Now that you have selected the ‘Fixtures and Fittings’ with which to adorn your house, you need to get down to the nitty gritty – organising the construction of the Main Body of the house/your coursework.

Question

What do we mean by ‘Organising the Construction’?

Answer

We at The Coursework Club use ‘Organising the Construction’ to refer to the overall design and plan of the main part of your coursework. Before you write a word, you must understand that your work should conform to a clear structure. Failure to follow an organised structure will leave your work vulnerable to reader to confusion, and confused is the last thing you want your reader to be.

Imagine that you have invited your examiner into your house and left them there to find their own way around. In a well-planned house, an examiner would have no trouble understanding the layout of the rooms and working out how to move around the house. Now imagine you have built a house like this:

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This is an Escherian picture. This is designed specifically to confuse the viewer. You do not want to write an essay that confuses anybody.

N.B.
There is no single way to organise an answer. There are a number of very different ways that a piece of coursework can be organised – determined by the type of question being addressed, by the kind of author you are, by the assessment objectives of the exam board, by the word limit, and so on. What we can do, is give you some of the skills that help you construct a robustly organised answer, regardless of the type of question.

Gathering the Materials to Build your House


Question

What do we mean by ‘Gathering the Materials’?

Answer

If your house is not built of the correct materials, it will be prone to weakness and collapse. It must be built of strong and, more importantly, relevant materials, e.g. You wouldn’t build a house made of wax in the desert.

We at The Coursework Club use ‘Gathering the Materials’ to refer to the simple task of putting together a prioritised list of all of the issues that you intend to discuss in your coursework. Of course, in order to do this, you need to do all of your research first.

Example 1


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

Materials needed to build a response to this question:
e.g.
The Domino Theory
The Protection of Japan
Vietnam’s Resources
The Cold War
The Policy of Containment
JFK’s Personal Ambitions/Beliefs
North Vietnam’s Aggression
The Instability of Diem’s South Vietnam
The Commitment Trap
JFK's advisers

Once you have the reasons you intend to discuss, then you can begin to plan how you will organise these.

Visualise the Design

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Summary:
In order for the reader to understand the work you produce, it has to be designed/planned in a clear and obvious manner. One of the best ways to start doing this, is to try and visualise in your mind, what the basic essay will look like once finished.

Example 2


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

Visual Plan:


Introduction

Paragraph One: Analysis of why the Domino Theory was the main reason for US involvement.

Paragraph Two: Analysis of the limitations to the argument that the Domino Theory was the main reason for the US involvement

Paragraph Three: Analysis of the other causes of US involvement: The Personal Ambitions of JFK

Paragraph Four: Analysis of other causes of US involvement: The Policy of Containment and the Cold War

Paragraph Five: Analysis of other causes of US involvement: The Protection of Japan

Paragraph Six: Analysis of other causes for US involvement: The Commitment Trap

Conclusion

Example 3


American Foreign Policy in Vietnam was utterly unsuccessful’. How far would you agree with this statement, related to the years 1961-75?

This kind of essay can be split into two halves, thus:

Visual Plan:


Introduction

Paragraph One: Analysis of why US policy can be deemed unsuccessful: Reason 1

Paragraph Two: Analysis of why US policy can be deemed unsuccessful: Reason 2

Paragraph Three: Analysis of why US policy can be deemed unsuccessful: Reason 3

However...

Paragraph Four: Analysis of why US policy should NOT be deemed unsuccessful: Reason 1

Paragraph Five: Analysis of why US policy should NOT be deemed unsuccessful: Reason 2

Paragraph Six: Analysis of why US policy should NOT be deemed unsuccessful: Reason 3

Conclusion

Example 4


How far would you agree that, during the years 1961-75, LBJ was the president most directly responsible for US escalation in Vietnam?

Visual Plan:


Introduction

Paragraph One: Analysis of why LBJ must bear most responsibility.

Paragraph Two: Analysis of why LBJ's responsibility is limited.

Next...

Paragraph Three: Analysis of why JFK must bear most responsibility.

Paragraph Four: Analysis of why JFK's responsibility is limited.

Next...

Paragraph Five: Analysis of why Nixon must bear most responsibility.

Paragraph Six: Analysis of why Nixon's responsibility is limited.

Conclusion

Important:
These examples are designed to illustrate how to organise and construct a clear essay – obviously the number of paragraphs and points you analyse will be determined by the subject and the word count. Nonetheless, they offer clear evidence that a pre-planned and effectively organised answer is the best way to demonstrate your understanding of the topic being discussed.

Linking your Rooms Together


Question

What do we mean by ‘Linking your Rooms Together’?

Answer

Each of the rooms in your house will link to other parts of the house through doorways etc. In the same way, your points must link together in a manner that allows your coursework to read well. Imagine if the only way to access your garden was through an upstairs bedroom window. How on earth would you ever get easily into your garden? You need to link your rooms logically and fluidly. The same is true for the points/issues you are to discuss in your coursework.

Question

How would you go about linking your points/issues so that your work ‘flows’?

Answer

This is easier than it sounds. You have to find the issues that have a connection of some kind, then flow from one issue to the next by using that connection. Let us show you.

Example 5


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

Let us say that you want to flow from your first paragraph to the second. Go back to the list of issues related to this question that you created earlier. The first paragraph has to be about the Domino Theory, so that is not a choice, but the second paragraph can be any of the points on the list that you can link easily to the Domino Theory. (Tip: you can link anything on the list to any of the other points, you just have to be smart about it)

See below:

Linking Issues:


Introduction

Paragraph One: Analysis of why the Domino Theory should be considered the main reason for JFK's incolvement in Vietnam.

Next...

Paragraph Two:Protection of Japan
"Whilst it is clear that the Domino Theory was an overarching and significant reason for US involvement in Vietnam under JFK, it must be remembered that the theory itself was created as a justification to protect American interests in Asia. Consequently, the protection of Japan must hold primary significance in comparison to the Domino Theory, if for no other reason than because it was for the protection of US interests in Japan, that the theory was originally proposed..."

This is the 'linking' sentence

Find a connection between the two issues and use it as a transition link. Doesn’t the writing flow much better from one issue to the next when you have this link? If you don’t believe that you can link any two points together, as long as you give it enough thought, we’ll show you another example using the same question.

See below:

Linking Issues:


Introduction

Paragraph One: Analysis of why the Domino Theory should be considered the main reason for JFK's involvement in Vietnam

Next...

Paragraph Two: North Vietnamese Aggression.
"Whilst it is clear that the Domino Theory was an overarching and significant reason for US involvement in Vietnam under JFK, it needed evidence to support it. If any evidence was needed to prove the correctness of the theory, it was provided by the actions of the North Vietnamese government, who seemed determined to prove to Washington that, if left unchecked, North Vietnamese communism would indeed spread - in this case - to South Vietnam. As a result, North Vietnamese aggression must be considered a vital cause..."

Would you like another example? Let's take another issue from the list.

See below:

Linking Issues:


Introduction

Paragraph One: Analysis of why the Domino Theory should be considered the main reason for JFK's involvement in Vietnam

Next...

Paragraph Two: Instability of Diem's Government.
"Whilst it is clear that the Domino Theory was an overarching and significant reason for US involvement in Vietnam under JFK, it was built upon the premise that weak states would not be able to resist the flood of communism. A weak country would be an easy target for communism and would eventually fall like a domino. President Diem of South Vietnam was seen, by many in America, as a weak state that required support in order to avoid becoming one of these dominoes. As a result, the weakness of Diem's South Vietnam must be considered a significant cause of..."


See, simple right?

Building the Pillars


Question

What do we mean by ‘Building the Pillars’?

Answer

When you construct the main body of your house, you need to ensure that it is ‘anchored’ around a powerful, immovable structure. This will avoid the creation of a fragile building that would be prone to collapse. The best way to do this is to build pillars around which you will construct your main structure.

We at The Coursework Club use ‘Building the Pillars’ to refer to a very simple method of ensuring you have, at the very least, the crucial elements of a successful paragraph. The easiest way we have found to remember to deploy these elements into your paragraphs is the mnemonic, T.R.E.E.

Question

T.R.E.E?

Answer

T.R.E.E. refers to four of the most important elements – the pillars – you need to include in most paragraphs you construct, and is an easy way to remind you to check your work for these elements.

TTOPIC
RREASON
EEXPLANATION
EEVIDENCE

Many of you may already have heard of this system. Some of you may use others. It doesn’t matter which you use, as long as they help you remember what you need in your paragraphs.

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Question

But what does it mean?

Answer

Let us show you

Topic:

‘Topic’ refers to the main topic of the question you are being asked. For example, if someone asks you the following question: “What is the time?”, then the topic of that question is ‘the time’. In a formal response to this question (simple as it is), you would be expected to include the ‘topic’, thus:

“The time is 3.45am”.

Now, this is an oversimplified example, but it illustrates a point that is often overlooked by students who attempt to write substantial pieces of coursework. If you neglect to include the key ‘topic’ of the question in every one of your paragraphs, two things will happen:

  • You will forget that you are answering a specific question related to a specific topic. Your work will then just be a rambling mess.
  • The reader will begin to doubt that you understand the question. If your work is rambling, how can you expect the examiner to follow it? Every paragraph should have this ‘pillar’ which shows the examiner that you are sticking to the question. This ‘pillar’ is a link to the topic of the question.

Example 6


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

When JFK was elected in 1960, America's commitment to Vietnam was limited primarily to that financial aid and assistance that Eisenhower had believed was necessary in order to preserve a capitalist South Vietnam. However, by the untimely end of Kennedy's presidency, there had been a significant increase in direct US involvement.One of the main justifications for this substantial escalation in US involvement, was the Domino Theory, which stated...

This is the Topic Sentence

Reason:

‘Reason’ refers to the grounds you are giving that show the link between the topic (the domino theory) and the question being asked (reason for US involvement in Vietnam). It is, simply, the reason why something happened, or the justification you are giving for an event/issue or the significance of something (whatever the question you are being asked).

Sounds complicated, it isn’t. See the simple example below:

Example 7


Why did you get out of bed today?

Paragraph:There are a number of reasons as to why I got out of bed today, arguably the most important of which, was the desire to start learning the skills of historical analysis.

This is the Topic Sentence

This is the Reason Sentence

Another example:

Paragraph One:
The Domino Theory was evolved in the heightened Cold War atmosphere of the 1950's and, as US eyes turned towards Asia in the early 1960's, it was used by JFK as a justification for greater 'engagement' in Vietnam. The significance of the theory to Kennedy's involvement in Vietnam cannot be underestimated because it provided the strategic reasoning behind the need to protect non-communist countries in the region from the, supposedly inevitable, threat from the 'red tide'...

Explanation:

‘Explanation’ refers to the information you use in order to clarify and explain the reason you have given. A reason without explanation is meaningless.

Example 8


Paragraph One:
The Domino Theory was evolved in the heightened Cold War atmosphere of the 1950's and, as US eyes turned towards Asia in the early 1960's, it was used by JFK as a justification for greater 'engagement' in Vietnam. The significance of the theory to Kennedy's involvement in Vietnam cannot be underestimated because it provided the strategic reasoning behind the need to protect non-communist countries in the region from the, supposedly inevitable, threat from the 'red tide'.The Domino Theory appeared, to many within JFK's administration, as a strategic truth and, when applied to Asia, 'revealed' the dangers of American non-intervention: sequential losses of country after country to communism.

This is the Topic Sentence

This is the Reason Sentence

This is the Explanation Sentence

Evidence:

‘Evidence’ refers to the facts/proof that you need to show the reader in order to prove that what you are saying is accurate, verifiable, and true. Without this, again, your work is meaningless.

Example 9


Paragraph One:
The Domino Theory was evolved in the heightened Cold War atmosphere of the 1950's and, as US eyes turned towards Asia in the early 1960's, it was used by JFK as a justification for greater 'engagement' in Vietnam. The significance of the theory to Kennedy's involvement in Vietnam cannot be underestimated because it provided the strategic reasoning behind the need to protect non-communist countries in the region from the, supposedly inevitable, threat from the 'red tide'.The Domino Theory appeared, to many within JFK's administration, as a strategic truth and, when applied to Asia, 'revealed' the dangers of American non-intervention: sequential losses of country after country to communism. There is clear and abundant evidence to support the importance of the domino theory as a cause of JFK's involvement, not the least of which comes from JFK himself. When asked, in 1963, if he believed in the domino theory, Kennedy replied, "I believe it, I believe it..."

This is the Topic Sentence

This is the Reason Sentence

This is the Explanation Sentence

This is the Evidence Sentence

Top Tip 1

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Always address the key issue/theme/individual/event first, then move on to other issues. So many of our students neglect the main focus of the question and begin discussing other issues first. These other issues may very well be relevant, but they are a secondary priority.

Question

What do you mean?

Answer

Let us show you

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

If this is your question, then your first paragraph after the introduction should be an analysis of the Domino Theory as the main reason for JFK’s involvement. Once you have exhausted this analysis THEN, and only then, do you move onto analysing the other reasons for JFK’s involvement. To do otherwise would make no sense. An essay that wasn’t logical would horrify an examiner.

What you have learned

This section has shown you, with practical examples, the importance of planning and organising your coursework. You have learned the important skills of linking key issues, effective paragraph structure (T.R.E.E.), and prioritising your points. Now, apply these skills to your work.

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