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Transkills: supporting transition to University


You may be advised to avoid use of first person phrases such as 'I feel that' or 'this makes me think of'. Students sometimes interpret this to mean that supervisors and examiners are not interested in their views. This is not the case; it's just that your position or 'opinion' should be implicit throughout your essay without the need to explicitly state it. Alternatively, you may use first person phrases such as ‘I believe that’, ‘I would counter-argue that’ in those cases where you are taking a position that you have not encountered in the literature and that you want to signal as a product of your own thinking. Stylistically this is a marked expression, and should be used sparingly. Take time to study how published scholars convey their position in relation to a particular question.

A good essay is not an exercise in speculation and subjectivity; maintain a critical distance and analyse the text or the theoretical position that you have been presented with.This does not mean that your argument should be disengaged or indifferent; you should learn to develop a strong, incisive argument which is all the more convincing for avoiding speculation. If you want to express a particular point of view, then do so, but you must convince your reader that this is a well-founded, reasoned analysis of the issue you are discussing. Above all, remember that an essay is an exercise in persuasion; you need to assemble a coherent argument and present it convincingly.