Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Essay Tests in All Disciplines

Question: What Is an “Essay”?

Answer/Quote: “In reviewing the data that emerged from the current study, there is one issue that seems to merit further consideration and research: the question of what constitutes an essay and what criteria do instructors of various disciplines expect students to meet when they ask them to write an essay. Within the context of this study, the essay was indicated as a common form of writing assignment across disciplines.

“However, a question arises: what do instructors actually mean when they say that they assign ‘an essay’ in their classes? According to the survey question, ‘What are your minimum expectations for the writing tasks that you assign? … English professors indicate that an essay should be fully developed with an introduction, body, and conclusion and should sometimes include citations. On the other hand, respondents from the business department indicated that their minimum expectations for an essay is one paragraph. History and social science department respondents indicated that an essay is either one or multiple paragraphs.

“Clearly, the question of what constitutes an ‘essay’…needs further investigation. The researchers believe that this may constitute an important piece of the puzzle in discerning what ‘real’ academic writing requires, particularly in the two-year colleges.”

Comment: Interesting question. I suggest that the essay answer to a test question begins with the thesis, with no interesting introduction, followed by paragraphs introduced by topic sentences with an optional summary—up to the teacher. Question: What were the causes of X War? Answer as a thesis sentence(no interesting introduction): The causes of X War were the need for expanded territory, diversion from problems at home and the ambition of the King. Each of the points in the thesis becomes the topic sentence of paragraphs for each cause of X War. RayS.

Title: “Preparing ESL Students for ‘Real’ College Writing: A Glimpse of Common Writing Tasks ESL Students Encounter at One Community College.” J Carroll and H Dunkelblau. Teaching English in the Two-Year College (March 2011), 271-281.

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