A good first year supervision essay in Linguistics will be between 1,000 and 1,500 words long. It will have a clear introduction at the beginning, in which the structure of the essay and the approach to the question is outlined, and a clear conclusion, in which the arguments of the essay are summarised and drawn together.
The essay should show evidence of reading beyond the lecture handout. It should not just repeat facts from the handouts and the reading, but should attempt to engage with the question and take a stand on the key issues.
For example, on the essay 'How would you account for the similarities and differences between the southern hemisphere varieties of English?', it's not enough to simply list the similarities and differences. A passable essay will also mention the factors that may have played a role. A good essay will compare these factors with one another, and outline where different scholars have taken different views. The best essays will argue for one of these views, or for a combination of views, in a logical manner.
All essays in Linguistics should be illustrated with relevant data and examples, not argued purely on a theoretical level.
What is the purpose of a Linguistics essay?
Essay writing allows you to draw together in an organised form the material you have gathered during your analysis of the data and your reading of relevant material. It also tests a number of skills and capabilities relating to the data in question and your interpretation of it:
- Can you discuss the data?
- Can you write clearly and logically about the data?
- Can you analyse the data in detail, referring to its specific linguistic features and characteristics?
- Can you construct an argument on the basis of the data?
- Can you analyse and discuss the data with reference to a particular framework of linguistic analysis/theory?