Now that you have a solid foundation to build upon, let’s build the main structure of your house.

Question

What do we mean by ‘Fixtures and Fittings’?

Answer

We at The Coursework Club use the metaphor of ‘Fixtures and Fittings’ – light fixtures, bathroom sinks, kitchen units, curtains and such – to describe the Language, Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar you choose to use in your essay.

Question

Aren’t “Fixtures and Fittings’ usually the last thing you put in the main structure of a house?

Answer

Ordinarily, yes BUT because they are often fixed and fitted last, people don’t always give them the due consideration they deserve. As a result, these crucial issues are often left until the last minute, yet they are the things that will give your house its beauty and character. Consequently, you cannot afford to leave these until last – they are too important, and are often the overlooked key ingredients to the construction of an excellent piece of coursework. So, this is where we’ll start.

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S.P.G.: Spelling, Punctuation and Grammar.

Summary:
Too often, we at The Coursework Club see good research and hard work wasted because of the poor deployment (use) of, what is considered by all exam boards, basic assumed skills. What we mean by this, is that ALL exam boards are assuming that students will have a solid grasp of the key written skills of spelling, punctuation and grammar. In fact, most exam board mark schemes specify that students will be scored at lower levels if their work demonstrates a consistent weakness in any of these areas.

Language

Summary:
One of the main reasons we started The Coursework Club is because we became frustrated at the lack of linguistic sophistication being demonstrated, year after year, by students in their coursework. This was in no way the fault of the students. Two engines were driving this depressed language usage – neither of which had anything to do with a lack of the intellectual ability of the students:

  • A lack of emphasis placed upon and, therefore, a lack of guidance given by teachers, on the elemental importance of high level language usage in the coursework of students. This lack of emphasis leads into the next point.
  • Low expectations of teachers of their students. Education at ages 16-18 should not simply be viewed as a directed journey towards examinations. These years are crucial and formative ones for students because this is where they evolve their signature writing styles – and it these styles which provide the lead-in to university, employment, or any other path chosen by the students. Universities constantly complain about the low levels of language skills displayed within the walls of their institutions. Students in this age range (16-18) should be given the respect they deserve and be treated like young academics – not as chattel to be processed for the sitting of examinations.
  • These are not the engines you want driving you – you need an updated model. We DO NOT dumb down here at The Coursework Club. On the contrary, we want you to meet your considerable linguistic potential.

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Question

Why is S.P.G. and language so important?

Answer

See below.

Compare and contrast the following two paragraphs, in terms of S.P.G. and language. Which one would YOU prefer to read, if you were an examiner?

One of the key reasons why the United States embarked upon, what a number of academics have since termed, a 'reckless and ignorant policy of idealogical adventurism' in Vietnam, was because of Washington's core belief in the Domino Theory. Irrespective of the long history of Vietnamese resistance to subjugation by outside pressures - particularly those brought to bear by the Chinese, the Japanese, and the French - those who ordained US policy in South East Asia, had targeted Indochina, not as a region of intense nationalist resistance against foreign domination, but one that was looking to cover itself in the so caled 'vile cloak of communism'. If, as former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara would later state, the Americans had read a Vietnamese history book, they would have drawn very different conclusions as to the growth of resistance to American foreign policy.

CONTRAST THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH WITH THAT BELOW.

A reason why America started fighting in Vietnam was because of the domino theory. The domino theory was that countries in asia would fall to communism like a row of dominos. America needed to stop this and started fighting in vietna. Some people say this was a mistake.

BY THE END OF THIS COURSE, YOU WILL BE WRITING LIKE THE FIRST EXAMPLE (IF NOT BETTER).

Don'ts


Question

What do we mean by ‘Don’ts’?

Answer

Simple. ‘Don’ts’ are our suggestions for things that you should, now that you are young academics, avoid doing when writing your essay. These are pretty simple things to avoid and, by doing so, you elevate your essay out from the basic and often unimpressive language of the playground, to the language used by confident academics. In keeping with our house-building theme: instead of building a doll’s house, you will be constructing a mansion.

Don't (1):

Do NOT use informal language. This is a formal piece of research, not a chat, and there is no place for shortened forms, contractions, slang, or crude language.
e.g.
could've becomes could have.

Don't (2):

Do NOT use personal pronouns which refer to yourself. Errr what? Simply, do not use, ‘I’, ‘Me’, ‘My’ and such.

Here’s one obvious reason why there’s no need to use such things as, ‘in my opinion’:

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So, how do you get around the use of clumsy, basic pro noun language? Easy, see the example below:

Using unnecessary personal pronouns:

I think that the Domino Theory was clearly an important reason for American involvement in Vietnam. However, in my opinion, there wer other important causes of American involvement.

The simple way to avoid the use of unnecessary pronouns:

The Domino Theory was clearly an important reason for American involvement in Vietnam, however, there were other important causes for American involvement.

Ask yourself this: Does it still make sense without them? Of course it does. Is it clear that this is still your work? Of course it is.

BUT, there's more...

An even better way to avoid using these crude and unnecessary pronouns:

Whilst the Domino Theory was an obvious cause of initial and continued US involvement in Vietnam - evidenced in abundance by policy declarations emanating from Washington - it must be remembered that this cause did not exist in isolation. One of the more significant reasons for American intervention in Vietnam was the personal view of JFK. Kennedy was adamant that, after the relative American defeat in Cuba, he needed an outright foreign policy victory elsewhere in the world. Hence, he made Vietnam, "The Place".

This paragraph contains NO personal pronouns and, yet, it is confidently assertive. It demonstrates an ownership of the material and control of the discussion. Which of these three examples, do you think, is more sophisticated?

Top Tip 1

Whilst it is important to demonstrate your ownership and control of the coursework, it is vital that your assertiveness does not become arrogance. Confidence reassures your reader that you are a person of intelligence, maturity and thoughtfulness. Arrogance, as you will most certainly have experienced in life, shows that you think you are superior to the reader and the subject.

Remember, you are building a strong and elegant house to be lived in by the examiner, not one that will make the inhabitant resent living there because of the forced opulence.

Don't (3):

Where possible, do NOT repeat words over and over in the same paragraph, much less so in the same sentence.

Avoid repeating words in close proximity to one another:

It is important to remember the importance of the Domino Theory when looking at important causes for American involvement in Vietnam.

Instead:

It is important to remember the significance of the Domino Theory when looking at the great many causes of American involvement in Vietnam.

It may seem like something you don’t need to be told, but repetitive language can be a fatal error when constructing your essay because it either shows a degree of laziness, or a deficiency of language ability. You want your examiner to be impressed by the finery in your house, not bored because the wallpaper is the same in every room.

Don't (4):

Whilst we want you to improve your level of vocabulary and prove your superior language skills, what we don’t want is for you to simply replace every other word with a longer one from a thesaurus or from the synonyms in your word processing software. If you aren’t precisely sure what the word means and in what context you should use it, then don’t use that word. If in doubt, keep it simple.

Do this:

Sophisticated and simple.

The Domino Theory imagined the countries of South East Asia as a row of dominoes that would fall, one after the other, to communism. This theory stated that, should one country 'fall' to communism, then it would only be a mater of time before its neighbouring countries became 'infected' by communism and also 'fell'. This theory was the foundation for much of America's Cold War foreign policy in South East Asia because it gave them an easily justifiable reason for involvement in the countries of that region. In order to 'protect' the region as a whole, America believed it was necessary to prevent all countries from 'falling' to communism, because they feared that one 'domino' falling would cause the rest of the dominoes to fall in sequence.

Not this:

Ruined by not quite understanding the synonyms.

The Domino Theory imagined the countries of South East Asia as a row of dominoes that would fall, one after the other, to communism. This conjecture stated that, should one country 'descend' to communism, then it would only be a matter of time before its proximity countries became 'infected' by communism and also 'fell'. This theory was the groundwork for much of America's Cold War foreign policy in South East Asia, because it gave them an easily justifiable reason for involvement in the countries of that expanse. In order to 'shelter' the region as a whole, America believed it was necessary to thwart all countries from 'falling' to communism, because they were trepidation that one 'domino' falling would cause the rest of the dominoes to fall in progression.

Don't (5):

Avoid, where possible, asking questions in your answer. Your essay is designed around the function of answering questions, not asking them. Too many students feel that they have to postulate a question in order to answer it, for example:

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The Domino Theory was used by the Americans as a blanket excuse for involvement in South East Asia. Why did they do this, and why was Vietnam, in particular, seen as an important enough place for them to apply the theory?

How to very easily avoid asking questions:

The Domino Theory was used by the Americans as a blanket excuse for involvement in South East Asia. There were a number of reasons for this, such as a profound misunderstanding of the complexities of South East Asian nationalism and a refusal to acknowledge that the countries of this region were not necessarily operating upon the orders of the Kremlin. It was this funadmental misunderstanding of the region, coupled to JFK's increasingly desperate attempts to prove himself a success in foreign policy, that ultimately led to Washington finding Vietnam sufficiently important enough to apply the theory.

Don't (6):

Avoid narration. The question title that you are discussing is looking for an analytical and evaluative response, using evidence to create an argument and prove conclusions. Your essay should be constructed tightly around these goals. This means there is no room for simply narrating or telling the reader a story.

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Example of what not to do:

This is just narrating or describing. Don't do it.

In 1960 Kennedy was elected president. He was a democrat and the first Catholic president. During his presidency, JFK got America incolved in the Vietnam war and sent Green Berets to the country. He got involved because of the Domino Theory, which was a theory about countries falling to communism like dominoes. The Green Berets were a special military force trained in counter insurgency and they were sent to Vietnam in secret. When they got there they helped train the Army of the Republic of Vietnam and fought against the Vietcong. The Vietcong were the communist rebels in the south of Vietnam who wanted to unite the south and the north. They were trained in guerilla warfare and fought using 'hit and run' tactics. The Vietcong attacked President Diem's government. Diem was a Catholic and was not liked by the rest of the country, who were Buddhist.

Top Tip 2

One of the best ways to improve your language skills, particularly your vocabulary and your ability to appropriately deploy it, is to read, read, read. By immersing yourself in the kinds of language that is used by other academics and historians, you will, without even noticing it, begin to adopt a more sophisticated approach to your writing.

As you are researching your topic, create a word bank and update it regularly with appropriate vocabulary. You can then use this word bank when you start to write your essay.

Connectives


Question

What do we mean by ‘connectives’?

Answer

A ‘connective’ (for the purposes we intend it) is a word or words that link two sentences or paragraphs together.

Question

Why is this important?

Answer

Ask any of your English teachers, and they will tell you the importance of connecting your sentences and paragraphs to one another. One of the problems we at The Coursework Club come across is that students often don’t understand that their essay is one continuous piece of work that requires a consistent and logical ‘flow’. In order for your reader to feel at ease reading your work, it must have this ‘flow’.

There are literally hundreds of connectives but for the subject of History at this level, we at The Coursework Club see the following as arguably the most important for the successful flow of an essay:


Example 1


Use when continuing a theme or argument from one sentence or paragraph to another.

In addition, Moreover Furthermore, More than this, Further to this point, As well as, Also, Reinforcing this, In support of this, Supporting this, To consolidate this point, Adding to this, Supporting this.

Example 2


Use when contrasting a theme or argument from one sentence or paragraph to another.

In contrast, Contrary to, In opposition to, Whereas, Alternatively, Instead of, On the other hand (informal), On the contrary, Weakening this theory/evidence/argument, Undermining this theory/evidence/argument, In challenge to, In other respects, However.

Example 3


Use when demonstrating cause and effect.

Consequently, As a result, Therefore, Because, Thus, Hence, Stemming from this, Resulting from this, For this reason, Acordingly, As a development of this, In response to this, As a reaction to this, Sensing this.

Example 4


Use when emphasising a point, theme or argument from one sentence or paragraph to another.

Above all, Significantly, In particular, Particularly, Especially, Clearly, Indeed, Notably, Most of all, Without doubt, Without reservation, Importantly, Of great significance, Of paramount importance, Singularly

Example 5


Use when illustrating a point by using proof.

For example, To illustrate this point, To prove this, To demonstrate this, To show this, Such as, For instance, For example, Including, As revealed by, As demonstrated by, As shown by, In the case of, As evidenced by, Supported clearly by, Highlighted by, Proven by, Seen clearly in.

Example of a connective joining two sentences:

There were a number of reasons why JFK decided to increase aid and assistance to President Diem of South Vietnam, the most important of which was the personal fear that his own reputation was in need of a foreign policy victory, particularly after the relative defeat in Cuba, and the neautralisation of Laos. In addition to this, Kennedy understood well how the loss of Indochina to the communists would damage America's standing in Asia...

Example of a contrasting connective joining two paragraphs:

The primary reason, according to Smith, as to why the US became involved in Indochina under JFK, was that Kennedy understood well how the loss of Indochina to the communists would damage America's standing in Asia. The Cold War climate meant that Kennedy could not possibly allow America's allies in Asia to think that she would fail to protect them, should they be threatened by potential communist takeover. If the US neglected its treaty commitments, there was the very real concern that the countries of South East Asia, would look elsewhere for support.

Contradicting the argument proposed by Smith, that the US became embroiled in Vietnam simply because it was honouring its treaty commitments in South East Asia, is the evidence that very clearly supports the claims of a number of historians (Tariq et al), that Kennedy's own personal ambitions in foreign policy dictated strategy in the region...

Top Tip 3


Arguably

All questions at this level will be looking for a judgement of some sorts. The more sophisticated titles will demand a continuous judgement or judgments throughout the work. A great way to provide a judgement but not necessarily a 100% commitment to that judgement, is to use the word, ‘arguably’.

Using the word, ‘arguably’ is a great way to set up a paragraph or a sentence, in which you wish to show the importance/significance of an issue/event/person etc.

For example

How far would you agree that the Domino Theory was the main reason JFK became involved in Vietnam?

After you have written your introduction, you can start the first paragraph of your answer like this:

Arguably, the most significant motivation behind Kennedy's greater involvement in Vietnam was the foreign policy underwritten by the Domino Theory...

The great thing about using this word (though be very careful to use it sparingly) is that it shows the reader that:

  • You can make a judgement;
  • You have prioritised, right from the beginning of your coursework, the reasons for Kennedy’s involvement (or whatever your topic is related to) – designating the Domino Theory as very important;
  • You have shown that the Domino Theory is important, but that you are aware of other issues that need consideration – that is why you said ‘Arguably’ and not ‘Definitely’. Clever, right?
  • By using ‘Arguably’, you have not committed yourself to the Domino Theory as the most important reason. At least not yet.

In a very real sense, you have made a definite judgement, without making a definite commitment. That can come later. This leaves your work open so that you may make other judgements related to the topic.

What you have learned

This section has shown you the importance of using the correct Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar. It has also shown you the skills necessary to create an essay that uses high level language. Now, apply these skills to your work.

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