Studying is an enjoyable learning experience but it has, like any developmental venture, moments of stress. For me, and for other students I have spoken with, assignments can be a particularly stressful time. Assignments must be delivered to a deadline, in a conventional format and then you have to await the feedback with the all-important mark (of course).
As an undergraduate my assignments started as 500 word essays, quickly building to 1,500 word essays and then latterly 4,000 word projects – and there were exams as well. Each time the new word length or topic area were a challenge, a new experience.
In postgraduate Criminology programmes by Distance Learning at the University of Leicester the standard written essay is around 3,000-4,000 words alongside some other online tests. Just as in undergraduate study, at first this seems to be a daunting target. When you stare at a blank piece of paper you think how I am going to fill this. But I found that as I become more engrossed with the study materials, as I find articles in the digital library and as I read more into a topic that actually it becomes more of a problem to reduce the amount of words to write. Sometimes it can be more difficult editing the piece down to size rather than finding stuff to put in it. Then the trick is to leave your assignment for a day or two and come back to it to review it.
When you do return to your work I personally think who wrote this trash. I am convinced that someone else arrives in the middle of the night and edits my work. Of course, this is complete rubbish! For me, returning to my work some days’ later or reading it in a different place reveals facets of my work which were inconceivable when I wrote it. It looks to be a different piece of work. It’s not of course. You are just in a different mind set than when you wrote it. Returning to it later is vital to see your work from a different perspective, in a different light.
Then comes submission day: The research, the writing, the editing are all over. The submission date arrives (or before) and you post your essay electronically. It’s wise to file and print the receipt.
Then comes the wait: On or around the due date (sounds like giving birth) an email tells you that your feedback is ready to collect. You check your score and look at the detailed feedback from the tutor. The mark can bring elation or disappointment. The feedback forms advice which will be the building blocks of subsequent assignments. At this point is pays to be resilient. A poorer mark than you anticipated merely means that you need to work harder or change some facets of your work. A better mark than anticipated is great – but don’t get complacent – standards need to be maintained.
And after this episode … you look forward to the next one. For me, when I look back on my undergraduate assignments I can see the difference in my writing. I hope that it is now impossible for me to write as I used to do. The differences from one essay to the next might be nuanced and slight, but the difference overall is vast.
The personal development involved is truly amazing and worth every stress, curse and fury.