How “NOT” To Write An Essay At University Level

Before beginning my studies into Psychology and Criminology at University, I received an email informing us of a piece of work to be completed and handed in upon arrival. The work was marked but not attributed to any final year grade. It was simply an exercise to demonstrate writing ability. We were asked to answer the question “Who am I?”

It was implied that we were to focus on the general factors that make up the individual. For example: I am my experiences. In which our experiences help and shape attitudes. I am my memories; how these memories can effect decisions and how attitudes are formed; via senses such Perception, etc.

I have since found this piece of work in an old file on my laptop. Writing today as a Graduate, this is possibly the worst excuse for a piece of work at university level ever written. There are many serious errors which are fround upon when writing academically. I made virtually all of the errors in my first piece of work.

Firstly, I write from the first person. This is one of the fundamental “what not to do’s” when academically writing. The work should not be from your subjective point of view, this results in the work not being objective, impartial and balanced, and certainly doesn’t allow for mixed opinion and thought. Which is exactly what is expected at university level? Instead, I should have approached the essay writing from the 3rd person. Meaning that rather than using phrases such as “I think…” it would be much more appropriate to use phrases such as “Studies have shown…” or “Research has suggested that…” this way this shows evidence of knowledge but also of wider reading.

Secondly, I referenced no academic literature. Seriously. Not one bit. It may seem inappropriate to say this as it is so obvious but none-the-less: it is absolutely imperative that you cite referenced academic research material. This can take many forms wither from a text book, journal article (which can be accessed via your library or you may have access to an online library via your institution. Alternately head on over to Google Scholar in which you can find 1000’s of journal article related to your specific topic. A further point is understanding how to reference. Studying Psychology, we are asked to reference in the Harvard academic style, your course may have different style but regardless this is a key element of academic writing and valuable marks can be lost if this isn’t accurate. If you are unsure of how to reference there will be help and assistance within your University to provide the help you need.

Lastly, the written style needs to be more neutral and less personal. To truly demonstrate how not to do it, it’s best that I present the “essay” which will highlight what happens if you don’t follow the “what not to do’s”. It results in your work looking more like a therapy session technique than an academic piece of work.

I have many different friends in many different circles with a spectrum of different interests, opinions and morals. Predominantly my “Best Friends” and I are into Heavy Metal Music. By that shared interest we would be labelled “Rockers”, a name I’m sure we all wear with pride.  We have a lot of common interests beyond music including Sports, TV, Films and Computer Games. Of course these are very broad areas of interests containing a variety of different genres. However, as much as these interests bind us together they also separate us. For example we all love the Xbox 360 yet I get bored with playing Zombies very fast. I often feel that my part in the group is “The Feminine One”. I do protest that this is not the role I play in the group. I believe what draws them to this conclusion is that I am very honest and tell my friends how I feel, what I am thinking plus I have a background from Performing Arts. Naturally there is a lot of male comradely within the group and everyone takes a turn in the firing line to get teased and have their buttons pressed.

I do believe that I am myself when I am with my friends. They know my morals, my likes and dislikes. I feel I can say what I am feeling regardless of its content. I feel free. I don’t need to think to myself “Hang on, am I going to offend someone here?” But a part of me doesn’t care if I do offend them because I know they are not bothered about offending me. I put that down to Male Bonding. I would say I am a confident, funny person within the group and well liked. Having said that my self-confidence is low my own company. I am an incredible over thinker. An idiosyncrasy that annoys my friends that contributes to the “The Feminine One” Monika. I do have low self-esteem and often feel like I need to earn my spot within the group which my friends dismiss this theory. But to contradict my low self-esteem I do feel good when they tell me that I have got what they want, in respect of a Girl Friend and that we did have our own house before deciding to come to University. I feel that I don’t conform to my friends and that my personality is individual and bring something to the group that no one else can. I am definitely my own person within the group.

My family is completely different. The branches of my family tree are very twisted and complicated. There isn’t much of a strong family unit, which I believe has allowed me to find my own interest and hobbies without the influence or endorsements of my family. My relationship with my Brother and cousins is very strong and we are all like brothers. Being the oldest I do play the Leader and try to lead by example. I have a strong bond with my step-sister also. We have known eachother all of our lives and although our communication is minimal, our relationship doesn’t change. This can be a double edged sword as it means we can become lazy and not put any effort in communicating. I believe I am completely myself with my family, especially with my Mum and Step Dad. They are very opinionated and will tell me how they think it is. This allows me to reciprocate and tell them how I feel regardless of emotion. I don’t really have that much in common with my parents. I do find that I get frustrated as it’s hard to have a conversation with them as they never go in to detail and just reply with one word answers. Despite the lack of common interests I feel like I can be completely myself and absolutely honest. If I have any fears, concerns or anything I need I know I can ask my parents? Knowing this I am comforted that despite the differences of opinions and lack of common interests. Love is the root of my relationship here and those things don’t matter. The love allows me to be myself.

Not only have I bared my soul to a  lecturer who has not yet met me, I’ve also exposed everything I to offer, none of which they are interested in and has no basis in the University arena.

If you have actually gotten this far, thank you. I hope you didn’t learn anything from that because I should have really known and there is no excuse now to not to make errors as gross as that. However, I do hope you found this entertaining and were able to laugh at the misfortune of my ignorance.


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