GP Essays: Common mistake #5 (dealing with broad terms generally)

1 03 2011

Perhaps not so much a mistake as an area for improvement – weak essays tend to deal with broad terms generally.

The short questions (broad, vague, general questions)

These usually are in the form, “Discuss the value of ________”. Or, “How important is __________?”

If the topic is image, a common mistake is to consider one’s personal image – which would be far too narrow a treatment for such a broad term. A good essay should consider image on multiple levels – individual, company, country, international organisation, etc. – and consider various aspects within the essay – physical outlook, one’s values and opinions expressed, one’s actions, etc.

The not-so-short questions (more specific questions but with broad terms)

These questions are more narrow, but they might If a question talks about whether the problems of <insert topic here> have been exaggerated, weaker scripts are likely to generalise and say yes or no. But “problems” is broad – show that you recognise this by teasing apart the problems. You might (actually, you’re likely to) find that when you distinguish between the different problems, some problems may be exaggerated while others might not be. For example, perhaps the economic problems are exaggerated, but the social problems aren’t – and in a lot of cases, this is a perfectly acceptable stand. In fact, it usually makes for a better stand, as it shows a higher level of analysis and evaluation. Of course, note that the appropriateness of such a stand depends on the question. For example, the above stand would be acceptable for an essay that asks, “To what extent are the problems of an aging population exaggerated?” However, it wouldn’t be a direct answer to an essay like, “Are the problems of an aging population ever exaggerated?”

Brainstorm. For each question you encounter, look for words that might be considered broad, and brainstorm 10-20 ways of breaking down and dissecting all the different aspects, levels and points of view behind the term.




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