It is clear that the aim for the writer of an essay is to demonstrate an understanding of the topic and an appreciation of any wider issues in order to secure the best possible grade. This piece is intended to give guidance as to the basic principles of writing a childcare essay in order to build a foundation for the production of a well ordered piece of work.
1. Understand the Question
In tackling a childcare essay, it is important to understand the question. The wording in it needs to be broken down by the writer so that they are clear about the subject matter and exactly what the marker will be looking for in answer to the question. There is no point in noting the phrase ‘child development’ and writing everything you know about it, if the marker only wants to know about it between the ages of 6 months to 1 year. The instructional words like ‘summarise,’ ‘contrast’ and ‘analyse’ need to be understood by the writer – this will inform him/her of what the marker is expecting them to do. Technical or subject specific words and phrases like ‘Cognitive Development’, ‘Motor Development’, ‘Piaget’s Theory’, ‘Language Acquisition’ and ‘Heuristic Learning’ need to be explained within the body of the essay so that the marker is certain that the writer understands the subject.
2. Collect Data
Once the writer has established what the question means, there needs to be some data collection about the theme and a general reading around that topic. This initial research can be done through the use of lecture notes, set books, childcare handbooks, childcare journals and information gained through observation of practice within childcare environments (with their consent).
3. Create an Essay Plan
When the writer has gained a firm grasp of the basic principles of the topic, a plan can be drawn up. In the first instance this involves writing down everything that the writer knows about the topic; a plan can then be drawn up to reflect the writer’s opinion of the subject, discarding the information that is not directly relevant to the question. This sifting and more detailed planning can be done in two different ways – the writer needs to decide which method brings the best results for them and employ that method. The first method involves listing the different parts to the answer in a numerical order; this is often referred to as ‘Linear Planning’. Many people find this method difficult, as it requires the writer to grasp how best to utilise the material at the outset. The other method involves the main subject word or phrase to be placed at the centre of a blank piece of paper inside a bubble; from this lines can be drawn to different places on the paper to different information which will answer the question, written down in a random manner. These can then be numbered in the way that best answers the question, enabling the writer to sustain their argument or theory. This method is often known as ‘Mind Mapping’, further more detailed research needs to be undertaken after this in order for the writer to fully explore the subject matter.
4. Create the Essay Structure
Any essay needs to have a basic structure – an introduction, a middle section (the information giving) and a conclusion. The central thrust of any childcare essay must be set out in the introduction. This should demonstrate that the writer has understood the question, inform the marker as to how the question is going to be tackled and the stance from which the writer will formulate their argument. The information giving should be done in such a way as to convince the marker of the validity of what is being said, through the use of good well referenced resources which leads to sound, logical and reasoned argument. It is important to stress that the writer must check the reliability and quality of the sources that they are using; any resources that are used must be properly referenced, noting the name of the author, the title of the publication, the place and date of publication, the edition and the page numbers used and/or quoted. If the results of observations from any childcare environment are to be used, it is essential that full permission to use the information has been gained prior to its collection. At the same time as clearly setting out their rationale, it is important that the writer is seen to have looked at alternatives to their viewpoint with reasons as to why other ideas have been rejected. The conclusion should draw the essay to a close, summing up the standpoint of the writer in a clear and concise way. Affleck states that “It is here that you draw together the threads of your argument and hammer home your points, leaving the reader in no doubt as to your answer.”
5. Draft, Check and Re-draft
It is important that the essay is drafted, checked and redrafted until it is as well presented and argued as it can be. As an approximate ‘rule of thumb’ the essay should be complete after the third draft. It is essential that the first draft is allowed to be the creative piece, without any restrictions, which can be reviewed and refined during the editing process. It is almost impossible to be creative and be an editor at the same time.
As we can see, it is important to view writing childcare essays as a distinct process, with different subject matter in each separate essay. The process is to build up a collection of information and carefully select which information to use to build your argument; this is something that takes practice and refinement in itself, as does the act of writing the essay. Eventually the basic principles will become second nature and enable the writer to demonstrate their understanding of childcare to the best effect.
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