Sunday, November 4, 2007


The essays in both units have been disappointing. There are major weaknesses in the technical writing skills for most students.

To start, most students do not know what introductions and conclusions are. So-called introductions start with a background paragraph but no statement of the central theme of the essay or the major points to be raised. Most conclusions are raising new points not discussed in the body of the essay. Many of the essays read like a mystery novel and we do not find out that it was Colonel Mustard in the library with the wrench until the last paragraph.

Many students do not understand the differences between a report and an essay. They do not get that an essay is an argument proposed by the author with the intention of convincing the reader that the argument is correct. It is not a balanced presentation of the facts from which the reader can draw their own conclusions.

A large number of students spent the majority of the essay presenting the background information without answering the question. Telling the reader everything they know about fair value measurement and agency theory without answering the question. They seen to think that the purpose of an essay is to summarise what they have read rather than to answer the question. They do not get that the purpose of research is to give them the knowledge to answer the question. They seem to think that they have to write all of their research into the essay.

Many students seem to be unable to plan an essay. The essay wanders without any central direction. They do not seem to get that they have to review every paragraph and clearly identify how that paragraph supports the central theme of the essay.

The way that I am going to address these items is to run a full week on essay writing skills in future. To do this I will have to drop a technical topic and government accounting seems to be the best one to drop. I will talk to Mark about bringing government accounting into Professional Accounting. This will free the lecture in week 7.

In this lecture on essay writing I will address the issues identified here. I will include information on concept mapping to help students plan their essays.

Next year I will reevaluate the essay performance to see if the week devoted to it improves the performance.

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