General feedback Educated essays (Westover)

Here are some points of feedback on your Educated essays. Keep in mind that this task was closely related to the final HL Essay you will have to submit next year as your IB Coursework.

-There was a good range of topics for exploration, mostly clearly defined and appropriately narrow in scope for the essay length
-There was a fairly good understanding of the application of a theory (in this case psychoanalytical theory) as a lens or framework
-Titles were often interesting and relevant, creating a sharp focus
-Some essays were ambitious in terms of their argument
-All of the above led to interesting explorations of the text

For improvement:

-While titles were argument-focused, most introductions needed work:
1. Start by introducing the text (who what where when). You can assume your reader (and IB examiner later) will have read the text, but you should still start by establishing these basic elements
2. Establish your framework or lens clearly in the introduction. In this case: which specific psychological features will your explore, and explain why. Where are you taking these concepts from (some of you did add this, but much later in the essay) and why is this approach relevant? Are you analysing a)characters b)the author or c)your reaction?
3. Make sure your main thesis is 100% clear in the introduction
4. If your reading is oppositional to the accepted reading or 'against the grain' (controversial) make sure you show an awareness of this in the introduction. (See the Filicide Grimm Tales essay, which does this).

-Don't confuse the text with the actual events in real life. In a memoir like this, our main portal to the events is the text itself. Your job was to analyse how this text is constructed, with a focus on the narrator and the characters. Make sure you show a clarity and awareness about that distinction throughout. Real people depicted in a published memoir are characters; you didn't meet them in person or base your arguments on real life interviews.
-Related: you needed to use the present tense throughout in almost all cases, since we are writing about the text; using the past tense suggests you are writing about the real individuals, not the characters.
-Also related: I did not see enough of a focus on narrative perspective.

-Arguments in essays should be transparent from the beginning; avoid a 'slow unveiling' approach as that can be confusing.
-Use argument-based topic sentences to start paragraphs and indicate each paragraph's focus and how it relates to your thesis (helps build your case).
-Related to this: there was some dependence on plot summary in the main body paragraphs without direct relation to the argument

Examples:

Here is an example of an introduction that showed a fairly clear focus on a specific argument, and gave an indication of the context of using psychoanalysis:

Psychological criticism of Tara’s character in Educated by Tara Westover: what are the factors that led Tara to entering a dissociative state during the parking lot incident in chapter 22?

There is an incident in chapter 22 where Tara is attacked by her brother Shawn in the parking lot of the shop in Franklin in which Tara enters a dissociative state inorder to maintain control over the pain inflicted upon her. In this essay I will argue that Tara developed a range of dissociative defenses to manage the emotional experience of pain, using the lens of psychological criticism. Key factors in my investigation are pain and suffering, which are recurring themes in Tara’s life. She worked with scrap metal under dangerous conditions alongside her father and fell victim to the physical and verbal abuse of Shawn, her brother. Tara also observed her father being consumed by his own mania, due to his bipolar disorder. She also experienced multiple car accidents when returning home from Arizona. These various traumas had a significant impact on Tara’s emotional experience of pain and her subsequent management of it.

The student did not clearly introduce the work first, and also needed to justify such a strong focus on a specific incident, but the argument and essay's direction were clear.


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