Essay Writing

Guidelines for Essay Writing

Preparing your essay

You will need to attend the lectures relevant to your essay and read a sufficient amount of the literature specified on the reading lists. Before writing the essay ensure you fully understand the thrust of the question. It is essential that you answer the question directly; a general discussion of the subject is not acceptable. If you are unclear about the title, consult your lecturer, tutor or the course director.

Writing your essay

1.  Before writing your essay make notes from the literature you read, noting references and page numbers. Plan your essay by deciding what issues need to be discussed and the order in which they should be considered. It is a good idea to draft a rough outline or essay plan (a list of topics/sites/artefacts and the problems related to them etc.). Then write a full rough draft; this should reveal any 'gaps' or 'waffle'.

2.  Keep to the word length. The essay must be a well-structured piece of prose with a clear introduction and an identifiable conclusion. The body of the essay should consist of a series of paragraphs directly related to the question. These should be linked to each other indicating where you are switching from one issue to the next. The use of sub-headings may be useful in this respect.

3.  You must write the essay in your own words. All material 'copied' from textbooks must be indicated as such by the use of quotation marks and references (see below).

Plagiarism : Any use of material that is not credited in the above manner is easily recognisable; it constitutes 'plagiarism'. The use of plagiarised material will result in the essay being failed; it may also jeopardise your overall degree.

Laundering : The practice of taking the structure and ideas of an author, paraphrasing their work and failing to reference the source is related to plagiarism. This 'practice' also applies to the use of other students' essays. In its extreme form it will be considered as plagiarism and will be severely penalised.

Presentation of your essay

Wherever possible your essay should be typed/word-processed. Where this is not possible your handwriting must be neat and legible. You will be penalised if the essay is illegible. It is recommended to check that your spelling and grammar are correct, especially the spelling of unfamiliar terms or site names. Remember to use the spell check. Check dates and remember the differences between BP and BC or AD.

Use of illustrations, tables etc.: Illustrations should only be used to demonstrate your argument; they should not be included simply for the sake of pretty pictures. Refer to the illustration in the text (e.g. The chronological development of the Bronze Age is summarised in Figure 1). The illustration should be labelled Figure 1 with a title and the source, e.g. Figure 1: Bronze Age Chronology (after Waddell 1998, figure 2). This also applies to tables and plates (photographs).

Referencing : The Department of Archaeology recommends the use of the Harvard system of referencing (also known as the Author-Date system), e.g. The people of the Mesolithic appear to have built houses (Woodman 1986). If you quote directly or refer to specific information you must give the exact reference (including page numbers) in brackets within the text. The format is author and year of publication, followed by the relevant page numbers, e.g. "The medieval ringfort remains an archaeological chimera" (Lynn 1975, 66). If more than one reference is to appear, they should be separated using a semicolon(;), as in (Woodman 1986; Mitchell 1995, 45). If you refer to work without directly quoting or referring to specific information, use the author and year e.g. (Woodman 1977). Make sure you include all text references in your bibliography.

Setting out quotes: If your quote is short (2 lines or less) use quotation marks. For example: As Mellars (1998, 232) stated "The question of large-scale migrations of red deer between summer and winter territories remains controversial". If longer than this, start a new line and indent it as a paragraph in its own right; do not use quotation marks. Where words from a quote are omitted, the omission should be indicated, with the use of three dots … Each quote, whether in quote marks or indented, must be referenced.

His interpretation rested heavily on the hypothesis of a regular seasonal migration of red deer between lowland habitats in winter and upland habitats in summer, and ... that Star Carr was a specifically winter-season site (Mellars 1998, 232).

Remember a good essay never consists of a series of 'quotes' strung together by a few sentences, even if properly referenced and set between an introduction and conclusion.

Bibliography : At the end of your essay you must provide a bibliography for all the publications you have referenced in alphabetical order by author's surname. If an author has produced more than one article per year these should be differentiated as, for instance, Bradley 1984a and 1984b, in both the text and the bibliography. Do not include reference to your lecture notes in this. The format is:

    * Books: author's name, initials, year of publication, title of book (italics if typed or underlined if hand-written), place of publication, publisher.

e.g. Murphy, S. 1998. Wonders of the Past. London: Batsford.

    * Periodical/journal articles: author, initials, year, title, journal name (italics if typed or underlined if hand-written), volume number and pages.

e.g. Murphy, S. 1985. Megaliths in Mayo. Archaeology Ireland 7(2), 16-18.

    * Articles in edited books and conference proceedings: author(s), initials, year of publication, title of article, editor, book title. (italics if typed or underlined if hand-written), page numbers, place of publication, publisher.

e.g. Murphy, S. 1988. The meaning of rock art. In P.F. Cullen (ed.) Aspects of Prehistory, 24-29. New York: Academic Press.

    * Web-pages/Electronic publications: author(s), date, initials, title of serial/page, volume number, pages. Availability statement (date of accession if needed).

e.g. Vince A, 1997. Publishing archaeology on the Web: who reads this stuff anyway? Internet Archaeology 3, 8-10.

Format and submission

    * Write on one side of the page only;
    * Use 1.5 line spacing;
    * Staple essays on the top left-hand corner;
    * Do not use folders or plastic covers;
    * Use a title page with the following information:
          o your name
          o student number
          o essay title
          o name of person setting the essay
          o module name and module code
    * Put essays in the assignment box outside the Archaeology Department Office. Remember late essays will have marks deducted (if you have problems meeting a deadline consult the lecturer or course director before the submission date).
    * If you wish to have your essay corrected anonymously, please submit a second title page without your name, but with all the other details.

Find out more

Visit the Boole Library's Study and Research Help Page for more on essay writing, referencing and using the Library.

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