It was great to see many of you today, here are the slides, and don’t hesitate to get in contact if you have any questions
Good to see those of you who attended the workshop last Thursday; here are the slides relating to the assessment criteria.
This is a short post aimed predominantly at those of you on the International Banking and Finance Law module, but also, hopefully, useful advice in general for constructing arguments and satisfying the assessment criteria.
Question: “I am not able to answer the blog questions as the issues discussed are too broad and cannot be answered within 583 words!”
Critically consider this statement, and demonstrate how a blog answer can be achieved within 583 words.
A blog answer can be completed in 583 words, the answer should have 1 principal argument, supported by 2 main points; this reduces the size of the answer, while still satisfying the assessment criteria, further by selecting 2 arguments relevant to the main argument, the answer may be focussed and concise. If required, a very short definition may be provided in the introduction, but it may be more beneficial to refer the reader to a definition using a reference.
Having a clear statement at the beginning of the answer will tell the reader which issue the answer will address; this immediately begins to fulfil criterion 1 of the assessment criteria; identifying the key concepts and legal issues. This approach also helps to create an engaging answer. For instance, Jackson and Newberry argue that “the purpose of an argument, and thus an argumentative essay, is to convince the reader of some- thing, an inviting and compelling introduction is vital.” Jackson and Newberry claim this is to demonstrate the importance of the issue and to make it clear to the reader what point the essay will make.
Secondly this approach will begin to demonstrate analysis and evaluation; having identified the concept, the issue is then framed by 2 arguments that support the conclusion. In considering just 2 supporting points this will naturally limit the length of the answer, but still allow around 150 words to explore the argument.
When only a limited number of words are available, being able to focus on the relevant points is vital; only selecting the 2 most relevant points will allow the essay to be focussed, only discussing those points supporting the main argument. By labelling these 2 points and keeping them in mind when writing the answer, losing focus may be avoided. The skills required for successful blog answers include being concise; the marker is fully aware that the answer will not, and cannot address the entire issue. When selecting 2 points, ensure these points support the main argument of the essay, or select one supporting point and one counter point, the important point here is that the 2 supporting points relate directly to the main argument of the essay. An answer can make reference to additional issues to demonstrate awareness, but the bulk of the word count should be prioritised to the 2 main points.
If the essay is to cover additional points these should only be summarised, this would naturally come before the conclusion or as part of it. In order to write a high scoring answer, the writer will need to demonstrate originality and creativity. This can also be demonstrated within this framework as the writer can show these skills through the argument they choose to make. A well thought out main argument, supported by 2 main points can “evidence an ability to independently appraise knowledge.”
In selecting 2 points to support a main argument it can be seen that the assessment criteria can be satisfied; by following this format the writer can be analytical, also demonstrating originality and creativity. Secondly the essay can remain focussed on the issue set out by the author; as well as setting a clear structure for the reader, and the use of 2 key points can focus the mind of the writer too, allowing them to be concise. Keeping to a simple structure will allow the writer to clearly convey an argument, and if they choose to, still inform the reader that there are other elements to the issue.
[Word Count – 582 Words]
 For more on what a critical blog is see C. Jones, ‘How to write a critical blog’ <https://blackboard.uwe.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-5167762-dt-content-rid-9932985_2/xid-9932985_2> accessed 07 November 2016.
 E. Grant and L. Singh-Rodrigues, LLM Programme Handbook (UWE, Bristol, 2016) at p.64.
 D. Jackson and P. Newberry, Critical Thinking: A User’s Manual (Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2016) at p.287.
 Criterion 4 of the assessment criteria: E. Grant and L. Singh-Rodrigues, LLM Programme Handbook (UWE, Bristol, 2016) at p.64.
Dealing with the blank page!
My main issue when starting a piece of work is the blank page, being at square 1 with no words on paper frustrates me.
I am going to deal with things in three broad areas as the way I write can generally be split into a spider diagram/word cloud stage, which leads into a skeleton writing stage and finally a fleshing out stage. I also like to change the scenery in which I work in from time to time, I sometimes attend shut up and write sessions, or just work in a café as the change of environment can help me focus.
Prior to any writing, I need to read, and I will read a variety of sources; my PhD research concerns virtual currencies and money laundering, so my reading can be quite wide, and because my research concerns government policy, I often start with government commissioned reports proposing changes in the law, or new laws, as there are very few relevant laws applicable to virtual currencies.
Amy suggested a list of questions she asks herself when starting research; my approach is similar, if a little less formal, and I start by re-reading the question, if there is one, and jotting down a few key terms or objectives of the piece of writing. These key terms will assist me when I am undertaking my broad Westlaw search, similar to Coralie’s. I will first determine if there are primary sources I need to read, then I will use my key words to search Westlaw for relevant journal articles, I will then widen my search to the library database using similar key terms.
Spider diagrams and Word Clouds
When I am reading I find it helpful to write key points down, I often do this in the form of a spider diagram or word cloud. This allows me to group similar points from multiple authors in naturally forming clusters on a page, which in turn can assist me in determining the key arguments I will make in my writing. A further benefit to this method is that I find I am more likely to understand/remember something if I have physically written it out; this may sound strange, but the tactile nature of hand writing my thoughts, or the key points of an article, helps it stick in my mind. I will organise my ideas on the page and also use colours to group ideas on the page, as you can see from my messy example above.
Once I have completed my main reading, I use the spider diagrams to begin to plan the essay; I will often number the clusters of words, which will then form sections of my essay. Having the plan in this form allows me to physically organise my thoughts on the topic and I can draw links between these thoughts, which helps me to formulate my arguments; this is really important as it makes it easier to analyse a topic. Once I have my numbered and linked spider diagrams I will move on to the skeleton stage.
The skeleton stage is simply my spider diagrams in a linear form, I will set out my essay in bullet point form, with each numbered key point forming a heading in my work. Under each heading I will set out the points I wish to make under that term and I will include any quotes I wish to use, adding references for them as I go. Once I have completed this for each heading I will have a skeleton of my essay. I will play my conclusion at this stage as well, it will be clear from my plan which points I will make in the conclusion of my essay. It will not be in full prose, but my main points will be visible, at this point my skeleton needs meat adding to the bones. I SAVE A COPY OF MY SKELETON ARGUMENT NOW!
The fleshing out stage simply means expanding my skeleton points into full sentences. I find it helpful to change the colour of the skeleton argument to another colour, usually red, and then I will write my essay around this red text. The red text forms a checklist for me to follow; I will only delete the red text when I am happy that I have addressed the point I wanted to make in the red text. This keeps my essay plan highlighted in my document to prevent me from deviating from the plan. While I will delete the red text as I have addressed each point, I will keep and refer to my saved skeleton essay plan when I am proof reading the essay.
Tying the Introduction and Conclusion
I will not write my introduction until I have drafted all other sections, this may sounds backwards but the point of the introduction is to guide the reader through what they are about to read (or in some cases for them to decide if they will read it at all) and therefore I am in the best position to do this once I have written the text the reader needs to be guided through. I will also ensure I link my introduction to the conclusion; ensuring I have addressed the questions I aim to answer, this is an easier way, as I am framing the questions after I have answered them.
Take a break!
This process does not take place in one sitting, I need to step away from my research, contemplate, and come back to it again. I advocate stepping away from your work for a number of reasons, firstly you will lose concentration if you try to do it all at once, and if you don’t lose concentration in that time it’s likely you have not spent long enough doing it. Secondly, you think more about things without thinking than you think… This sounds stupid, but taking a break, and thinking about something else, can often lead to you quietly solving a problem you had with your work. I find cycling works for me to go out and think about very little, other forms of exercise are great too, but it doesn’t need to be exercise, it could be cooking, eating, reading, watching countdown, whatever allows you to relax. Thirdly, by coming back to your work with fresh eyes you will see your mistakes and see new links; I always need to re-read my work a day after finishing writing, the gap in time allows me to see the small errors I do not see because I am so familiar with the text. This is best done by printing your work off if you can; it’s much easier to spot errors on a page rather than a screen.
People write in different ways, this is a way I find works for me, my main bits of advice are to always fully plan before you write the essay, take plenty of breaks, and by writing things down I find I can see my thoughts and I am not looking at a blank page.
My name is Henry Hillman (I’m the one on the right) I am a PhD Candidate at UWE Bristol and Associate Lecturer at UWE Bristol. I have been at UWE for longer than I care to remember, I completed my LLB and LLM at the University I teach in Commercial Law, Business Law, and International Banking and Finance Law. My research interests are banking regulation, bank sanctions, virtual currencies and money laundering. My PhD research concerns the vulnerability of virtual worlds to money laundering abuse, and I am undertaking case studies of the UK, US and Australia.
I have published work in a variety of forms, I worked on C. Chambers Jones and H. Hillman, Financial Crime and Gambling in a Virtual World: A New Frontier in Cybercrime (Edward Elgar, 2014) and contributed to N. Ryder, U. Turksen and S. Hassler, Fighting Financial Crime in the Global Economic Crisis (Routledge, 2014). I have also published a number of journal articles.
The key skills I hope I can help you with include;
Using the library
Using MS word
I hope that, along with Amy and Coralie, we can help you improve your academic skills, enabling you to excel in your LLM. We will be running workshops addressing pertinent issues to LLM students, as well as being available to meet to discuss issues one-to-one. I am also available to answer queries via email, my address is Henry3.Hillman@uwe.ac.uk
I look forward to meeting many of you over the course of your LLM.