Ask the Doctor: polishing your work

Polishing your workHi everyone, “the Doctor’ here, this time we’re going to look at how you can take a good piece of work and make it even better.

Polishing your work can be an extremely good way of not only gaining extra marks but of learning how and why you might be losing them.

If you have been at college or university for some time you may think that this doesn’t apply to you. However, you could not be more wrong!

In fact, if you have been getting good (but average) marks for a while, you may have fallen into bad habits and therefore this reassessment of your work may be more useful than you think!

How do I start?

For once, the answer to this is easy: you start by looking back at your previous work. If this is your first piece, try looking at the assignments that you completed before college (you didn’t throw them away, did you?) as you will then eliminate any chance of repeating errors you might have made in the past when you begin your work at college or university.

If, however, you do have previous work at university level, then the first thing you must do is look at whether your marks have fallen into the trap of following a formula and getting you the same marks time after time.

Even if these marks are good they can always be better and you should be trying to improve all the time.

For this reason, when you are reassessing your work, don’t only look for mistakes, look for areas where you could have done more. Also, take notice of your tutor’s comments. This seems obvious but let’s be honest, you probably skimmed over the comments and just looked at the grade, didn’t you? We’ve all done it and just felt relief that a piece was “done and dusted’

However, you should be aiming higher than just a sense of relief!

Okay, what next?

Impatient, eh? Good! That means you are beginning to want to know how to improve so you’re already doing so.

Accepting that “average’ isn’t good enough, should be your mantra: not just now but always.

Now, here are some tips to get you going:

  • Examine the introduction to your work and ask yourself whether it is interesting, clear, to the point and related directly to the question: if not, why not?
  • Look at the main body of your essay and ask yourself: does each paragraph address a different aspect of the question? Is there a sequential link between the paragraphs? Does my argument carry through each one? If the answer to any of these questions is “no’, then you need to reverse that!
  • Examine your use of evidence in the work and ask yourself: am I using evidence correctly to supplement the points? Am I analysing evidence to create further ideas? This last point is very important as it can actually push you up an entire grade.
  • Examine your attention to detail in terms of referencing. Ask yourself: am I following the required referencing style precisely throughout? Make sure that you are because you will be penalised if not.
  • Have you scanned your work for plagiarism? As I said in a previous blog it is very easy to do this accidentally so don’t take a chance, scan using a plagiarism checker such as every time.
  • Consider the overall presentation of your work. Ask yourself: have I thoroughly proof-read my work? Could I improve on my spelling and punctuation? Are my sentences and paragraphs correctly structured? Is my use of grammar correct? Again, these may seem like very obvious points but they are very easily overlooked and neglect of any or all of them will reduce your grade.

Any more tips?

Just one, really, but it’s a major one: always ensure that you deliver your best every time. As I have said before in these blogs, there is no worse attitude than “that will do’. Make sure that when you put your name to something, it is the best that it can be, every time. Never allow yourself to fall into the habit of complacency over mistakes or average grades: you know you can do better and in the end it’s really up to you to prove it!

That’s all for now, so until the next time – “happy studying’!

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