Writing academic essays: ‘rules’ for remits

PART 1:  Theory

Writing academic essays often involves conforming to the ‘rules’ of a remit. Students are often expected to write a coherent, well-structured essay based on a remit that specifies the inclusion of certain information and processes. Note, however, that you should always check with your teacher what their specific ‘rules’ are for essays based on remits.  You need to check whether they want you to write in a coherent essay style or simply to provide answers to the different points on the remit.  Universities, colleges, departments, and teachers can often vary in what they expect from a remit!

If an essay format is required, to write a coherent essay, and gain a high grade, the writer has to organise the information into a hierarchical structure, making sure that all of the information and processes are included.  This entails having a clear focus for the essay, which would be reflected in a focused title for the essay and in a clear topic statement that covers precisely what  the essay is about.

To make the essay easier to follow for the reader, the writer can also include a ‘structure statement’ that makes explicit how the different parts of the essay are organised.  A simple example of a structure statement is when a writer explains the different stages of the essay, stating what comes ‘first,’ ‘next,’ and ‘finally’

WARNING!!  Your title, topic statement, and structure statement determine what you can and cannot put in your essay.  You cannot add anything that is not covered by the title, topic statement, and structure statement, and you must not miss anything out that is present in the title, topic statement and structure statement!

REASSURANCE!! Although the title and topic statement mean that you are limited in what you can and cannot write, this is actually a great advantage.  Looking at it from a positive perspective, the title, topic statement, and structure statement provide you with the outline for your whole essay!

However, remember that these ‘structure supports’ are flexible; they are necessary if you want your essay to be effective, but they are not bars, and you are not imprisoned by them.   If, in the process of writing your essay, you realise that you need to add or subtract anything, just go back to your title, topic statement, and structure statement and adjust them to reflect the change you want to make in the development of your essay!

 

PART 2:  practice

In the sample remit  below, no title is specified for the essay.  Instead, the remit specifies five different types of information that the writer must include.  It also specifies that the writer must carry out a number of text processes:

  1.  Read TASK 1,  then read the essay remit to identify the information and processes required.
  2. Read the essay and then do TASKS 2-6.

(N.B. Happy to discuss points online.  Or, for more detailed  feedback on your answers to the tasks below, join SSC’s ACADEMIC ENGLISH course, either in EDINBURGH or ONLINE.  CONTACT SSC for more information)

 

Summative assessment for Psychology

                                                                      Date ______________

Deadline _______________

 

Approximate word count 1000 words

 

Write a short essay analysing the topic of sleep and dreams.

 

Your analysis should include the following:

 

  1. What is sleep? Give a definition and briefly describe the five stages of sleep and what happens during each stage.

 

  1. There are various explanations about the function of sleep. Briefly explain two theories of function of sleep (restoration theory and evolutionary theory).

 

 

  1. Explain the three different types of biological rhythms and give one example for each type. Describe the factors that control biological rhythms, giving examples for each factor.

 

  1. Explain one sleep disorder of your choice and briefly suggest how it can be treated. Refer to one piece of research evidence associated with this disorder.

 

 

  1. Evaluate one research study relating to the topic of sleep and dreams. Your evaluation should include aim, procedure, main findings and a reference to two strengths and two weaknesses of the research.

 

1.1.  List the 5 different types of information that are required:  The first one has been done for you.

 

  1. Definition and stages of sleep
  2. __________________
  3. __________________
  4. __________________
  5. __________________

 

1.2.  List the different processes that are required:

1.  Analysis

2. __________________________

3. __________________________

4. __________________________

5. __________________________

6. __________________________

7.__________________________

 

 

ESSAY REMIT

Summative assessment for Psychology

                                                                      Date ______________

Deadline _______________

 

Approximate word count 1000 words

 

Write a short essay analysing the topic of sleep and dreams.

 

Your analysis should include the following:

 

  1. What is sleep? Give a definition and briefly describe the five stages of sleep and what happens during each stage.

 

  1. There are various explanations about the function of sleep. Briefly explain two theories of function of sleep (restoration theory and evolutionary theory).

 

 

  1. Explain the three different types of biological rhythms and give one example for each type. Describe the factors that control biological rhythms, giving examples for each factor.

 

  1. Explain one sleep disorder of your choice and briefly suggest how it can be treated. Refer to one piece of research evidence associated with this disorder.

 

 

  1. Evaluate one research study relating to the topic of sleep and dreams. Your evaluation should include aim, procedure, main findings and a reference to two strengths and two weaknesses of the research.

 

  ESSAY 

Sleep is a state of rest that is essential to the human body, when the body’s nervous system and muscles relax and consciousness is suspended. One factor that affects sleep is the biological rhythms of the body.  These are divided into three basic types according to their relation to the 24 hour daily cycle, known as a Circadian cycle: diurnal, which relate to the 24 hour cycle of day and night; ultradian, which is a cycle shorter than the 24 hours, for example for feeding; and infradian, such as the female menstrual cycle, that last longer than 24 hours. Controlling these biological rhythms are factors internal to the body (endogenous), such as the temperature cycle of the body, and factors external to the body (exogenous), such as sunlight or noise that can wake a sleeper.

 

Although the body is in a state of rest during sleep, scientists now realise that the mind is extremely active during the sleep process, and they have identified five stages of sleep, known as stages 1 to 4 and the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stage. These five stages are gone through in a cycle during sleep, and when REM is completed, stage one begins again.  The first two stages are lighter sleep, while the third and fourth stages are what we know as deep sleep.  The fifth stage is called REM because in this stage the eyes jerk, while there are also other physical changes to the body, including increases in heart rate and blood pressure and shallower, more irregular breathing.  It is in this fifth stage that dreams occur.

 

There are several different theories as to the function of sleep for the human body, but perhaps the main theories are restoration theory and evolutionary theory.  Oswald’s (1966) restoration theory, which claims that the function of sleep is to repair damage to the body and to restore the brain through photosynthesis, has support from research.  For example, studies on sleep deprivation have shown that the body functions of animals deteriorate when the animals are deprived of sleep, while Gross (1996) has found that sleep deprivation can cause fibrosis in adults.  There is also evidence of increased REM stage sleep in people who are suffering illness or who have had some form of trauma to the brain, suggesting that REM sleep works to counter illness and trauma.  Countering this evidence is the fact that the heightened brain activity during REM sleep works against the production of protein synthesis, while the degree of negative effects of sleep deprivation found in animals have not been found in humans. These objections, however, while placing some limitations on the scope of Oswald’s claims, do not invalidate the basic premises of the restoration theory.

 

The second main theory of sleep, the evolutionary theory, is based on the idea that sleep has evolved as a means of survival, whereby animals need to conserve energy at certain times and expend energy at other times depending on factors such as body temperature and the type and availability of food for it to eat.  Webb’s hibernation theory (1974) finds support in Berger and Philips (1995), whose study showed that animals sleep more when food is scarce, while comparisons of animals with different eating habits and of different sizes also suggest that large carnivores sleep more when they have eaten a large meal and that animals that need to take a long time to eat grass, for example, sleep less.  A number of other research studies that have found lower expenditure of energy during periods of sleep than in wakefulness (Kreider et al. 1958; Robin et al. 1958; Buskirk et al. 1960; White et al. 1985) also suggest that sleep does indeed function to save energy.

 

However, two studies by Webb and Bonnet’s (1979) question the applicability of sleep deprivation to humans.  The aim of both studies was to investigate the effects of sleep deprivation in humans, with the first research focusing on a shorter period of deprivation, while the second research focused on longer deprivation.  The first study involved two male volunteer subjects, and they were restricted to two hours of sleep for one night.  The second study again used volunteers and reduced the period of sleep for subjects from 8 hours to 4 hours over a period of two months.  The main strengths of the studies were that they focused on humans rather than animals and that they recognised the importance of the length of sleep deprivation.  The findings of the study are also of great interest in that, in contrast with studies on animals, both of the Webb and Bonnet studies found no detrimental effects on humans as a result of loss of sleep.

 

However, it must be noted that there are a number of problems with Webb and Bonnet’s studies that render questionable the reliability of their findings.  First, the subjects were volunteers, and results may differ with non-volunteer subjects.  Second, the sample of only 2 subjects was extremely small, and a larger sample would be necessary to ensure greater validity of the findings.  Third, the fact that the sleep was reduced over a period of time may have influenced the results, and this seriously limits the applicability of the findings to the normal population, who do not have their sleep reduced in this way.  Finally, a main criticism of all evolutionary theories of sleep is that it is not possible to distinguish which effects are due to evolutionary and which to non-evolutionary processes, and this renders it impossible to test evolutionary theories.

 

To sum up, at present there is no clear consensus on the role of sleep in our lives.  It seems that the restoration theory has more support than the evolutionary, but it would be unwise to adopt wholly the one view over the other.  Despite weaknesses to each theory, it would appear that both theories may be accepted as offering partial explanations of the complex phenomenon of human sleep.

 

(Source: Student essay ,  Newbattle Abbey College, SWAP course)

 

TASKS -cont.

 

2. Essay structure

Read the remit below for a psychology essay on the general topic of  sleep.

  1. Write a title for the essay.
  2. Write the topic statement for the essay.
  3. Write a structure statement for the essay.
  4. Draw the Rhetorical Structure Diagram (RSD) for the essay.

 

 3. Comparison check

Read the remit again, and then read the essay below.  Check whether the writer has:

 

  1. Included all information and text processes required by the remit.
  2. Provided a (focused) title.
  3. Provided a (relevant) topic statement.
  4. Provided a (relevant) structure statement.

 

 

TASKS

4. Evaluation

Based on your comparison of the remit and the essay, what grade would you give the essay?  Provide evidence for your grade.

 

0_____1_____2_____3______4______5______6______7______8______9_____10

 

 TASKS

5. Redraft:  Based on the parts of the essay that do not fit the remit, redraft the essay to make it conform to the remit and to the hierarchical structure of academic text.

N.B. This entails carrying out your own research to add the missing information and text processes.

The following link may be useful starting point  FIBROSIS

 

TASKS

6. Redraft 2: writing a relevant conclusion

 6.1. Read the conclusion paragraph of the ‘sleep’ essay and rate how effective it is as a conclusion.   Provide reasons/evidence for your rating.

0_____1_____2_____3______4______5______6______7______8______9_____10

6.2. Rewrite the conclusion to make it more relevant to the essay as a whole.

 

For feedback on the above tasks, join SSC’s ACADEMIC ENGLISH course, either in EDINBURGH or ONLINE.

 

References and bibliography

 

Berger R.J.,and Phillips NH.  Energy conservation and sleep. Behav Brain Res. 1995 Jul-Aug;69 (1-2):65-73.  Abstract at  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7546319

 

Buskirk ER, Thompson RH, Moore R, Whedon GD. Human energy expenditure studies in the national institute of arthritis and metabolic diseases metabolic chamber. 1. Interaction of cold environment and specific dynamic effect. 2. Sleep. Am J Clin Nutr. 1960;8:602–613

 

Jung, Christopher M,Edward L. Melanson, Emily J. Frydendall, Leigh Perreault, Robert H. Eckel,

 

Kenneth P. Wright.  Energy expenditure during sleep, sleep deprivation and sleep following sleep deprivation in adult humans.  The Journal of Psychology. First published: 23 December 2010 Full publication history.  At  http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/jphysiol.2010.197517/full

 

Kreider MB, Buskirk ER, Bass DE. Oxygen consumption and body temperatures during the night. J Appl Physiol. 1958;12:361–366. [PubMed]

 

Oswald  I.  (1966) Sleep. Penguin Books.

 

Robin, E. D., Whaley, R. D., Crump, C. H., Elann, A. G. & TravIs, D. M. (1958).

Acid-base relations between spinal fluid and arterial blood with special reference to

control of ventilation. J. appl. Physiol. 13, 385-392.

 

Webb, W.B (1978 ) Sleep and naps . Speculations.  In Sc i Techno l 1:313-318

 

Webb, W.B. and M.H. Bonnet (1979).  The return to sleep.  Biol Psychol. 1979 May;8(3):225-33.

 

White D.P, Weil JV, Zwillich CW. Metabolic rate and breathing during sleep. J Appl Physiol. 1985;59:384–391. [PubMed]

 

 

Websites

 

https://www.sleepassociation.org/patients-general-public/what-is-sleep/

http://www.psychlotron.org.uk/resources/sleep/AQA_A2_sleep_theoriesofsleep.pdf

http://ergo.human.cornell.edu/studentdownloads/dea3250pdfs/biorhythms.pdf

 

For feedback on the above tasks,and to develop further your academic writing,  join SSC’s ACADEMIC ENGLISH course, either in EDINBURGH or ONLINE.  CONTACT SSC for information.