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60 Free Essays On Hard Work

By Ashley Vang, St. Paul Harding High School

Sweat dripped down the faces and bodies of the 14 exhausted teen dancers and scattered onto the slippery hardwood floor. Several stifled yawns.

“Let’s do one more round, then we can go home, ladies,” leisurely said my captain. The group pushed through one last routine as the clock struck 12:30 a.m. It was hot and musty in the spacious basement studio at Sunrise Plaza in St. Paul. There were no windows to let in the cool breeze. Instead, a fan by the door wailed loudly, forcing us to turn the music up higher.

We were days away from the Minnesota Hmong New Year dance competition, an annual event that draws in as many as 60,000 people. At that point, we were eating, breathing and dreaming about dance. Our lives were already packed with homework, jobs and house chores, but we squeezed in practices, too. Our lower backs, knees, ankles and shoulders were strained and bruised. But instead of stopping, we massaged and iced them and pushed forward.

The night before our intense competition, we were at it again, practicing. While we rehearsed in our brown and maroon edgy-like fitted costumes, we cheered each other on. Cries of, “You can do it! Push through! Together, we got it girls!” filled the air. We reminded ourselves that there was a lot at stake. The money. The fame. The trophy. But most of all, we wanted to show people what we were capable of.

On the day of the competition, Hmong families crowded the massive arena in their finest traditional clothing adorned with coins that jingled and swished. Some people tossed a ball back and forth while flirting with other attendees. Others devoured some delicious, greasy Hmong food and sipped on sweet cold drinks. The vendors sold crispy fried egg rolls, and the scent of the spicy peppery papaya salad had my mouth watering.

Uneasily, I arrived in the backstage area and walked up to my teammates, who looked superb in their costumes. As we started preparing for the competition, my nerves were shot. My heart was about to burst from beating so fast. Pausing, I took a minute to remind myself of how profoundly dance has impacted my life.

Dance trained me to heartily motivate myself to unexpectedly be the champion I wished to present. Struggling to push through, doubting myself and my abilities, I leaned on others for support and to never give up. I mentally and physically felt stronger when I gained the self-confidence to express who I am and strengthened what I had planned for my future. “Dream. Believe. Achieve,” as I recall our dance slogan.

That evening at the 2016 Minnesota Hmong New Year dance competition, we were named champions. Hard work does pay off.

Ashley Vang, St. Paul Harding High School

As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”

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Poke holes

The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.

“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”

But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.

“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?

“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”

Critique your own arguments

Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.

“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”

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Fine, use Wikipedia then

The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.

“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”

Focus your reading

Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.

Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.

You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.

“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”

There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.

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Look beyond the reading list

“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”

And finally, the introduction

The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.

“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”

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