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Short Essay About The Library

As an undergraduate student at university, you will probably be expected to do some writing in most of your courses. Even if the course doesn't require you to submit a paper, it may require you to write an essay examination. Therefore, an important part of learning at university includes becoming familiar with the structure of an essay as well as achieving the level of competence in writing expected by university professors. Writing skills are emphasized in assignments at university because writing is an essential tool for communication in the working world; these assignments help you to develop the critical thinking and writing skills that will be important even after graduation.

Some students believe that writing ability is evaluated only in courses within English departments. This isn't true at the University of Guelph, where all faculty are directed by Senate to grade not only the content of the assignment but also "the student's ability to use correctly and effectively the language appropriate to the assignment." What this means is that no matter how well-chosen your topic, how well-researched your information, how innovative your ideas, or how brilliant your understanding of the material, your grade will suffer if you cannot convey all that to a reader through a well-organized, clearly written paper. Writing is an expression of your thoughts. If your writing isn't clear, a professor will assume that your thinking wasn't clear on that topic either.

Written assignments in university can vary in length from a one-page essay question on an examination to a 20 or 30 page research paper. They can also vary in the level of analysis as well as in the amount and type of research required. You may be asked simply to describe a process or event, or to analyze or evaluate how and why that process or event occurs. Some assignments will require you to read and discuss a single work assigned to you, while others will require you to conduct some kind of library research to find out about your topic and to bring together in your paper information from a variety of sources. This is called secondary research, and requires you to learn to properly acknowledge your research sources when you write. Primary research occurs when you yourself make some observations on an experiment, survey or study, as is expected in science lab courses as well as in some social science and humanities research courses. But even those papers produced from primary research will usually involve the use of some kind of secondary research to discuss how your results compare to those of experts in the field.

What Is an Essay?

The term essay is used broadly for many different kinds of papers. Essentially, an essay is a written document which discusses, explains, analyzes, interprets or evaluates a topic in an organized and coherent manner. The terminology used to refer to an assignment and the requirements for length, level of analysis, and amount of research vary not only between disciplines but also between courses within a discipline. Following are some examples of terminology which may be used in various disciplines.

In an introductory English literature course, you may be asked to write a literary essay or literary analysis which interprets a poem, short story or novel, and which uses only that piece of work and your own ideas as your sources. In more advanced English courses you may also be using the published opinions of other critics to support and expand your interpretation.

An assignment which asks you to do some library research to write about a topic may be referred to as an:

  • Essay
  • Paper
  • Research essay
  • Research paper
  • Term assignment, or
  • Term paper 

The terminology is not necessarily consistent: a term paper may tend to be a longer paper written in advanced courses, but not necessarily. You may be assigned a specific topic or asked to choose your own from subjects relevant to the course; the assignment will require you to read up on a specific topic, using either books or journal articles, and to integrate those sources to inform or persuade a reader.

An assignment requiring a LITERATURE REVIEW or RESEARCH REVIEW may be asking you to choose a specific topic and then to read journal articles written by experts about their own research. In this kind of paper you will be summarizing and comparing the results of research conducted on that topic. In some advanced courses you may also be required to do some critical evaluation of the kind and quality of research being done. The term ' literature', as it is used in this assignment, refers to published research material rather than English literature or fiction.

Although the word 'report' may occasionally be used for many of the assignments described above, it is most often used to describe a lab report or research report written in science, psychology, sociology, or business courses to report primary research.

A BOOK REPORT or BOOK REVIEW is usually a summary of your critical opinion of one or more books, possibly supported by research into what other critics have said.

Overall, the message here is not to worry about what the assignment is called, but instead to concentrate your efforts on reading and understanding every detail of what is asked of you in the assignment description. Some professors may include details about not only the length and due date, but also the number and kind of research sources to use, the kind of information to include, and even the method of organization to follow. Pay close attention to those instructions, because they are the professor's guidelines to you about what he/she will be looking for in evaluating the paper. Therefore, when you receive an assignment, the first and most useful thing you can do is to read the assignment instructions carefully and make sure you understand what is required before proceeding. Check with the professor if you are uncertain about any of the requirements.

The Structure of an Essay

In general, written assignments require you to include introductory paragraph(s) and concluding paragraph(s) as well as a body containing any number of supporting paragraphs. Some longer essays may require the use of headings for introduction and conclusion as well as for categories within the body, whereas shorter essays may not.

In the introduction, you should begin with the general issue and narrow down to the specifics of the problem you are discussing in your paper. Think of it as an inverted triangle. You should use the introduction to provide background information about the broad subject, identify the relevant problem or issue, and take the reader step by step to an understanding of why the specific focus of this paper is relevant to that subject. An introduction usually ends with some sort of statement of your focus (e.g., a focal statement, thesis statement, purpose statement, or hypothesis). This statement tells the reader specifically what point you are going to make or prove in your essay, and, if possible, how you are going to go about doing that. You might therefore suggest the method of organization you will be using in your paper, but not actually provide the information about the points.

In the body, you are providing information and arguments that should follow logically from the point expressed in your focal statement and should support it consistently throughout the paper. The body is made up of a series of paragraphs: packages of information, each beginning with a topic sentence that identifies the topic of the paragraph in the same way that the focal statement for the essay defines the specific topic of the essay. This topic sentence also provides a link not only to the previous paragraph but also to the focal statement of the essay, identifying how this information contributes to the stand you've taken. The topic of the paragraph is then developed with sentences which may provide examples, details, evidence or analogies. A broader concluding sentence for the paragraph may also be provided to tie the information together and remind the reader of how it relates to the focus of the essay.

The conclusion, unlike the introduction, moves from specific to general. It often begins with a restatement of the focal statement, summarizes the main points of the supporting paragraphs, and ends with a broader conclusion about how the topic relates to the general issue described in the introduction. The general rule is that no new information should be brought into the conclusion: everything in the conclusion should logically follow from the information provided to the reader in the paper. Just as in a detective story you don't want to find out in the last scene that the crime was committed by a character you hadn't met, in an essay a reader doesn't want to be introduced in the conclusion to a major piece of information or evidence which wasn't discussed in the body of the paper.

Writing Takes Practice

If all this information seems new or complicated, don't worry. Remember that practice will help you to improve your writing.

Select a topic you want to read more about

A scientific approach

As a student of the University, it is important to know how to independently orient yourself amid large amounts of information. You need to be able to assess whether or not the information you seek can be used in a scientific context, and you also need to be able to examine it critically.

Scientific texts aim to present research findings. By describing how results are derived, the theoretical foundation on which they’re based, approaches taken and conclusions made, research is spread and creates a basis for yet further research.

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Information sources

Different kinds of information are published as different types of sources. These can be divided into primary sources, secondary sources and tertiary sources.

Primary Sources

Primary sources consist of first-hand information or original data, such as letters, diaries, raw statistics, photos and court findings.  Even scientific journal articles that include new research published for the first time are considered primary sources.

Secondary Sources

Secondary sources are based on primary sources and summarise, analyse and critically evaluate primary sources. Examples of secondary sources include books, reviews and research surveys.

Tertiary Sources

Tertiary Sources are based solely on secondary sources. For example, various types of encyclopaedias are tertiary sources.

Different source types

It is important to have a basic understanding of the different source types and also the contexts in which they can appropriately be used. For example, it is common that new scientific results are published in articles from scientific journals.

Journals are also the main publication source for the natural sciences, technology and medicine. Research in the humanities and social sciences are often published in monographs (books) and in reports.

The source type that you use ought to be partly determined by the type of information that is needed as well as how the information will be used.

Encyclopaedias

Encyclopaedias are a good source of background information and can be used to help describe and clarify specific information in your essay. You can also use them to get a topic overview and tips on literature within the topic.

Journals and Articles

If you are looking for the latest research in a subject, articles in journals are advised. Articles are published in various types of journals, such as popular science magazines and scientific journals.

Scientific journal articles might present new research findings and theories. They often speak to an international research audience and are written in English. Popular scientific articles often cater to a general public who want to be informed about a topic, so the text is usually written in a simplified language that all readers will understand.

Monographs

A book or monograph is appropriate to use when you need a broad and in-depth report on a particular topic. Books often contain more established knowledge.

Daily press

Everyday newspaper articles in the daily press are impossible to treat as research sources, but they can be used, for example, to survey and describe how certain phenomenon were treated in the media.

If you are unsure as to whether or not a particular source can be used in your essay, please speak with your supervisor.

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What is a scientific article?

An important type of scientific publication is the scientific article. Other important scientific publications are doctoral theses, books (monographs and chapters in books), research reports and conference reports.

Learn what characterises a scientific article, and how you can assess an article or journal’s scientific merit.

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Check list - Evaluate your sources

It is important to be critical whenever you review and evaluate a source, whether it’s in print or on the Internet. Evaluate your sources with these points and questions in mind:

1. The author

Who is the author and what have others said about the author and/or the author’s article? Is the author a scientist, a journalist, or is information about the author’s qualifications missing?

2. Purpose and target audience

What is the author’s purpose? Try to assess whether the author has written the article to inform, influence or provoke.

3. The publisher

Who published the article? Was it an academic publishing house or is the publisher recognised in some other way for knowledge in the subject?

4. Timeliness

When was the text written and is that significant for you? It’s often relatively easy to determine when printed sources were published, while it may be more difficult to track the publication dates of web documents.

5. Content

Is the information and source type relevant to the context in which you are working? What sources has the author used?

6. References

Are there any references and/or a bibliography?

7. Scientific quality

Is the information reviewed or controlled within a scientific context? Is it important and relevant to your purpose?

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Referencing or plagiarism

A scientific approach means that the author clearly identifies the purpose and results of the work, as well as the sources for all research. Each time you use data from another source, you must clearly state this.

If you are unclear or careless when referencing other sources, you can be accused of plagiarism and cheating. For example, it is easy to copy text from the Internet without citing the source and to forget where you read something. In the case of a citation, where you repeat verbatim a text from another source, and in more comprehensive references to someone else’s work, it is very important to clearly state the source.

To learn more about the difference between quoting and plagiarism, use Refero – The Anti-plagiarism Tutorial.

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Writing References

At the end of an essay, a list of all the work that you’ve used should be provided in a bibliography. Since readers must be able to retrieve the sources you’ve used, it’s important that the references are as complete and clear as possible.

There are different systems for writing references in a paper, but some of the most common in Sweden are APA, the Harvard System and the Oxford System. The reference systems of institutions differ greatly, however. If you have any questions about your references and bibliography, please contact your supervisor.

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Reference Management

You can easily create your own library for organising references with the help of reference management software. You can collect references from databases and insert literature references, footnotes and bibliography directly into your documents.

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