EPQ, standing for extended project qualification, is a research project that a student carries out independently in order to develop new skills, including the ones for problem-solving, decision-making, and decision implementation, and acquire the knowledge he or she could not live under other circumstances. The average word count for that kind of project is about five thousand words. Many inexperienced students, excited at first, find the task of writing an EPQ challenging and overwhelming. To make these people’s lives easier, we’ve prepared a simple guide on how not to mess everything up when doing an extended project qualification.
The key idea here is to find not just an interesting topic but a topic that is interesting for YOU. An extended project qualification project (‘THE project’ further in the text) is an important part of your university study that, if done right, allows you to get a lot of Tariff points, but treating it as a hobby is a good and healthy approach, too. When choosing, focus on what you would like to learn about in your spare time; do not fall in the trap of choosing the one that looks the easiest as writing about something that doesn’t interest you quickly becomes a nightmare – your own personal 5000-words-long nightmare.
When you do not care about a topic you’ve chosen, you have to make a huge effort every time you need to sit and research, write, or edit something. Imagine spending tens and even hundreds of minutes every day doing useless things and procrastinating just because you do not have the motivation necessary to get down to work. That happens with the best of us – do not think you can carry any project out on pure energy and willpower and get a decent result. Chances are high you’ll drop it halfway, mess something up, or resort to using professional editing services. The latter is a great thing when you need a more experienced person’s assistance, but in the ideal case, you want to do things independently – the more, the better.
If you are only curious about how to take the project because of UCAS points and do not take the whole ‘academic interest’ thing seriously, think about that: if you do not like the subject, there’s a high likelihood the final essay will be average (if finished at all), which, in turn, means you’ll not receive a good grade for your work. What’s the point, then? You spend a lot of time, and you do not like the process, you receive very little in return. Worth it?
We are putting so much focus on choosing the right topic because there’s no turning back at some point in the research project. Regardless of how bad you may feel about it, you can’t just change the topic when half the work is done already. So choose wisely. Take your time. Ask a professor for help. Write down the titles that interest you on a piece of paper. Find a list of ideas on the Internet and then, once it has been settled, come back to us. We’re just beginning.
Writing a big essay on a subject that interests you is simple—writing a big AND well-researched essay on the same subject? Not as much. Mind mapping helps you organize your thoughts and knowledge and use the data you have by that point more effectively.
A mind map is a way to represent information graphically. In this case, you should use it to determine and organize the main points you’ll be making in the body of your essay. A mind map serves as a surprisingly good motivator, too, as it allows you to get into the spirits of the subject you’re going to talk about. Getting to work is much easier when you can take any point from the diagram and research it right now. The thing about fighting procrastination is to make these first steps as simple as possible, and you’ll have to be good at that if you’re going to finish an assignment on time.
A mind map helps you understand whether you truly like the topic chosen. If you get bored thinking about the main points in general, what will you experience when the time has come to describe them in detail? The moment you think that is the case, change the topic without hesitation. That may be your last chance to do it painlessly.
At last, a mind map gives you valuable insight into what you know and what you do not. There is no simpler way to detect the gaps in your knowledge than to write everything you know about the subject on a piece of paper. People tend to fool themselves into overestimating their knowledge and practical skills (students too!), so it is only natural to get an idea of your real level before diving into the difficult project.
In order to get a good answer, you first have to come up with a no less good question. The question does make a difference: it distinguishes a fine piece from a truly great one. You can’t write five thousand words without anything to answer to; this won’t work.
Being a great way to organize information, a mind map helps you find the right question. The first advice here, however, is to avoid questions that are too narrow to base the whole text on – since you’ll be writing a lot, you do not want to find yourself out of ideas halfway through. The second piece of advice is not to pick up the questions that could be entirely answered in the course of the project. No ultimate conclusions, all right?
Once you’ve found the interesting question for you and broad enough to compose a long essay without trouble, the next step is to find a way you’ll answer that question in a clear and understandable form.
We strongly recommend using subtitles here – a lot of subtitles! It may be quite tedious at times, but there is no better way to make the process of research and writing easier. Coming up with good subtitles means understanding perfectly what your next steps are – what you will talk about, how long, in what order.
Consider subtitles to be mini topics, every one of which exists to give the reader an exhaustive answer to the project’s question. The mind map you’d made gave you a general idea of what you should be writing about, and the subtitles, once written down, help you see the full picture. Once this step is over, you are no longer a stranger to your paper. Like it or not, you’re best friends now!
Subtitles are about splitting up your huge text into smaller sections. This practice has been especially useful for those students who do not have much experience writing large amounts of text for a limited period. However frightening the idea of writing a huge EPQ may seem at first, reaching the word count is a sure thing when you take one step at a time.
Excluding some rare cases, there is no such thing as too many subtitles; you can’t do wrong here. The best way to come up with great subtitles is to use your mind map. Some of the ones you’ll write down will be very good, some not so much, and some will be fancy terrible, which is absolutely normal. You do not have to use them all, so do not hesitate to check things off the list whenever necessary.
A thing to keep in mind about subtitles is that they obviously should be relevant to the question you’ve chosen. Otherwise, the problem of reaching the word at all count gives way to the problem of getting the word count too quickly, without even covering the main topic properly.
Your professor won’t be happy with 40% of the text being a filler with no real substance, so do not forget to double-check the subtitles written before going further. Rewriting any kind of piece is a long and painful process, so let us just avoid it.
We recommend sticking to 250-300 words in a subtitle section, meaning that you should have 15-20 subtitles before the writing stage. When there are too many of them, students tend to get lost in their essay, introducing one minor topic after another with no success. As long as you do not jump over the 15-20 subtitles limit, writing a decent text shouldn’t be a problem.
The order is important, too. If you want to get an A, your essay can’t be difficult to read and follow. You may arrange them chronologically, which is basically a standard introduction-body-conclusion structure, or prioritizing them according to their importance to the topic. If done correctly, the latter shows your professor that you put a lot of effort into the work and had everything planned before even the first paragraph was written. If not, the essay becomes a difficult-to-understand mess that suffers from a seemingly random order.
In other words, arrange your subtitles chronologically if you do not have better ideas. That is a safe option.
While we do recommend sticking to one particular word count per subtitle, it may be difficult to do on some topics. Trust your own judgment; if you think that you’ll need more words for a certain subtitle than for others, it is okay. Just remember that more here means less there and that you should determine an appropriate length of every part of your essay before going to the writing part.
Regarding word count, the introduction usually occupies 5-10% of an assignment. Make it 250-300 words if you want to play it safe, and proceed to the main stage. While important, an introductory part’s here just because a research paper doesn’t work well without a clear starting point; do not spend too much time and too many words on it.
If you already have your future essay organized and planned out, you may even skip the introductory part for now and return later – when the assignment is almost done. Some people find it easier because they only have to provide the reader with information about what they have written and not what they are only GOING to write. Should you choose this path, be sure not to forget about the introduction at all.
Sticking to 15-20 subtitles makes the writing process simpler and more enjoyable, and both of these points are important. You’ll not have to spend hours trying to convince yourself to get to work if the only thing you need to do today is to write ~250-300 words on a mini topic you do not despise.
The amount of time allocated for finishing the project is more than sufficient in most cases, yet the average student still struggles when it comes to meeting the deadline. In order to avoid the mistakes most common among inexperienced students, it’s crucial to understand how many words you’re going to write today (and tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and so on), determine an appropriate length of every part of your assignment, and focus on short-time goals instead of long-time ones.
While extremely helpful when working on an extended project qualification, the techniques above are unnecessary for regular papers, meaning that you could (and probably did) manage an ordinary essay without them just fine. What you couldn’t skip as a college student, however, is going through the research stage before writing. Once you’ve secured a placement at higher education institutions, even an opinion essay goes from the ‘what you think’ level to the ‘can you back your opinion up’ one. An EPQ is no different from your typical essay in that sense; it is longer and consumes a lot of time, but there’s nothing special about its research stage compared to other papers.
Keeping a record of where you’ve acquired the information used in your piece takes first priority. You have to reference everything you’ve included in your piece properly, so do not let yourself slack on this one. Imagine having fifty sources or so by the end of the research stage without a clear understanding of where exactly you should use every one of them. That’s a disaster! Many students learn that the hard way, so come up with a system to keep everything in place beforehand. There are mobile and desktop apps specifically designed for that purpose, and some websites provide this function for free. They are great and do make a student’s life easier, but using them is optional.
Obviously, not every website on the Internet is a reliable source of information. In fact, when writing at university, most of them are not. Use a scholarly search engine instead of the regular one when searching for books and papers to use information from. Google Scholar would be the simplest and most popular choice here, but your professor or/and supervisor may give more options to consider. Microsoft Academic is a decent alternative, for example, and Refseek generally gives the user more results from online encyclopedias. Being a professional network for scientists and researchers, ResearchGate may be extremely helpful, too.
An interesting thing about Wikipedia is that while it is a reliable source by no means, the reference section for some of the articles contains links to relevant papers and books a student could use to make his or her life easier. We do not recommend relying on this method too much as it is sometimes difficult to understand whether using this particular paper from the reference section is fine or not, but that’s a nice little detail to keep in mind when deadlocked.
With how much work you’ve been through by this point, it’s only natural to lose yourself in all these papers, titles, and so on. Once the research stage is over, you should be ready to move to the writing part, but do not rush things just because you’ve become tired of all this preparation and research. Given that this may be your last chance to do it, reviewing the structure won’t hurt.
You want to have 15-20 subtitles, with approximately half of them referring to reliable sources. You’ll use the second half, then, to highlight the most important parts of the study and explain how the sources included relating to your research. The conclusive paragraph should, in general, be longer than the introductive one – it serves to reiterate the points made in your text and show the implication of the earlier parts of the paper.
The conclusion, in other words, does conclude the work written. However, inexperienced students still manage to mess it up by going too far in reaching conclusions that are not supported by the content of the EPQ paper itself. You re-read the body paragraphs, and you write the conclusion based solely on their substance. Do not try to introduce new facts at the end of the paper as it may poorly affect your grade.
Still not clear? Come to us – essay help online.
Compose your project the same way you’ve composed any other academic paper before. The most important thing here is good time management, meaning that you want to start as early as possible and write at least 100 words every day. If you’ve taken the preparation seriously, everything should run smoothly. Focus on one subtitle at a time, set clear and specific goals, organize meetings with your supervisor whenever necessary. No secret techniques here; your plan by this moment is probably so detailed you’ll be able to build the whole piece with closed eyes.
Once the writing phase is finished, take a break and switch to something else. Ideally, you should wait several days before proceeding to proofread, so it’s in your best interest not to delay working on your EPQ too much. Proofreading before the final submission is mandatory; unless you’re not interested in getting a passable grade anymore, do not skip it. Correcting grammar, spelling, and punctuation in the text is one thing, but what you should focus on is looking for contradictions, unnecessary data, plain wrong points, and other problems that directly affect the value of your paper.
The average student is not very good at proofreading, though, so do not get upset if something doesn’t feel right even after you’ve taken care of the most obvious mistakes. Asking another person for assistance may help, as may hiring a professional proofreader. There’s nothing wrong with asking more experienced people to take a look at your EPQ. A fresh eye is crucial for moving your paper from good to great, so do not dwell on doing everything on your own.
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