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Hello I'm Satu and this video is
about interpreting instructions. When you write an essay at university, you need to clarify to yourself from
the start what is expected of your text. Your teacher has most likely given you
instructions that explain what you're expected to do, and what criteria
the finished product should meet. These instructions are referred
to as essay guidelines or style sheets in the academic world. The essay guidelines usually also inform you of what type
of essay you're expected to write. Should you only describe something,
for example, or should you try to persuade your
reader of a particular point of view. The essay guidelines often also say
something about how the finished product will be assessed and
how it will be graded. Making sure that you understand
the essay guidelines, and that you follow them carefully,
can help you reach a better result. In fact, many students who fail their
undergraduate writing courses do so because they haven't
read the instructions, or they haven't fully understood them. And they end up writing an essay
that may still be a good essay, but it just isn't the kind of essay
they were expected to write. An essay that only describes something or
tells the reader what happened or who did what, won't be enough for
a passing grade. If the instructions state that you
need to present an argument and defend it, on the basis of
evidence that can be examples, statistics, references to other
peoples' work, and so on. So, let's look at some common types
of information in essay guidelines. In addition to telling you what kind
of an essay you are expected to write, descriptive or
argumentative, for instance, the guidelines usually say something about
the expected length of the essay and about the layout, that is what
the finished essay will need to look like. So this means there will be information
about things like the minimum and maximum number of words, font type, line
spacing, margins and text justification. The essay guidelines also often specify
if you need a separate title page or not, and if you need to write a short summary of
your essay in the form of an abstract. So, when you plan for your essay,
you need to check for these things and make sure that you get them right from the
start, and that you have a good idea of what the finished product will need
to be like before it can be passed. You, of course, want to be able to focus on the contents of your essay when you write. It is a good idea at this stage to
also learn the functions of your word processing program, so that you'll be
able to format your essay document according to a teacher's
instructions from the start. That way, you needn't come back and
fix things like type font and indentation and margins later on when
you edit and proofread your text. This will save you a lot of time
at the end of the essay process. This may seem like a small thing, but it's actually not at all uncommon that
students who haven't written a lot of essays before are unfamiliar with how
their word processing program works. We've seen a number of times how,
instead of the tabulator key, a student has used the space
bar to indent their text. This may look fine in their
own computer screen, but when someone else opens the document,
the indentations look totally messed up. Fixing this manually at the end of
the essay process takes a lot of time, and it will also make you very stressed
because at that stage there are so many other things that also
need to be taken care of. And did you know, by the way, that there are a few issues
that non-native writers of English need to be extra careful with when fixing
the formatting of their essay documents. Quotation marks, for example,
may look different in different languages. So when you write in English, you'll
need to make sure that you set your word processing program to English language, so the quotation marks will
look the way they should. Another thing that essay guidelines
often provide information about is the expected
structure of your text. Will you need a separate introduction, for example, and what will you need
to do in the rest of the essay? There may be also instructions
about text levels and headings. For example, if the text should
be divided into paragraphs of if there should be separate
sections and perhaps also subsections. And what this paragraphs sections and sub-sections are expected to do and
what they should look like. Should they have headings? Should they be numbered? Should you leave a blank
line between them? And should you or shouldn't you indent
the first line of each new paragraph, section, or sub-section? As academic writing always draws
on previous work, you will usually need to make references to previous
work that is of relevance in your essay. The essay guidelines will usually
tell you what reference style, for example APA or MLA,
you are expected to use, and where you can find more information
about this particular reference style. Just like with layout, you can save a lot of time later on
by getting this right from the start. So, you should really try to make sure
that you understand the instructions, and that you have access to the resources
recommended by your teacher. Before we stop, I'd like to stress that
the types of guidelines that I've talked about here, essay type,
layout, text structure, and referencing style differ
between disciplines, and that it's important that you find out what
requirements your own department has. And what rules apply to each
specific writing assignment that you get from your teachers. You also need to make sure that
you understand the terminology used in the essay guidelines. In other words, what terms like,
indentation, or flush left, or full justification,
actually mean. You should always look up
the meanings of words and concepts that you don't understand
in a dictionary so you can be sure that you follow the guidelines, and
don't make unnecessary mistakes. You may find it useful to write down some
of the things that I've talked about here and use them as a kind of check list
while you're writing your essay. [MUSIC]

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