Learning Advocate Grace Pike’s review of Writing Essays by Pictures
Alke Gröppel-Wegener aims to make essay-writing fun. The book helps students by using bright colours, metaphors, visual analogies, tasks that include making reusable resources and encouraging exploratory writing. She starts from the beginnings of writing an essay to the end process of using feedback from your tutor. Visual analogies are present in each chapter in order to explain step-by-step the processes of research and writing at university and are especially aimed at those students who have not attended university before and are beginners to academic research.
This book starts from the very basics of writing essays by breaking the stages of essay writing down, and explains terms along the way. It also explains that you do not have to use the visual analogies; you can use the book more flexibly in your own way. For those who shy away from essay writing or get bored of self-help essay writing guides, this book uses bright text and pictures to keep readers interested. There are tips to keep students focussed on the task at hand and throughout the book these tips and ideas are referred back to. There are clear explanations of what primary and secondary research is which can be a problem for some students during school and transitioning to university. When starting university and throughout their studies, some students can be unsure of how to take effective notes and this book presents innovative tips on note-taking. Group and reflective study is encouraged and this may be good for tutors as a teaching resource. There is also a link to additional tips and tricks on WordPress.
Having shown the book to several academics and then reading the book, we all found the colour scheme and font colour to be lurid and difficult to read. Those who are not starting university and have written essays before may find this to be a patronising book as it is very basic. The visual analogies and metaphors are stretched and sometimes the images can break the text up too much and can be irrelevant.
In my own experience I have found that a scientific essay structure can vary from course to course and year to year so it may not always be suitable to use all the tips from this book. Having read the book in an hour it does make me wonder whether a student writing an essay would have time to do all the tasks along with the essay to make the whole experience effective. One particular chapter has a “sources address book or casefile” to write in for all the sources you might want to use in your bibliography or reference list. This may not be relevant to students at St George’s, as many students now use their devices to take notes and keep a track of sources. Some essay tips are ideas that should have been covered in school or college at GCSE level.
The content of the book may be useful for students who are unfamiliar with essay writing, and it may work as a refresher as it covers all the essentials. The use of visual analogies, and hands on tasks may appeal to some students. However, it can be visually hard to read due to the colour choice. Students who are familiar with essays, and tutors may find it is aimed at too low a level to be useful.
Review by Grace Pike T year
Writing Essays by Pictures by Groppel-Wegener, Alke is available in the library collection.
Call number: PE1471 GRO
Help with writing and structuring is available from Rosie MacLachlan in Academic Skills Centre or Marcy Kahan, Royal Literary Fund Fellow. More information on Study+ in Moodle (SGUL login required).