School of Indigenous Studies

Essay Writing Advice


Essay Writing Advice

Essay questions are set in such a way as to develop two skills:

  • Research techniques and the ability to coherently organise and present material on your chosen topic.
  • Expression and articulation of your assessment of the research material.

Your essays will be assessed on the basis of your ability to articulate a coherent, well researched and considered response to the chosen topic. You should address the following summarized criteria:

  • Coherent Argument and Considered Response
    • Clear and concise Abstract
    • Organisation of the Essay
    • Analysis and background to the question – key terms and definitions defined & discussed
    • Clearly stated Thesis – scope (points to be made), aims and themes of the essay clearly and concisely defined
    • Consistency of Argument – focussing on the topic
  • Quality of Research
    • Critical use and extent of references
    • Appropriateness of references
    • Inclusion of Indigenous Voices – recognising Indigenous representation of Indigenous knowledge
  • Clarity of Presentation
    • Clear and correct grammar and expression including adherence to appropriate Indigenous academic writing standards
    • Adherence to submission requirements
    • Use of Oxford style guidelines and standards in referencing
    • Attention to technical detail – visual layout of essay, and essay presentation formats

This criteria is further described with assessment levels in the below assessment criteria table. Further criteria is provided for non-written assignment work if this is combined with the Unit’s Assessment Mechanism.

Additional essay writing advice can be found on the STUDYSmarter website.

Plagiarism and Academic Conduct

Academic misconduct includes plagiarism, collusion and other forms of cheating. The University of Western Australia defines Academic Misconduct as "any activity or practice engaged in by a student that breaches explicit guidelines relating to the production of work for assessment, in a manner that compromises or defeats the purpose of that assessment".

Plagiarism occurs when someone disguises or misrepresents the authorship of work and claims it as his or her own. It can occur in various forms:

  1. Presenting, part or whole of another student's essay, design project or artwork as one's own.
  2. Copying phrases, sentences or passages from a published source (usually an article or a book) without acknowledging this by quotation marks and a reference.
  3. Substantially copying design elements or images from other design projects or artworks, such as to misrepresent the substance, strategy or personal expression of the original design project or artwork.
  4. Presenting in your own words an idea, argument or interruption from another source, without indicating the of a reference.
  5. Remember always to insert references when using other people's ideas.

What are the penalties?

Plagiarism strikes at the heart of ethical scholarship, and the School has grown increasingly concerned about plagiarism in student essays. In addition to being a form of fraud, plagiarism negates the value of essays, designs or artworks as a means of developing independent thought, analysis, design strategy or creative expression.

Unintentional plagiarism will also be penalised. The University views plagiarism very seriously and substantial or repeated plagiarism may result in a student's failing the course or, in extreme cases, being expelled from the University. The defence "but I have done this for other departments or teachers" is unacceptable - it is rather like the driver who, when caught speeding, complains that (s)he hasn't been caught before.

How to Avoid Plagiarism

The best way to avoid plagiarism in essay writing is to get into the habit of distinguishing your own work from that by other people. We assume that unreferenced work is your own, so make sure that phrases and sentences that are not your own are in quotation marks and given precise references, and that ideas and arguments that are not your own are properly referenced. In cases of concepts or facts that are widely used or known this may not be necessary - for example "liberals believe in the importance of individual freedom" or "Australia has six states". To avoid accidental plagiarism, ensure that the notes you use to prepare your essay clearly identify quotations and have full references.

Style Guidelines

For SIS units the only acceptable format for referencing and notation is the ‘Oxford Referencing Style’ Citation Guide. Details of this style are widely available but are easily consulted via the UWA library website. Read the guidelines carefully.

You are required to include footnoted citations and include a reference list. Supportive figures, illustrations used in the essay should be referenced in their titles using footnoted citations. Essays and assignments will be assessed according to the adherence to these referencing standards.

Presentation Formats

  • Abstracts should be included at the beginning of essays. A Powerpoint presentation on writing abstracts is available from the STUDYSmarter website.
  • Essay body text should be 12 point, in a clear font, e.g. Arial, Helvetica, Times, New York, Palatino or similar, with lines one and one-half spaced.
  • Paragraphs should be denoted by a single extra return (you may indent paragraphs if you wish). Please do not use extraneous formatting, such as headers, footers or tabs if they are not necessary. Please include page numbers. The required length of the essay does not include footnotes.

A Guide To Appropriate Language And Terminology

It is important to be sensitive to the use of appropriate language and terminology when referring to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. This guide is to inform you on preferred terminology for the School of Indigenous Studies, so you can become more confident in your choices about what terms to use. However, it is not definitive and cannot cover all contexts, so as a general rule, if in doubt, ASK first!

Collective and Inclusive Terms

‘Indigenous people(s)’ and ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people(s)’ are terms commonly used to collectively refer to Australia’s first peoples.

‘Indigenous peoples’ is a term most frequently used in an international context, particularly in relation to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) and The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

For more information see: Indigenous Peoples Indigenous Voices Fact Sheet: Who Are Indigenous Peoples?

Some Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people object to using the term ‘Indigenous’ because it fails to respect their own identity and preferences and ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ is the preferred term. However, both terms ‘Indigenous people(s)’ and ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people(s)’ are acceptable to use in the course. Use capital letters for ‘Indigenous’ and ‘Aboriginal’ when you are referring specifically to Aboriginal peoples in Australia.

In many areas, the term ‘Aboriginal people’ is increasingly used in preference to ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people’. In Western Australia there has been a clear and stated community preference for use of the term ‘Aboriginal people’ as the inclusive term rather than ‘Indigenous’ or ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’. This is demonstrated by the following examples from two key government agencies:

  • In 2013, Western Australia’s Department of Indigenous Affairs replaced the term ‘Indigenous’ in its title with ‘Aboriginal’, its stated reason being that: "The Department of Aboriginal Affairs (formerly Indigenous Affairs) has been renamed to more accurately reflect the identity of Aboriginal people in Western Australia. This change is in line with requests from the State's Aboriginal community."
  • The Department of Health (WA) stated rationale on using the term ‘Aboriginal’ is that: "Within Western Australia, the term Aboriginal is used in preference to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, in recognition that Aboriginal people are the original inhabitants of Western Australia. No disrespect is intended to our Torres Strait Islander colleagues and community.”

‘Aboriginal people(s)’ is also appropriate to use in SIS units.

Diverse Communities

  • ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘Indigenous’ are both terms imposed after colonisation, which don’t reflect the cultural and linguistic diversity of the more than 250 Aboriginal language groups across Australia as well as the diversity within each of these groups.
  • Aboriginal peoples prefer to identify themselves in their own language terms e.g. Noongar, Palyku, Yamatji. Students should be sensitive to this use, but care should be taken to have an appropriate Aboriginal reference point when using these terms. It can be confusing as spellings may have changed over time or may merely reflect regional or individual preferences. For example, UWA uses ‘Noongar’ as per the South West Aboriginal Land and Sea Council.

Language and Terminology to Avoid

  • The term ‘Aborigine(s)’ has negative connotations and is now regarded as out-dated or even offensive, so use ‘Aboriginal people’ instead.
  • Generally avoid abbreviations, as they are like to be offensive.
  • There is no acceptable abbreviation for ‘Aboriginal’.
  • Do not use ATSI as an abbreviation of ‘Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander’ in written or oral communication. Exceptions to this are in the context of a recognised acronym for an organisation e.g. ‘AIATSIS’ is the acronym for the ‘Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies’.
  • Avoid using anthropological terms such as 'clan' and 'tribe'. Aboriginal people do not generally use these terms. In Western Australia you can refer instead to ‘Aboriginal communities’ or ‘Aboriginal language groups’.
  • ‘Aboriginal’ and ‘non-Aboriginal’ people should be used in preference to ‘black’ and ‘white’ people etc.
  • While Aboriginal people may use terms/language to refer to themselves, such as ‘blackfellas’, this does not imply permission for other people to use such terms.