When academics grade essays, originality is the one quality regularly cited as essential to a first-class grade. The way to stand out from the crowd is not just to answer a question but to challenge it, play with it — and maybe even rough it up a little. In particular, seek to wrestle with specific words in the question. Take this classic history question: ‘Why did the idea of “class” emerge when it did in the modern world?’ You might want to question the ideas of ‘class’ or ‘modernity’. Are they meaningful terms? You might attack the premise of the question — perhaps you feel that the concept of the ‘modern world’ only emerged with the idea of ‘class’. Wrestling with the question in this way indicates that you’re not accepting the usual assumptions and you’re up for a battle of ideas.
25 June 2020