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Study Tools:How to Tackle Commentaries in the Arts and Humanities (Stage 2): How to WRITE Commentaries on Texts, or Images

The instruction to write a commentary on (or close reading of) a specific extract from a text, or example of visual material studied in a module is a common analytical task set for students in the School of Arts. The nature of the set 'text' will differ from discipline to discipline, for example, a poem, a paragraph of philosophical writing, a clip from a film, a painting, a photograph, an advertisement. The fruits of such commentaries usually have to be submitted not long after Reading Week, or towards the end of the Autumn Term. This is often the first form of extended writing which students are asked to produce. It is understandable if students feel nervous or uncertain about what it is they are required to do.

What is a commentary?

In this workshop we review the basic questions discussed last week: what IS a commentary? How does a commentary differ from an essay? What do I have to do when writing a commentary? What must I NOT do when writing a commentary? What is the point of asking students to produce such analyses?

I have studied the text, or image, now how do I set about writing up the co

Having explored last week how to identify the material to include in your commentary, in this session we focus on how to set about the WRITING of your commentary. Where do you begin? How will you decide what to include, or not? What are your lecturers looking for in your commentary? What are you expected NOT to be writing in a commentary? In which ways does a commentary resemble as well as differ from an essay?

If you have any doubts about writing commentaries, let me assure you that is actually an enjoyable activity. It also begins to equip you with the skills of close reading and focused writing which will enhance your critical faculty, and your employability when your degree programme has concluded.


We will practise on extracts which will be supplied in the workshop.

This course is not currently timetabled. You can add your name to a waiting list if you are interested in attending at a future date.

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Theme tags: Academic Skills, Academic writing, Critical thinking, Essay writing, Study skills, Writing skills