Purpose of Essays
Length and Format
Word Count Penalties
Late Submission Penalties
Use of clinical material
Essay Cover Sheet
Download Essay Guidelines and Checklist
International Journal of Psychoanalysis’ (IJPA) Notes for Contributors
The MSc programme contains an element of continuous assessment, in the form of four assessed essays (one for each taught module). Essay questions (based on material covered in the programme) are circulated at the beginning of the academic year and essays are to be submitted throughout the academic year. All essays will be double marked (independently) and the MSc Programme Tutor or Administrator will send (via email) each student a mark sheet with some brief individual feedback based on the comments of the two markers.
The purpose of essays is to assess the student's ability to review and synthesise the literature relevant to a question, and to analyse this literature critically in order to address the question. Additional credit is given for drawing on a wider range of relevant material, for clarity and elegance of argument and for originality. In addition, coursework gives a very valuable opportunity to assess each student's progress, and to identify any areas of weakness which might need to be worked on before the examinations and dissertation are tackled.
Essays should be double-spaced, not less than 2000 words and no longer than 2500 words, including everything (footnotes, text references, etc) except the cover sheet, bibliography and an appendix (if used). Footnotes and citations within the text, eg. ‘(Freud, 1919)’, are included in the word count.
The word-count must be stated on the cover sheet (see submission details below).
You may submit an appendix document containing the wider list of sources you may have read and which you have drawn on in some way but to which you do not explicitly refer in the essay.
Essays should be word-processed and the format should follow the International Journal of Psychoanalysis’ (IJPA) Notes for Contributors
A requirement you should note is that references should be given fully and in standard format. Freud references should preferably be to the Standard Edition (copies are available in the main office also online via PEP-WEB), and the date cited the original publication date (in round brackets in the S.E.). References to sources that are not translated into English may only be used where a) any quotations included in the essay are translated by the student, and b) it would not be necessary for the marker to have read the source material in order to assess the content of the essay. References to un-translated sources should therefore be restricted to relatively simple statements and should not be used where the marker might need to verify the student’s interpretation of the material.
It is expected that these essays will be better presented and worded than an essay written in exam conditions, although the marking scheme is the same. They should therefore be word processed in at least 11 point font, with attention paid to spelling, grammar and clarity of expression. In general, what is needed is: (a) a clear description of the literature relevant to the question, (b) giving an answer to the question (i.e. do not just reproduce relevant material without addressing the actual question asked), (c) developing a considered argument, in relation to the question. You can introduce wider reading than has been recommended by the seminar teachers, but remember that the course is primarily about psychoanalytic theory, so do not let answers be dominated by (for example) literary criticism, developmental psychology, sociology, or clinical material.
Other suggestions you might wish to consider are:
1. The opening and concluding paragraphs make most impact. Refrain from introducing the essay with sweeping statements about the area; simply introduce the context and arguments that you will be addressing. Perhaps include a concluding paragraph, which draws out the most important themes discussed.
2. Selectivity is important. Do not be tempted to write down everything there is to know about the topic: answers should mainly reflect the question as stated. Justify your choice of particular important aspects at the beginning, while at the same time making it clear you are aware of other possibilities.
3. Essays that are broken down into sections, with headings, are often easier to read.
4. You should be demonstrating evaluative and critical thinking in your review of the literature and your discussion of this.
5. Arguments should state their evidence (which can include a basis in theoretical reasoning), or if opinions, this should be clear.
6. Examples from published clinical material (either your own, or in the relevant literature), are acceptable where pertinent to a theoretical point.
You should hand in two paper copies and an emailed copy of each essay to the MSc Programme Administrator. You should download a cover sheet here.
The cover sheet should state all of the following: the module number and title, the essay title and question number, the word count, the date, and your academic code. Please note that your name should not appear. This is to ensure that the marking can remain blind.
Your essay title should appear on the cover sheet. You do not need to repeat the essay title again on the first page of your essay, but if you do, it will be included in the word count.
Dates for submission 2013-2014:
Essay 1 - Friday 13th December 2013
Essay 2 - Friday 31st January 2014
Essay 3 - Friday 28th March 2014
Essay 4 - Friday 16th May 2014
Essays can be submitted before the due date.
On the date of submission essays must be handed in to the main office (543b) by 12.30pm, to include both electronic and hard copies.
For Flexible/Modular students, coursework essays need to be hand in at the latest by the final (Essay 4) deadline.
The 2,500-2,000 words include everything (footnotes, text references, etc.) except the cover sheet, bibliography and an appendix - if used. Essays that are over 2,500 words or under 2,000 will not be accepted for submission and will be immediately returned to the student with instruction to reduce/increase the word length. The essay may then be resubmitted but the original deadline for submission still applies and penalties for late submission will be applied as detailed in the ‘Late Submission Penalties’ section below.
If after resubmission the essay still exceeds/falls below the word limit, the following word count penalties will apply:
Essays that exceed or fall below the word limit by less than 10 % after resubmission
Essays that exceed or fall below the word limit by 10% or more after resubmission
2750 and over
1800 and under
Deduction of 10 points off your mark
A mark of zero
These rather rigid rules about submission dates, length of essay, and so on are essential to ensure that the system works as fairly as possible for all students. Just as in an examination it would be unfair to allow one student half an hour of extra time, unless he or she had a proven disability, it is unfair to allow a longer piece of work, or a longer time to certain individuals, without clear evidence that they had been unavoidably deprived of the time available to their colleagues.
After the deadline for the submission of the coursework the full allocated marks will be reduced by 5 points for the first 24 hour period.
After that an additional 1 point will be deducted per 24 hour period for the next 6 days.
Work submitted 7 days after the deadline will automatically receive a FAIL.
Under exceptional circumstances, an extension to the date by which work must be handed in can be negotiated. This should be requested in advance, and will normally be given in the case of serious illness (with medical certificate) or major life-events, etc. (but NOT because of predictable pressure of work or minor ailments). All extensions must be requested from the Programme Tutor, Dr Christine English. Students may negotiate an extension of up to one week. Any proposals for a longer extension should be made in writing to the Chair of the Board of Examiners, and will require evidence of truly exceptional circumstances.
The marking scheme for all assessed elements is a 50-59.99% is a pass mark; 60-69.99% is a Merit and over 70% is a Distinction (equivalent to 1st class for an undergraduate degree).
All essays will be double marked (independently) by two experienced staff markers, using the marking scheme following (i.e. 50% is the bottom of the pass range, over 70% is a Distinction). Only the final agreed mark is made available to students on the mark sheet. If it were to happen that no agreement could be reached, the work would be referred to the Visiting Examiner, and the decision of the Board of Examiners would be final.
On completion of the marking process the Programme Tutor or Programme Administrator will send students (via email) a mark sheet with brief individual feedback based on the combined comments of the markers.
Please note that all essay marks, even though fed back to the student so that he/she can improve subsequent work, are provisional until confirmed by the Board of Examiners and subsequently formally notified to each student by UCL (a short time after the Exam Board in late September). The Visiting Examiner will always read a sample of the essays for discussion at the Exam Board in late September to assess the consistency of the marking.
At present, the guidelines given to the essay markers are as follows:
As a general rule: a student can bring any relevant material, regardless of whether it has been specifically taught in the course syllabus. It is important however that the overall subject and content of the essay is within the area of psychoanalytic theory. A more complex or difficult topic should be marked somewhat more leniently than a straightforward one.
Distinction (70%-100%) Work which shows a high level of awareness and understanding of psychoanalytic theory. It shows convincing evidence of capacity to present an argument and a good appraisal of the relevant literature. The work is on the whole presented clearly, succinctly, and coherently, and there is a well-developed and at least partly original line of argument.
Merit (60- 69%) The work is generally well-organised and presented. It shows a capacity to critically evaluate issues, and addresses a question intelligently, with good knowledge of the literature. However, it is not worthy of a distinction mark; this may be for many reasons, for instance because there is too little development of a line of argument, or there is very little evidence of originality, or the expression and presentation are careless in spite of other impressive aspects. However, the essay is generally a good and solid piece of work by a student who appears to adequately understand what they are writing about.
Pass (50-59%) The work addresses the issue chosen, but in a limited way. The material presented may show reasonable familiarity with the issues and general knowledge base, but it has significant flaws. For example, the student may lack knowledge or show misunderstanding of some clearly relevant theory, or fail to appreciate some important aspects of theoretical approaches, he or she may have good knowledge but show problems in presenting a coherent review or developing any line of argument. The reader may have the impression that the student has summarised an area without any real feeling for the important issues.
Fail (final mark below 50%) The answer is clearly too heavily flawed to pass. There may be clear plagiarism, an argument which cannot be followed, a review of the literature which is very inadequate or an essay which does little justice to its subject. The student would fail if the essay were substantially late in submission, without a strong reason accepted in advance by programme staff. The Programme Tutor will discuss the reasons for the failure with the student.
This MSc is a non-clinical programme, and does not require clinical training or experience. Understanding of clinical material is only included in the programme to the extent that it illuminates theoretical issues or the ways in which theory has developed (e.g. Freud's case histories are relevant because they were crucial in his developing theoretical formulations and sometimes in his technical innovations). We do not wish to give an unfair advantage, in formal assessments, to those students who have had clinical experience. We therefore issue the following guidelines:
There is no need for students to show knowledge of any clinical material which has not been set as part of the required reading for the programme, and students who do not use clinical illustrations will not be penalised;
If students have access to unpublished clinical material, e.g. from professional practice, this should not be used in assessed work. Only clinical material which has been published (whether by the student or someone else), which is therefore available in principle to all students and to the examiners, may be included;
If students choose to illustrate theoretical arguments with clinical examples, they should be careful to consider the extent to which these examples are really evidence for their conclusions, and remember that the marking will take into account only the strength of theoretical understanding and originality, not clinical knowledge. They should also take into account that writing about clinical material will use some of the space allowed, and so is not advisable unless it is the best way of furthering the theoretical argument. Students should beware of going beyond their competence, in interpreting clinical observations. Particularly if not clinically trained, offering explanations of clinical phenomena is likely to be risky. Students need to have a lively respect for the complexity of clinical work and of its relationship to theoretical developments. Venturing interpretations without adequate information about the case, and/or without appropriate training, risks suggesting to the examiners that the student has not recognised the limitations of the knowledge covered by the degree programme, and by implication that he or she may not have sufficient appreciation of the difficulties of applying psychoanalytic theory in practice.