In general, much of the work for the social science subjects that you are being introduced to involves an argument – cases for and against positions, theories, and points of view. You are required, in studying and writing in the social sciences, to take part in that argument, not merely to summarize the arguments you find in texts and are introduced to in lectures. Of course, you will use some of the arguments you find there (with acknowledgement of the written sources, but not lecture sources!), but you must also critically examine these arguments, rejecting those that are weak and identifying the strengths in others and giving your reasons for both.
Your essay, then, has to be not simply a piece of history of ideas, but a piece of reasoned/argued evaluation which addresses the specific tasks as outlined in and/or pertinent to your question. The focus upon these tasks is crucial, as good essays do not simply ‘carpet bomb’ ideas at the paper in the hope that some may ‘hit home’ and be relevant. Rather, good essays clearly identify and address the central issues pertinent to the specific question and build up a clear, logical, well organised and presented answer to that question.
To begin with you must have a clear introduction which will outline your approach and argument.
This Youtube clip gives you some advice on how to write an introduction to an argumentative essay:
It is also important that you create a logical structure to your essay. This could be done through identifying themes, or by using a chronological approach.
A good piece of advice is to consider if someone was to read only the first sentence of every paragraph that you have written, could they get the gist of your argument?
Make sure you obviously answer the question; don’t leave it for the reader to imply your answer.
If you use any quotations you must always Introduce and analyse these (they shouldn’t be free-standing).
Look at this Youtube clip entitled ‘How to write a good argumentative essay: logical structure’, for some tips on creating a good structure for your essay.
You should always end with a suitable conclusion in your essay.
This should draw together the threads of your argument to come to a strong, corroborated conclusion (i.e. the conclusion must be based on the preceding discussion).
You should make sure that there are no surprises in the conclusion. The conclusion is not the place to introduce new ideas, concepts or themes.
In terms of appropriate language…“It has been shown that… therefore it can be concluded that…” is a simple but effective formula, which you can use either implicitly or explicitly. In other words, summarise your findings and then draw out their significance.
This Youtube video gives you some hints on the function and form of conclusions, although we would not usually recommend using the first person ‘I’ in an essay as is done in the final example on the clip. Click on conclusions to see the video: