing seem ‘academic’ is also tiring for him. As a result, the writing process becomes a struggle for students. They hesitate to write, and  often they hate writing. It is not difficult for them to express themselves orally, but when it comes to writing, it is where students find themselves struggling.
Luckily, there is a way out of this struggle! While students  need to know which words should be avoided in academic writing,  at the same time, they need to focus more on writing fluently rather than using as many academic words as possible. After all, those fancy words do not matter if the writer cannot reach his aim – communicating his ideas to the reader. If the sentences are too long for the reader to understand, or the words have been used out of context, then, the reader will end up only with confusion. Instead of looking for ‘academic’ words, students should be thinking about the subject they write about. This is how they can come up with different ideas – different ‘colors of pearls’. Meanwhile, they can better explain themselves using simple words, instead of using ‘academic’ ones out of context. This would also allow them to focus on organizing their essay in a better way. As a result, they will have beautiful necklaces made with different colors of pearls that have been correctly lined up!

 

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How I write, December 5th

Prof.Simet

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How I write with Dr. Valiyev

Our first interview in How I write series is now available in video. Stay tuned for more!

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Join us for the interview with Dr. Valiyev

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Meet our new consultants

 

These three bright students have been selected to work in the Write Space. They have shown a great deal of enthusiasm, hard work, and dedication during the hiring and training process.

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Gumral

Name: Gumral Habibbayli

Program: BAIS 2020

Background: I graduated from the XXI Century IEIC.

Interests: Reading books, traveling, listening to music, and watching movies are my most favourite things to do at leisure. A new book, place, song, or movie can inspire me in my future endeavours.

Why writing: Writing is one of the most prominent means of communicating one’s ideas, opinions, and feelings to other people properly. In the endless world of writing, you can look at any issue from disparate perspectives and put down your thoughts about that in the way you like.

 

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Andrea

Name: Andrea Gutiérrez Cristóbal

Program: MADIA 2018

Background: Graduated from the University of the Basque Country with a degree in Translation and Interpretation, specialized in French and Russian. Currently a Master’s Student of Diplomacy and International Affairs.

Interests: My two main interests are sports and travelling. In my free time I really enjoy running, hiking, playing basketball, volleyball, swimming… you name it! My family and I have travelled a lot, which is probably why I find exploring new countries and cultures so interesting. In addition to these two hobbies, I enjoy reading a lot, especially thrillers and stories through which a country’s culture and customs are reflected.

Why writing: Writing is a way to organize our thoughts and clear our heads. Sometimes the process of writing can be hard or seemingly never-ending, but it is always very satisfying once it is completed.

 

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Heydar

Name: Heydar Rzayev

Program: BAIS 2020

Background: I graduated from school number 89. I am an undergraduate student and major in International Relations.

Interests: Photography is my true passion in life.  I share photos on my Instagram page. I also spend my free time reading books, watching TV series, listening to instrumental music, and playing computer games.  Moreover, I try to learn new languages because they are an important part of my academic life.

Why writing? Because the palest ink is stronger than the sharpest memory. Moreover, writing is an essential part of my major and it is the best way to express myself.

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Welcome back, students!

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Top 5 reasons to visit the Writing Center

Shakar Ismayilova

  • Free feedback – There a saying in Azerbaijani culture that “A student never has money!” (Tələbənin pulu olmaz!) Guess what! The Writing Center Consultants are here to help you for free!!!
  • No judgment, only improvement – Students are not fond of hearing judgments. But, we, the Writing Center consultants, only care about how you can develop your paper. Even if you have not started to write your paper yet, no consultant will judge you for that, but rather will be the one willing to sit next to you and help you.
  • Friends – The Writing Center Consultants are the students studying with you at the same university or even at the same class. We are not professors or instructors, but students, who face the same challenges just like you.
  • Confidence – One of the benefits of visiting our Center is that you can be sure that you are on the right track and you can also know what your strong sides are and what needs improvement.
  • Any piece of writing – We are here not only to help you write any paper or part of it for any class, but also to help you prepare for future career or university application by assisting you in writing an effective motivation letter or statement of purpose.adult-1868015_1280
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Happy Women’s Day!

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Personal ambition

How to write a successful personal statement

It is that time of the year when many students sit down to write a personal statement for a graduate school, a semester abroad or exchange programs. Many schools ask similar questions in personal statement essays. They can ask to explain how the program will be beneficial to you or what makes you a good candidate for the program. It may be very tempting to write one personal statement and use it for all the schools and programs you are applying for but you should really write a separate essay for each. Writing a generic and vague personal statement will not make your application stand out. And, what is more important, make sure you answer the question.

Some writing experts define “you”, “why us”, and “creative” types of questions in personal statements. The first type asks students to tell about themselves. For instance, it can be “Describe the world you come from – for example, your family, community or school – and tell us how your world has shaped your dreams and aspirations.” Such personal statements allow the universities to get to know you better. However, they can be dangerous because you need to define the focus of your essay. Avoid retelling your resume and pick several unique qualities you possess. Remember that you need to talk about yourself in a way that demonstrate to the admissions committee which qualities make you a great candidate for the program and are suited to your future career.

“Why us” questions are focused. The university wants to know why you chose them among dozens of schools. Avoid vague statements and excessive praising or flattery. Rather, do your homework and learn as much as you can about the school, their programs, and faculty. What unique specializations do they offer and what significant publications have their faculty produced? Of course, write about what is relevant to the program you have selected.

Some universities and colleges would like to ask creative and “out of the box” questions. Stanford University, for example, asks applicants to write a letter to their future roommate. In this case try to show real you through telling about what made you chose it, how you made your career choice and what you know about the school and the program. With such creative essay questions, find an angle to tell your story but avoid potentially controversial subjects such as political or religious issues.

Finally, do not forget about time management. Allocate enough time to write your essay, carefully revise and proofread it. It is always good to have another pair of eyes on your personal statement and the Write Space consultants are ready to provide feedback and help you write better.

Adapted from:

Fulfillment Fund Sample Personal Statement Questions http://www.fulfillment.org/sites/default/files/forms/Sample%20Personal%20Statement%20Questions.pdf

Purdue Online Writing Lab Writing the Personal Statement https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/642/01/

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