Now that you understand the importance of ‘getting a little more expert advice’ (using and evaluating the views of academics) in order that you can better construct your roof (your conclusion), you need to waterproof the roof you have just built.
What do we mean by ‘Waterproofing your Roof’?
We at The Coursework Club use the term ‘waterproofing’ to mean the method by which you reiterate your overall argument and judgement in the conclusion. In the same way that a roof must be watertight, the arguments and judgements that run through your whole essay must be reinforced in your conclusion – thus making your coursework (and your judgements) watertight.
What do we mean, ‘watertight’?
When a roof is built, it must be so tightly sealed that no water can enter through it. If water makes its way into your house through the roof, then the entire building is uninhabitable. Remember we agreed, right at the beginning of this course, that your examiner/teacher is going to spend a substantial portion of time ‘inhabiting’ the house that you build – reading and judging the coursework you write. If the examiner feels that your arguments and judgements are not watertight, i.e. that they can be easily questioned and disputed, then your work will not gain the respect and marks you think it deserves. You have a leaky roof on a house that no one will want to live in
The judgements you make in your conclusion should be summary judgements which address the central judgement demand (remember?) of the question and make comment on the arguments put forward by academics (some of which you have already done in Step Three: Getting a Little More Expert Advice).
In the conclusion you should merely be summarising your judgement and argument because you will already have asserted them throughout your entire essay. In your conclusion, you are merely reasserting.
Let’s continue to use the same example question, so that you can better see how to reassert your argument and judgement in the conclusion. Let’s waterproof the roof of your house.
How far would you agree that the Domino Theory was the main reason JFK became involved in Vietnam?
…As the evidence suggests, the Domino Theory was clearly one of the main reasons for JFK’s involvement in Vietnam, because it provided an apparently sound geopolitical cause of US involvement. This school of thought is pioneered primarily by conservative Cold War historians, such as John Smith who, in a fit of profound oversimplification, commented that, “Eisenhower, bequeathed the theory to JFK who, quite correctly, saw it for what it was: the greatest threat to the free world in South East Asia”. Although Smith is not alone in this interpretation – it was certainly a popular interpretation during the height of the Cold War – it is an inherently limited one because it blindly eschews the complex set of narratives that led to JFK’s prioritising of Vietnam as, ‘The Place’. A counter to this argument, and one that is equally oversimplified, emerges from economic historians – the vanguard of which is dominated by Jones and Trevors – who see the Cold War as more of a background issue, and view America’s desire to “…access the raw materials of the countries of South East Asia, as the sole reason” for JFK’s involvement in Vietnam. Whilst this school of thought is, perhaps, a more realistic assessment of the Kennedy administration’s interest in South East Asia, because it recognises the less ideologically driven truths of US foreign policy, it is nonetheless as limited as that of Smith et al. These oversimplifications often cloud the arguments from post-Cold War commentators (Watson et al) – who employ more pragmatic and, therefore more valid, arguments –, preferring to resolve the discussions by agreeing that there was “…no single main cause of US involvement, how could there be?”, but that it was a result of myriad causal factors. In a sense, all of the arguments addressing the causes of JFK’s involvement in Vietnam have a degree of legitimacy – the Domino Theory certainly dominated the discourse of post war American foreign policy, and therefore deserves the attention it receives. But, to isolate any single cause and raise it above another, does a dangerous disservice to the great many elements that went into the construction of the wider foreign policy foundation upon which JFK built his ‘house of Vietnam’.
When summarising the arguments put forward by academics try the following for a paragraph format (try and do this, or something similar, in every paragraph):
One academic opinion for the argument in the question; One academic opinion against the question; Your view of both of these opinions and your own opinion as related to the topic of the question.
IF your coursework title doesn’t have a direct question, the format is still the same: One academic opinion relating to the central topic in the question; One academic opinion contradicting the first; Your view of both of these opinions and your own opinion as related to the topic of the question.
ALWAYS try and find a debate. An essay without a debate or an argument is just a story.
This section has shown you the importance of reasserting your argument and judgements in your conclusion. Using a clear example, we have shown you how to summarise the essay’s arguments in your conclusion and, just as importantly, how to assert your own judgements - both on the opinions of academic commentators, and on the central question or topic of the title. Don’t forget, you should already have asserted arguments and made judgements at every stage of your essay. In your conclusion, you are merely summarising these arguments and making a final judgement.
By reasserting and summarising your argument and judgements, you have been able to waterproof your roof, sealing it against any criticism from the examiner that you haven’t obeyed the mark scheme by omitting your own judgement and argument. Now, apply these skills to your work.
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