Essays and Assignments

The writing of and completing essays and assignments are two of the main ways in which the student sets out and develops his abilities in the subject. It is also a way, along with invigilated examinations, in which an educational institution tests its students. There is insufficient space here to discuss the writing of essays in detail – your tutor or mentor will answer any other questions. It can be said briefly that an essay is an opportunity to make a case, to set out an argument and to buttress it with evidence. The case is your case; it represents your response to the author or work before you, or to the problem posted by the question you are answering. Think of it as a means of persuading the reader, to share your point of view. This attitude will influence the tone and the content of your essay; it will also help you to see the sense in which an essay is, and must be, ‘original’.

In preparing your essay, you will be helped by reading biographical, critical and theoretical studies relevant to the authors and topics on your course. These are known as ‘secondary’ reading, for the very good reason that they are of secondary importance to the work of literature themselves. You should use these secondary works to inform, to extend and to focus your own responses; after all, the writers of these studies have much more experience of the literature they are discussing than you have. However, much of the value of literary study lies in the growth and refinement of an informed personal response to works of literature, based on aesthetic, moral and historical knowledge and judgement. So you must in the end be prepared to state, to develop and to defend your own point of view.

It is important that when you are taking notes from secondary material you should set down, there and then, the details of the source you are consulting. You will want to make use of these notes later on, but you will also want to avoid confusing them with your own formulation of an individual view. The books and articles you consult will have footnotes and references identifying and acknowledging their sources; this is good academic practice and you should do the same. Good scholarship, in this sense, means not only knowledge and accuracy, important as they both are, but also honesty and self-awareness as you chart the growth of your own literary sense. The education that comes with writing essays cannot be second-hand; it is individual, and you must distinguish by footnotes and other kinds of citation the elements in it that are derived.

Plagiarism is the abuse of this kind of thinking about essays. It consists first of the direct transcription, without acknowledgement, of passages, sentences or even phrases from someone else’s writing, whether published or not. It also refers to the presentation as your own of material from a printed or other source with only a number of changes in working. It is true that there is a grey area where making use of secondary material comes close to copying from it; but the problem can usually be avoided by acknowledging that a certain writer holds similar views, and by writing your essay without the book or transcription from it open before you.

All quotations from secondary sources must therefore be acknowledged each time they occur. It is not enough to include the work from which they are taken in the bibliography at the end of the essay, and such inclusion will not be accepted as a defence should plagiarism be alleged. Whenever you write an essay that counts towards College examinations, you will be asked to sign an undertaking that the work it contains is your own.

Warnborough regards plagiarism as a serious offence. If a Tutor or Mentor detects plagiarism in an essay/assignment/thesis/dissertation, s/he will report the matter to the Disciplinary Committee. The Committee may, after hearing the case, impose a penalty of a nil mark for the essay in question (or even to failure of the course). This can have serious consequences for first-year results. In the case of second and third year students, the matter may go to the Academic Committee.

To help you to set out your essays in the most efficient manner, and to make it easier for your assessor to read and evaluate them, a few notes are given below. You should always observe these practices when handing in work for assessment.

  • Use fairly large paper (A4 size is most suitable). Write/type/print on one side only of each piece of paper used. Number all pages. Put your own name, student number and subject/module number in a corner on the page (you can do this as a header or footer). You should also try and include the title or question for discussion. Leave a wide margin (2″) for a reader’s comments, particularly at the left-hand side of the page, with space also at the top and bottom.
  • With the advent and ease of computer systems these days, all submitted assignments should preferably be done (or at least, formatted ) on a word-processor, or typed; if the essays must be hand-written, legibility is of the first importance. If you type, double-space. Scribbled-over first drafts are unacceptable. Small corrections and insertions are permissible and these should always be written above the line or word(s) affected and not in the margin or below the line.

All quotations, from whatever source, should be exact in wording, spelling and punctuation, and if in verse, in line-arrangement. Short quotations embedded in the main text should be enclosed in quotation marks. Quotations in verse and longer quotations in prose (more than two line) should stand apart from the main text; they should be indented, without quotation marks; in typescript they should be single-spaced.

All quotations must be identified by adequate reference. For poems, give, beside title and author, the line or stanza number(s) (where possible); for plays, give act, scene and where possible, line; for novels, chapter number. For quotations from all secondary sources (criticism, biography, etc.) give the title of the work or essay (and where appropriate the name of the periodical in which an article or essay appears), place and date of publication, and page reference.

Titles of books, long poems separately published, plays, and periodicals should be underlined, not placed in quotation marks. (Words or short phrases in languages other than English should also be underlined). Articles, essays and short poems should be referred to within quotation marks. Word-processors now offer a writer more options in enhancement of references with functions such as bold, italicise, and underline.

Click here for more on referencing styles.

If a work is referred to more than once it is not necessary to repeat all the details.

If students so desire, they may use consecutively numbered footnotes and put them at the end of the essay.

For foot noting, use scholarly apparatus such as ibid., op cit., correctly. References are available for the required form.

Each essay must have a cover page, with title, author’s name, tutor/mentor, course/module title and number, and date.

All essays, irrespective of the subject matter, must be written in clear, standard English. The language used is a part of the presentation of the essay, and the presentation of the essay will effect the mark the essay is given. Marks will be deducted for failure to follow any of the above requirements.

Warnborough College reserves the right to retain copies of student essays, assignments, theses and dissertations.

Students must keep their works for at least one semester in order to be made available for academic review (Collection).