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Bioethics: Writing

Resources for students of bioethics

Writing the content of an essay

As you write your essay ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the essay explicitly answer the set question?
    • It is not the reader's job to make the links between your answer and the set question; you must do this for the reader.
  • Does the introduction introduce the essay?
    • An essay is an intellectual journey; as the writer you are the driver, and the reader/marker is the passenger.
    • The primary role of the introduction is to leave your reader in no doubt about where the essay is going and how it will get there. Thus, your introduction needs to outline the major themes covered in the essay, and to explain why you have chosen this particular structure. This could include the reasons why you have limited the essay to a particular time or place, and why you have concentrated on a particular aspect of a much larger social phenomenon.
    • Your thesis, the point of view or stand taken towards the subject, sets up the argument of your essay, and so it usually occurs in the introduction.
  • Is the body suitably structured?
    • The body of your essay should contain those points (selected from your reading and class-notes) that are relevant to your theme and develop your thesis.
    • The more common reasons for the body of an essay to fail are: straying from the theme; trying to say too much within a given word limit, or padding and repeating to meet the word limit; failure to give proper emphasis and balance to all parts of the essay topic; and illogical, confusing sequencing of your material.
    • One of the most useful ways to outline the body is with paragraph topics.
  • Does the conclusion draw the essay together?
    • You want to leave your readers with a favourable impression of your essay.
    • Generally, a conclusion should bring together the different parts or the most important points of the essay and your interpretation of them. Where appropriate, it should also look forward and prescribe possible future courses of action.
    • Your conclusion should follow logically from what you have set up and promised in your introduction, and from what you have outlined as the main ideas to be developed sequentially in the body.
    • If the essay title is framed as a direct question, it is important that your conclusion gives a direct answer. It need not necessarily be a clear-cut one - you might agree in part, or say that it is true to some extent. What is required is a reasoned answer based on the facts and ideas you have presented.

Learning skills

Here are some links from Language and Learning Online for academic writing.

Showing evidence of your research

Evidence of research:

  • Are appropriate sources used?
  • Is research integrated into paper?
  • Are citations and reference list correctly formatted?

Sample annotated essays

Books and websites about writing

Writing a thesis

Writing style

It is important in academic writing to develop your own style. While it must conform to certain standards, your own style is individual and, to some extent, creative. In many ways, developing a style is difficult. As William Strunk writes (1979): "There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no infliexible rule by which the young writer may shape his/her course (66)". Consider your style in everything you write; from short answers in exams, to class presentations to longer pieces of writing. While sticking to the boundaries of academic writing, experiment with different styles.

Reference:

Strunk, W. & White, E.B., (1979) "The elements of style" 3rd Edition, MacMillian Publishing: London