Higher Education

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 411-442

First online:

Essay-writing: what really counts?

  • Linda S. NortonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Liverpool Institute of Higher Education

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This study uses objective measures from essay scripts to report on the interaction between students' strategies in essay writing and tutors' strategies in marking. 98 1st year psychology students completed questionnaires on their essay writing strategies and submitted their essays for analysis. Six tutors who marked the essays were subsequently interviewed. The results indicate that the amount of time spent on the essay, the number of books used, the number of references cited and proportion of research based content actually found in the essays were all strategies that led to higher essay marks. However, there was clear evidence of a mismatch between students and tutors on their perceptions of the most important criteria - students were more concerned with content, whereas tutors were more concerned with argument.