Your essay should be about 5,000 words, 20 double-spaced, typed pages plus a title page and a “References” page. Please note: If you do not cite your sources and provide a “References” page, your tutor will return your Research Essay Assignment to you unmarked.
All material to which you refer or from which you borrow should be documented with a reference list or list of works cited. Your documentation style can be the same as that in the Commentaries and the bibliography, or they can be in any other approved style, as long as you are consistent.
Considerable discussion with the tutor is highly recommended (as it is for all assignments).
Tips on Writing Essays
Essay mechanics and style are partly a matter of convention, partly of convenience, and partly of intellectual necessity. A clear style is essential to a good essay, for no matter how impressive your thoughts may be, if your style is incoherent, your message will not be delivered.
If you experience difficulty writing essays—as many students do—you may find the following tips helpful.
- Do not assume that the reader of your paper has any background on the subject of your essay—provide sufficient information and explanation to allow a reader to identify the issues in question. When delving into the realm of theory, be as clear as possible and illustrate with examples.
- Try to formulate your arguments before beginning to write. A good paper should have a consistent theme; preparing an outline before you start to write will help keep your essay “on track.”
- A research essay necessitates the use of primary sources, not just a review of secondary sources (e.g., articles and books). Newspapers, magazines, statistical collections, websites, and archival material are usually considered primary sources. Material of a concrete, statistical nature found in secondary sources is valid too. A research essay with a strong theoretical angle, as is the one to be completed for Political Economy 483/Global Studies 483/International Relations 483, also requires a wide consideration of theoretical works. The articles in the Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey R. D. Underhill text, Political Economy and the Changing Global Order, give you an idea of how to construct a formal research essay.
- An essay has three main divisions: introduction, body, and conclusion. The introduction should be brief—usually no more than one-half of a page. It should state concisely what your essay seeks to examine, and should explain the approach you intend to take. You may be able to reword the assignment question into a statement that becomes the topic of the essay.
- The body of your essay is the main section in which you must present and develop your ideas. Your essay must be solidly based on the topic in question. General statements should be supported with specific examples. Choose only information that has direct relevance to your discussion and explain what relationship exists between the concepts you are presenting and the topic of your essay. In other words, link the individual points and paragraphs to the essay topic. Transitions between paragraphs should be smooth, and the presentation of ideas should flow evenly from one paragraph to another. Sometimes the connections are established through similarities in content, sometimes through contrasts; sometimes the development is chronological, sometimes logical. You must choose the approach most appropriate for your topic and the aspect of it you are concentrating on at the particular time.
- The conclusion of your essay, like the introduction, should be brief. It should summarize your ideas and present any conclusions that have emerged from your discussion. Your concluding statements should add strength and credibility to the ideas presented in your introduction. If they do, and you have supported your argument throughout, then you will have succeeded in writing a good essay.
- You must give credit to all sources of quotations and ideas. This practice not only indicates courtesy and intellectual honesty, but also enables the reader to pursue any reference that seems particularly interesting. When you have finished the first draft of your essay, reread it carefully, revising and rewriting if necessary. You might try putting the essay away for a day or two and returning to it later. This method should help give you a fresh view of your essay and may assist you in recognizing errors, omissions, and awkwardness in content and style.
- For the convenience of your tutor, fairly large margins and double-spacing would be appreciated. This format will facilitate the insertion of corrections and comments, and will make your essay easier to read (a decided psychological advantage). The ideal margins are approximately 4 centimetres (1.5 inches) at the left and 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) at the top, bottom, and right-hand side. Before submitting your essay, take the time to proofread it carefully to catch any spelling mistakes, typing errors, and the like.