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Supervisor comment: 'a well set out and logical order of points that develop the discussion'

Academic writing at university requires you to persuade the reader that you have moved beyond presenting both sides of an argument in response to a question. You should be able to show your supervisor/examiner that you can draw your points together to a proper conclusion which not only summarises your content, but also clarifies your own position based on the evidence you have presented. The reader is looking for reasons for the angle you take, not just a narrative. It wouldn't make much sense to draw a conclusion that the content of your essay did not support! The very best essays 'develop arguments throughout with each element building on the last.' * 

Occasionally, your perspective may differ from that of your supervisor, but don't let that put you off taking a risk and arguing your position, even if it is challenged.

* Assessment Plus Core Criteria


Further reading

  • van den Brink-Budgen, R., 2000 Critical Thinking for Students. 3rd ed. Oxford: Howtobooks. Includes exercises designed to develop critical reading skills and the opportunity to scrutinise a variety of structures addressing the same topic. It also addresses the issue of irrelevant content weakening an argument.
  • Creme, P. & Lea, M., 2007 Writing at University a guide for students. 2nd ed. OUP. See pp. 86-93 which focus on developing your argument step by step.



Practice comparing arguments

Compare the way in which the following three exemplar essays respond to the same topic of reproduction within the essay: Compare and contrast prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells. Take the following into consideration:

  • Are ideas developed beyond an initial statement of fact?
  • Are ideas linked within and between paragraphs?
  • Can you find any content not directly focused on the question?
  • Which of the three essays do you feel develops this aspect of the argument most effectively?

What matters is that you should be able to explain why you consider one response to be more effective than the others.

Essay 1

Most eukaryotes reproduce sexually, whereas all prokaryotes reproduce asexually, meaning prokaryotes do not generate genetic variation by sexual recombination. Prokaryotes divide by binary fission whereas eukaryotic cells usually undergo a process of nuclear division followed by cytokinesis. Cell division in prokaryotes is exceedingly fast as binary fission is a simple process and bacteria are so small. This ability to divide quickly enables populations of bacteria to adapt to changes in the environment very quickly. A mutation in a prokaryote’s genome will be immediately present in the next generation due to the asexual nature of reproduction in prokaryotes. Cell division in eukaryotes is much slower and more complicated due to the cells having a nucleus, more than one chromosome and two types of nuclear division – mitosis and meiosis.

Essay 2

Thus, the length of time taken for the DNA to be replicated and for the cells to divide is very different.Prokayotes divide asexually, DNA is easily replicated as there are ribosomes present for transcription and translation. The cell can then split by cytokinesis to form two identical cells with the same DNA.There is no sexual reproduction, variations in the genetic code can only occur with cross over or by mutation. In contrast eukaryotes divide by mitosis, this is much more time-consuming than asexual reproduction as all stages from interphase through to telephase need to be performed.However, when sexual reproduction occurs, the gametes do not have the full diploid number, they only have the haploid number (meiosis). Thus, more variation occurs in reproduction of eukaryotes. This is a large advantage as it means the population will be much more resistant to disease,

Essay 3

Directly related to DNA replication is the sequence of processes which occur in the cell cycle leading up to cell division. In prokaryotes, cell division is preceded by DNA replication only, resulting in a relatively fast division time which can be as quick as twelve minutes.Contrastingly, due to the presence of the nucleus in eukaryotic cells, mitosis or meiosis must occur before cell division. This results in a slower rate of cell division, with cells typically dividing only once every twenty-four hours. This form of cell division is asexual reproduction, and creates a new unicellular organism. However, in eukaryotes the cell division is used in growth and repair of an organism. This asexual reproduction of prokaryotes, termed binary fission, is the usual method of reproduction. However, a form of sexual reproduction is found in prokaryotic cells, in which two non-identical cells come together and conjugation occurs via fimbria bridges. A copy of part of the loop of DNA passes to the other cell, and then separation and cell division occur. Alike prokaryotic cells, eukaryotic cells also undergo sexual reproduction the major difference being that this process involves the fusion of gametes, with an equal amount of genetic material contributed by each nucleus.


Now click here to see supervisor's feedback on each of the three essays above.