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How To Start An Essay Twitter Search

As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”

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Poke holes

The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.

“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”

But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.

“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?

“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”

Critique your own arguments

Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.

“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”

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Fine, use Wikipedia then

The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.

“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”

Focus your reading

Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.

Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.

You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.

“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”

There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.

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Look beyond the reading list

“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”

And finally, the introduction

The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.

“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”

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It been a while since we've posted any content on using Twitter in the academic context, so this submission from Leslie Anglesey is welcomed. These suggestions are directed towards students but teachers may also glean some ideas from them. Please be sure to comment and share your own favorite ways to use Twitter in the classroom, and be sure to check out the other related articles offered below! – K. Walsh

As an educator, you know that when students are given a writing assignment, many of them may need a bit of help to get it done on time. Did you know that it’s possible to turn to Twitter for some help? The social media micro-blogging tool can help students write a great paper in a number of different ways.

1. Ask questions.
Are you feeling stuck and aren't sure how to approach your topic? Get help from people who can help by connecting with them on Twitter. Just post your question and see who responds. Don't be shy about asking your followers to re-tweet your request. Most people are happy to help.

2. Search for links to blogs or other content sources.
See if anyone has tweeted a link to some material you can use for your paper. Use relevant search terms to start the process.

3. Reach out to experts and scholars in the field you are researching.
Is there someone whose work you admire? Make contact through Twitter to get insights you can use when writing your paper.

4. Participate in discussions.
There are discussions taking place every day on Twitter. Conduct a search to see if someone is talking about the subject or your paper and join in to get insights about your topic.

5. Check out corporation's Twitter feeds or feeds from local or national governments.
Many businesses have Twitter accounts, and various governmental municipalities have set up their own feeds. These types of organizational content sources can provide a wealth of information and provide yet another potential source of useful information.

6. Use Twitter to conduct research.
Many libraries and archives now have Twitter accounts. Make a point of following them online and ask for the information you need to help with researching and writing your essay.

7. Find news stories about your topic.
If you want to find out what the latest news stories and features are around your topic, check out the media outlets. Conduct a search for relevant keywords to see what comes up. You will see what people are talking about right now.

8. Get real-world data.
Connect with your followers to find out what is happening where they live. Being able to get a perspective from someone who can give you a direct report on an event or an issue will give your paper a depth that you can't get from other resources. Moreover, you may even conduct interviews.

9. Evaluate sources.
If you're looking at sources of information for your paper but aren't sure about the quality of the information you have at your disposal, share your resources with fellow students and ask for feedback. You can get confirmation that you are on the right track or leads to better sources of information.

10. Cite Your Tweets in Your Research Paper or Essay
The Modern Language Association has revealed a method for citing tweets used in academic papers. If you come across something that is especially Tweet-worthy that you would like to use in your work, you would share it in the following manner:

Last Name, First Name (User Name). “The tweet in its entirety.” Date Time Tweet.

Do keep in mind that not everything that can be shared in 140 characters should be included in a school research paper. You will have to use your discretion about which tweets make the grade in that department.

Twitter is a tool that can help students gather information to research and frame a good paper. When used correctly, it can help you find facts and make preparing a research paper a quicker and easier process.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
4 Great Twitter Applications for Teachers Using Twitter In The Classroom
7 Twitter Users to Follow If You Are Interested in Education Technology
More than a third of Higher Education Faculty are on Twitter

Leslie Anglesey is an educator who works at University of Southern California. She is a freelance writer, and loves providing paper writing tips for her students.

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