The writing of essays is of central importance in studies at the English Department. In them, students can best show the degree to which they have mastered the key skills fostered by a university education – the ability to think logically, the ability to argue persuasively, and the ability to express oneself clearly. Written work is not something “extra” – it is at the very heart of a liberal education. For this reason, many courses include written work as the major element in evaluation.
It is essential to hand essays in by the given deadline. Teachers need to plan their work, and cannot do this properly if essays come dribbling in over the course of weeks or even months. Moreover, they can mark essays best when it is possible for all the work in a particular course to be compared. From the student’s point of view, the ability to meet deadlines is a useful form of self- discipline, indispensable in the everyday world of jobs and commitments that follows after university studies. It is also an illusion to think that the longer an essay assignment is put off, the more time there is to think about it, and the better the result will be. In fact a deadline acts as a stimulus, and almost invariably better essays are produced when a student is working against a definite, but fair, deadline. As Dr Johnson – commenting on a very different situation, but one with illuminating parallels – once pointed out: “Sir! When a man knows he is to be hanged in a week, it concentrates his mind wonderfully!”
Deadlines for handing in essays are set by the professors individually for each course and they are published in the IS. The deadline date is also included in the course syllabus and/or instructions, such as on the course ELF page. There are at least two deadlines for each course; the first one is regular, the second one is a resit-only option. But typically, there are more reagular deadlines as well as more re-sit deadlines. You may also be requested to submit a full portfolio, including drafts and side projcets, along with your final essay.
Essay submission follows the same rules as examinations and is therefore subject to the rules of the University. This means, among other things, that you should apply for a particular deadline date in the IS if this is reqested by the teacher to indicate your intention to meet the deadline.
Electronic submissions: Follow the teacher’s individual instructions where to upload your essay electronically (typically in the IS, ELF, or via email). The submission space will also serve as your feedback space.
Paper-copy submissions: Essays should be handed in to the departmental secretary (there is a metal mailbox next to the secretary's door). Exceptionally, they may be sent by recorded delivery (they must reach the department no later than the required deadline).
If an essay is failed, the student can resubmit it at the resit essay deadline. Some teachers may offer a second resit, but given the fact that essays take a long time to write and, if nececessary, rewrite, it is acceptable to offer just one resit deadline.
Plagiarise: to steal the thoughts or words of another person in literary composition; plagiarism: the crime of literary theft
(Concise English Dictionary)
Good essays should reflect the students’ own ideas as well as an awareness of what others have written or said on the topic in question. This necessitates reading and research, but just as cheating is not permissible in the writing of exams, so plagiarism is forbidden in the writing of essays. Credit must be given for other people’s ideas, whether these serve as background or are paraphrased, and the actual words of another person must be clearly quoted and accredited.
Plagiarism occurs when a student:
- directly copies someone else’s work without acknowledgement
- closely paraphrases the equivalent of a short paragraph or more without acknowledgement
- borrows, without acknowledgement, any ideas in such a way as to present them as his or her own.
The avoidance of plagiarism is a matter of elementary academic ethics and must be scrupulously adhered to.
Essays showing evidence of plagiarism will be failed!
Essays vary in length, increasing during the course of studies as follows (indicative spans):
- B.A. studies:
1st year: 1,500 words
2nd and 3rd years: 2,000-2,500 words
- M.A. studies:
These are not absolute figures. Teachers are free to make other arrangements - for example, two shorter papers, brief tests, or a class participation/presentation element.
With the growth of AI text-generative software such as ChatGPT, various off-line arrangements of writing tasks are used in classrooms, such as quick response papers and open-question tests.
A recent trend has been to request more in-class writing, or responsive writing in controlled environments, and prefer shorter home-written essays than the lengths indicated above.
Essays should be formatted according to an academic style standard. The required standard for essays in literature, cultural studies, and related fields is the Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS). The required standard for essays in linguistics and related fields is APA.