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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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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Watch this video to book an appointment

If you do not know how to book an appointment with the writing center, please watch this video tutorial. You can learn more from your booking page. We look forward to seeing you in the Write Space!  Continue reading

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Summary is the answer

          Why do we need to write summaries? The truth is that a summary is more than a short version of a text. To write a good summary one needs to read the text actively and be able to see the difference between the main idea and details. Because summary involves annotating and reverse outlining the text, it is a great way for your professor to see if you read and understood the text. Summarizing is a necessary skill outside student life as well. One needs to be able to filter through tons of ‘information noise’ and present a piece of information in a concise form. Ultimately, summarizing can be someone’s job. A President of a country has assistants whose job is to summarize information and brief their boss on what is happening in the world. Thus, if you learn how to effectively summarize, you can become a President’s assistant!

Now that we know why summary is important, let me explain how to write one:

  • First, read the text to find the main idea (the main argument or the main claim). Highlight the sentences that express the main idea and write them down in your copybook. Then write that same main idea in your own words. This is paraphrasing and you need it because you should write summaries in your words, not the author’s words.
  • Go back to the text and read it again to find three or four major sub-claims or pieces of evidence that support the main idea. Highlight them and write them down in your copybook as bullet points. Again, remember to use your own words.
  • Now that you have created the outline of the text (as a result of reverse outlining), put the text away and write your summary using the outline. Not looking at the original text ensures that you will not ‘borrow’ any of the author’s phrases and expressions (helps you avoid plagiarism).
  • Introduce the text title and the author with phrases like “In Distant Relatives John Smith writes …”
  • Remember to use transitions to make your text coherent and not boring.
  • Also, use reporting verbs and phrases to give credit to the author such as “The author states that…”or “Further Smith also adds that …”
  • You may also use a direct quote every now and then:  As the author puts it himself, “…” Do not forget to cite whenever you write direct quotations and close paraphrase.
  • Finally, revise and proofread your summary. See if you need to add or remove bits of information, check your punctuation, spelling and grammar. Your summary should be about 1/10 of the original text.

Here you have your excellent summary! It may be a little difficult to write summaries but the more you practice, the better your summaries become.

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