The first essay of term is the one that will always seem the hardest, as not only have you had a break from the task of essay writing but you also have last semester’s grades to either live up to or beat. I am in the former camp, with good grades from last semester I now really want to try and achieve equal success this term. However, this first essay seems to be my starting point, and it is proving a place that is definitely a mountain to climb.
Luckily, unlike most other second year History students, I do not have two ‘first essays’ due in this coming Monday. Instead tomorrow (Thursday) I have to do a first person presentation on ‘The Communist Manifesto’, yes, that means I have to pretend to be Karl Marx… (I honestly say ‘now in 1848…’), and then in a week hand in an essay on the presentation. Though a weird and daunting prospect, I would pick it any day over two essays on Monday.
This means, instead I have the one essay on race and slavery’s impact during the American Civil War, a question that I initially
thought was straight forward, but oh how I was wrong! Not only is the question asking for many different aspects, but I am also learning a lot more in researching the essay than I can even begin to work out how to put into the essay. In some ways this is great as I am learning, and learning really interesting things, but I now have so much information I don’t know where to put it all!
Now don’t worry, most students don’t end up at this point as they are able to get the information, close the book and write the essay, but I keep reading in interest, which though is great for my curiosity- it is sure killing my time.
Luckily, like all History tutors my module coordinator was available in his office hours to point me in the right direction. All History tutors whether professors, lecturers or PHD students that are helping out with seminars tend to have office hours where students can go and visit them without booking a meeting to discuss whatever is on your mind about the module. In my first year I did not really use this excellent resource available to me, as I thought for most issues I should go to my personal tutor which you are given in your first week of term and is always there for you until you graduate. However, in my second year I have finally realised how useful these office hours are.
Second year is when essays change a little bit and they are now asking a lot more from you, whether it is for more primary material, better analytical skills, or just a wider range of reading, yet many students attack their second year essays much like they did their first year ones. This is not to say that this is a bad thing as it can often get great responses but if you are an average 2:1 students like I am, you want to get the most out of your essays. This is where going to your module tutor comes in handy as here they can help you with making sure you understand the question, your plan is right, you’re researching in the right places, your essay makes sense, you understand a word, and well… pretty much anything to do with the assignments, or even just the module. What I have also found useful about going to see my module tutor, a.k.a the person who marks my essay, you start to understand what they want in an essay, which is very useful for your first essay with a new tutor as they may want different things out of the essay than a previous teacher.
To get the most out of these meetings you should always come with a basic idea of where you want to go with the essay and having done some research. This means that you can have a better discussion with the tutor over the direction of your essay and shows that you’re not just being lazy and trying to get them to answer the question for you (which they won’t). I would strongly recommend using the module tutors if you are having any trouble, because usually they can clear a lot of confusion up.
Now, because I like to put pictures in the posts… here is a selection of books I am looking through for information… I’ve moved away from the bed-desk and have now created a little area in front of the radiator for extra research warmth.