A level – writing in a critical style

Sumera has asked me to write a quick post about writing essays in a more analytical and precise style. Hopefully, this will help you adopt a more effective and concise essay writing style particularly when under the pressure of timed exam conditions. Here are my tips:

  • Try to analyse and/or evaluate the information that you are discussing. A quick and easy way to do this is by using adjectives such as: comprehensive, exhaustive, perceptive, thoughtful, limited, outdated, deterministic, persuasive, presumptuous, authoritative etc. For example:                                                                                                                    There is much contemporary evidence to support Neo-functionalist, Robert Bellah’s perceptive argument that the United States has “an elaborate and well-instituted civil religion”.
  • The first sentence of every paragraph should often link to the last paragraph using connectives: , such as ‘however’, ‘consequently’, ‘moreover’, ‘a contrary explanation is that’, ‘although’, ‘as a consequence’, ‘as a result’, ‘accordingly’, ‘an equally significant aspect of…’, ‘another, significant factor in…’, ‘by the same token’, ‘but we should also consider’, ‘despite these criticisms’, ‘consequently’, ‘correspondingly’, ‘conversely’, ‘despite these criticisms’, ‘evidently’, ‘importantly’, ‘notably’,  etc…
  • Link the first sentence to the question. This will immediately demonstrate that you are not merely presenting information, you are applying it. For example, if the essay was asking you to evaluate the contribution of Marxism to our understanding of the role of religion in contemporary society, you might write something like:                       It is perhaps easy to dismiss Karl Marx’s analysis of the role of religion as overly deterministic and unable to understand the complexities of a late or postmodern society such as the UK. However, Neo-Marxists offer a more relevant and all encompassing model…
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