Nations, Identity and Power Essay writing

Key marking criteria
• Synthesis
– Interweave views and ideas of different authors
• Analysis
– Explain why something happened, not just what happened
• Substantiation
– Use of theory/empirical data in the literature to back up your argument
– Use of proper references and quotations
• Critique
– What are the limitations and weaknesses of existing arguments?
• Structure
– Consistency and logic of arguments and conclusions• Presentation
– Clarity of language and presentation

1. ‘There is no reason to identify with a nation other than to boost your self-esteem.’ Discuss
with reference to social psychological theories of identity.
2. ‘The boundaries and content of specific identities are not ‘given’ but reflect the perceptions,
priorities and aspirations of those people who have the power to both construct categories
and promote them as natural or superior.’ Discuss.
3. What are the implications of understanding national identity as a discursive construction?
4. Does liberty continue to play a role in contemporary calls for national self-determination?
5. Why did the Soviet Union fail to eradicate nationalism?
6. Are nationalism and democracy conflicting logics? Discuss with reference to Eastern Europe
after 1989.
7. Why are national minorities often seen as a threat to the state?
8. Could radical right ideologies exist without nationalism?
9. Why are non-gender-conforming women and/or non-heterosexuals seen as a threat to the
10. (a) ‘Effective foreign policy rests upon a shared sense of national identity, of a nation-state’s
‘place in the world’, its friends and enemies, its interests and aspirations.’ Discuss. or (b)
‘Attempts to securitise national identity are inherently xenophobic.’ Discuss.

 Unpack the question: Implicit assumptions? Key concepts?
Choosing the question
Taking notes
• Which sources?
• Do not make notes straight on to the PC:
– makes plagiarising more likely
– prevents gaining an overview / makes structuring more difficult
• Identify ideas, not just facts.
• How do different authors’ ideas relate to/build on each other?
• Also how your sources are written:
– How is they structured?
– What language do the authors use to formulate arguments, to
move the argument forward, to signpost later points?

Developing your argument Lecture
• Range of possible explanations:
– Economic decline
– Nationalist movements
– Gorbachev
– Lack of legitimacy
• No single line of argument
Journal article
• Presents a thesis statement
• Gives a specific answer to an
empirical puzzle
• Provides a substantiated
explanation for the answer
• Shows why this explanation is
better than others (counterargument)
“Why did communism collapse in Eastern Europe in 1989?”
Two difference sources of information:
Your essay should be like a journal article, not a lecture!

Structuring the essay
– Don’t just repeat the essay question
– Explain how you interpret the question, what definitions are you using
– Set out the structure of your essay, your key arguments
– Set out your ‘thesis statement’: your answer and your explanation for your
Main body paragraphs (3+)
– Each main body paragraph will contain one key argument, idea or example,
contributing towards your overall thesis.
– Don’t just summarise the readings; synthesise different views and show
how they contribute towards your argument.

Structuring the essay
Main body paragraphs (cont.)
– Rather than just expressing positive arguments in your main body paragraphs,
you can experiment with exposing a counter-argument to your thesis in one or
two of your paragraphs and then go on to explain why you think this idea is
wrong, or incomplete, or not supported by empirical evidence.
– Whatever claims you make must be substantiated with reference to empirical
data or theory.
– Restate your answer to the essay question
– Briefly summarise how your main body paragraphs have supported your
– You may wish to add some sentences that emphasise the importance of the
topic and the implications of your answer.
Writing dos and don’ts
• Keep your audience in mind
• Avoid journalistic English
• Read out your essay.
• No contractions: don’t write ‘don’t’!
• Referencing
• Do not plagiarise
• Personal bugbear 1: however ≠ but
• Personal bugbear 2: learn how to use ;
Why did my essay fail?
• Fails to answer the question
• Show little evidence that the writer has understood the basic arguments and
approaches covered in the module
• Contain no analysis/overly descriptive
• Contain fundamental errors of fact or analysis
• Suffer from severe problems with referencing, and/or
• Contain instances of plagiarism:
– copying words or ideas from someone else without giving credit
– failing to put a quotation in quotation marks, even if reference is given
– self-plagiarism

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