One main purpose of extensive reading in General Paper, from an assessment perspective, is to gather information to be used in essays and application question responses. This post provides a guide to collecting and organising such information.
What is the question?
You can use questions (essay or application) from previous papers or formulate your own using the former as models.
For some questions to get you started, go to:
Locating relevant information
Some of the more common and tenable arguments pertaining to the particular question can be found in collections of 'model' essays. Note that the specific information that is used in supporting the arguments may be dated or inaccurate, since the essays are often written under classroom or examination conditions and a significant duration would have elapsed from when these essays were written and when you write yours in the Cambridge examination. You should therefore check and update the information. Also, bear in mind that your position need not be the same even if you agree with the arguments. You might have different values and assumptions that affect your weighing of each argument.
To locate a post on this blog that might lead you to information relevant to your question of choice, check in the appropriate category of posts by clicking the link on the sidebar of this blog.
Use the keywords and their synonyms with a search engine like Google http://www.google.com.sg. It might be good for some of you to look at http://www.google.com.sg/help/basics.html to check that you've mastered the basics of googling.
For primers on the topic and links to further reading, Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org is still recommended .
Be sure to stay focussed on your chosen question. Relevance is of utmost importance.
Taking notes – Keeping a record
You could write it by hand, but if you're going to share the notes it might be better to use a wordprocessing software for better legibility and easier distribution.
And for those who have to work offline and need portability, there's the now common combination of Microsoft Word and thumbdrive.
Selecting and organising the information collected
Select and organise the information based on the paragraph they belong to:
- development (or body) paragraphs
The information you can use here is related to the strategy you use to grab the readers attention. Therefore the information can be:
- startling information (with elaboration)
- interesting quotes
- explanatory information for the topic (what is the question/topic, what do the terms in the question mean, why is question worth asking/answering, what is the context for the question, what assumptions are made in the question, who does the answer to the question affect, how and when did the related phenomena come about etc.)
The last type of information is obligatory, ie. it is needed for a satisfactory introduction.
A significant portion of the information you collect will go into developing your position in relation to the question. There are basically two kinds of information needed here:
- arguments and their source (the reasons for taking a particular position, either for or against, with respect to the question)
- examples and their relation to the argument (to support the argument)
You need at least a few arguments and their accompanying examples on each side to achieve some balance.
For the conclusion paragraph, you need the following information based on the type of question you have been responding to:
- action proposed by others in response to the position you have been arguing for, e.g. ways to solve the problem you have shown to be a serious one, or ways to maximise the gain from a beneficial phenomenon.
Note that most problems or beneficial trends would usually have received attention (action taken) from governments and other interest groups. You should note information of such action already taken here as well.
- related questions. What further questions does your question prompt?
Refer to your handouts (the essay package) for details and exemplars for essay writing. This page is a good brief guide, but note that some things are less acceptable in GP essays.
For a detailed and well organised guide to writing essays, go to http://www.aucegypt.edu/academic/writers/
To read about the relation between GP essays and the written report in PW, go to http://www.thenagain.info/Classes/Basics/Res.ExEssay.html
The parent site for the last link, Then Again, contains well written short essays on current issues.