This year’s essay question is: How have everyday technologies transformed expertise in specific periods of the lifecourse? Your essay should focus on an example of expertise from one period of the lifecourse, and should critically reflect on historical and generational changes within this period of the lifecourse.
To answer this question you will need to identify a specific area of the lifecourse as a case study of how expertise is being transformed. For this essay, ‘old age’ or ‘childhood’ are too broad as topics. Instead you need to identify a specific example of expertise that has changed as a result of technology within an area of the lifecourse. It might for example be how home care support is provided the elderly, or how children’s health is monitored by parents. As the essay is only 1500 words long, you need to think carefully about a topic which you can write about within the constraints of the word count.
You should also pay close attention to how the essay question is asking you to engage with key aspects of the course. It is asking for an area of expertise, and you will need to clearly identify what this is in your introduction. It is asking you to focus on a specific period of the lifecourse, which each of our topics from week 4 onwards area structured around. And it is asking for you to reflect on how expertise has changed in a historical and generational perspective, which will involve thinking beyond the present moment and considering what social and cultural changes your examples are connected to.
Below I have broken down the essay into a plan that you are welcome to follow, or to adapt around your own preferred approach to essay writing. I have also added ‘tips’ in boxes that explain some key ways you can work towards a mark at the upper end of the grade scale.
Remember to also look through the learning outcomes before and after writing the essay to get a clear sense of what knowledge, skills and understanding you are being asked to demonstrate within this assessment.
(2) A template for writing the essay:
Introduction (approximately 150 words)
In your opening paragraph you need to:
- Clearly identify what example of expertise you will be writing about, and from what period of the lifecourse.
- Make clear how your essay will approach the essay question.
Setting out the context (approximately 150 words)
Having set out how you intend to answer the essay, a follow up paragraph can provide some more detail on the context of your chosen example. As an example, your essay might be on fertility or pregnancy tracking apps. This paragraph would expand on this example further by:
- Explaining very briefly and clearly what these apps are and how they work.
- Addressing the part of the essay question around historical and generational change by describing where the market for these apps came from (e.g. what came before?) and how they fit into a wider culture of tracking (women’s) bodies.
The core argument of the essay (approximately 1000 words)
This is the main body of your argument. Having set up your essay in the previous two paragraphs, you will now present an argument that sets out how everyday technologies have transformed expertise in your specific period of the lifecourse. This section should:
- Be broken down into paragraphs that each represent different parts of your argument. These paragraphs may be around 200-250 words, and should each link together, but also make their own specific contribution to your essay’s core argument. Building on our previous example, this might include paragraphs looking at: the growth of pregnancy tracking, the datafication of mother and baby, the blurring of medical and everyday expertise etc. Working out what these paragraphs will be will emerge from your extended research and reading around the essay topic.
- Be embedded within academic research and theory. The Canvas has reading lists for many different topics which are great starting points. You will also need to do your own research beyond the reading lists. A good essay will not only describe the discussions in the literature, but also critically engage with these. Academic writing is about having a conversation with multiple authors and thinking about what you think is useful and interesting in their work, whilst also being critical when you notice any gaps or problems.
- Include multimedia content. One of the learning outcomes for this essay is to incorporate relevant multimedia content into your discussion. The multimedia content should be a seamless part of the discussion, and clearly integrated into your argument. In an essay on pregnancy tracking you might include screenshots of apps, or adverts featuring the apps. Think creatively about how multimedia content might add a further useful layer to your discussion.
Your conclusion (approximately 150 words)
Along with the introduction, the conclusion is a critical part of the essay and should not be something you rush to complete at the very end. Think carefully about what you have learnt in the process of writing this essay, and attempt to convey this in a final response to the essay question. We’re really interesting in finding out what you learnt, and this is your final chance to explain this.