AS/A Level Business Studies – Essay Writing Mr. Spicer
What is an essay? • An essay is usually a short piece of writing which is quite often written from an author's personal point of view. • A written composition of moderate length exploring a particular issue or subject. • A short literary composition on a single subject, usually presenting the personal view of the author. • A method of examination, or homework, by which a student presents his/her knowledge of the subject by writing a composition.
Essay Writing Essays remain an important method of assessment and enable examiners to discriminate between candidates, while also enabling candidates to display the skills and abilities which they possess.
The pyramid of skills • Professor Roy Wilkinson of Sheffield University has identified a pyramid of skills which A level examinations try to test. • The bottom two layers are 'Lower-order skills', while the top four layers are 'Higher-order skills'. • As there is now less emphasis on testing the lower order skills this implies that it is not possible for candidates to perform well in the essay paper by rote learning of notes.
Command words in essay titles Examiners report that many candidates underperform because they fail to interpret the key words of an essay title. Below is a glossary of some of the most frequently used command words with suggestions for interpretation: • 'Account for ...'Explain how a particular event or situation came about, i.e. 'Which factors would have led a large retailing company to...' • 'Analyse ...'Break down an argument or information into component parts and identify ways in which these parts are related. Always recognise the underlying assumptions. • 'Analyse the extent to which ...'Show judgement over the relevant importance of different arguments or events. • 'Assess ...'Make some kind of judgement on the relative importance of a particular aspect of Business Studies, discussing the influence of other factors or events that influence the topic. • 'Compare ...'Describe two or more situations and show the difference and similarities between them. • 'Criticise ...'Present a view on a particular argument, point of view or theory, based on the evidence available.
Command words in essay titles - continued • 'Define ...'A simple statement is not enough. Use appropriate examples or formulae to illustrate and elaborate on your precise definition of a concept. • 'Describe ...'Usually more than a mere description is expected, instead a critical review of some particular set of circumstances or events is usually expected. • 'Discuss ...'Consider the arguments for and against the issue raised in the question. • 'Distinguish ...'Candidates need to show that they understand the differences between two (probably frequently confused) concepts. Similarities and differences need to be discussed and illustrated in distinguishing between the two concepts. • 'Do ...' or 'Does ...'Make a judgement on whether on set of circumstances is preferable to another.
Command words in essay titles - continued • 'Evaluate ...'Make reasoned judgements about the validity of a particular argument or statement, presenting evidence and reasoned argument of all relevant issues involved. • 'Examine ...'Candidates need to unravel the events that led to a particular set of circumstances or the validity of the reasoning that underlies a particular point of view. Stress the relative importance of the different arguments and their relevance to the basic issue under consideration. • 'Explain ...'Interpret the meaning of a particular concept with an example to illustrate understanding. • 'Outline ...'Only a brief description is required. Usually there are follow up parts to this question. • 'To what extent ...'This implies there is no definite answer to the question posed. Present both sides of the argument and exercise judgement by stressing the strength of some arguments over others.
How to improve your technique: some general principles • Essays need a structure • jot down a simple plan • make sure you know where the essay is going before you start writing, i.e. your conclusion • Essays must be a response to a specific title • avoid writing everything you know on a given topic, irrelevant material gains no marks • respond to the command words in the question • Do not forget the essay title • refer back to the question regularly - probably at the end of every paragraph • every paragraph should answer the question set, aim for one theme per paragraph • Avoid one-sided essays • usually the only questions that A level examiners will set are ones which can provoke differing viewpoints • always consider what your argument depends upon, i.e. the factors or assumptions inherent in your argument
How to improve your technique: some general principles - continued • Demonstrate your depth of knowledge • analyse the question with care to show your understanding of the subject content • avoid paragraphs of textbook description • use appropriate graphs which must be accurate • use topical examples to back up your points • make references to other writers if appropriate • Remember the higher order skills of analysis and evaluation • break down the material in a way that helps reveal the issues involved • use relevant business concepts to explore causes and effects • examine arguments critically • state which arguments you believe to be the most important and why • Try to please the examiners! • use appropriate concepts and terminology • avoid slang, e.g. 'The firm will go bust...' • be concise and relevant • leave enough time to write a conclusion
An example essay – ‘Are cats good pets?’ The essay below demonstrates the principles of writing a basic essay. The different parts of the essay have been labeled. The thesis statement is in bold, the topic sentences are in italics, and each main point is underlined. When you write your own essay, of course, you will not need to mark these parts of the essay. They are marked here just so that you can more easily identify them. "A dog is man's best friend." That common saying may contain some truth, but dogs are not the only animal friend whose companionship people enjoy. For many people, a cat is their best friend. Despite what dog lovers may believe, cats make excellent housepets as they are good companions, they are civilized members of the household, and they are easy to care for. In the first place, people enjoy the companionship of cats.Many cats are affectionate. They will snuggle up and ask to be petted, or scratched under the chin. Who can resist a purring cat? If they're not feeling affectionate, cats are generally quite playful. They love to chase balls and feathers, or just about anything dangling from a string. They especially enjoy playing when their owners are participating in the game. Contrary to popular opinion, cats can be trained.Using rewards and punishments, just like with a dog, a cat can be trained to avoid unwanted behavior or perform tricks. Cats will even fetch!
An example essay – ‘Are cats good pets?’ In the second place, cats are civilized members of the household.Unlike dogs, cats do not bark or make other loud noises. Most cats don't even meow very often. They generally lead a quiet existence. Cats also don't often have "accidents." Mother cats train their kittens to use the litter box, and most cats will use it without fail from that time on. Even stray cats usually understand the concept when shown the box and will use it regularly. Cats do have claws, and owners must make provision for this. A tall scratching post in a favorite cat area of the house will often keep the cat content to leave the furniture alone. As a last resort, of course, cats can be declawed. Lastly, one of the most attractive features of cats as housepets is their ease of care.Cats do not have to be walked. They get plenty of exercise in the house as they play, and they do their business in the litter box. Cleaning a litter box is a quick, painless procedure. Cats also take care of their own grooming. Bathing a cat is almost never necessary because under ordinary circumstances cats clean themselves. Cats are more particular about personal cleanliness than people are. In addition, cats can be left home alone for a few hours without fear. Unlike some pets, most cats will not destroy the furnishings when left alone. They are content to go about their usual activities until their owners return. Cats are low maintenance, civilized companions. People who have small living quarters or less time for pet care should appreciate these characteristics of cats. However, many people who have plenty of space and time still opt to have a cat because they love the cat personality. In many ways, cats are the ideal housepet.