An Essay Evolves / Feedback
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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 7 months ago



Addressing the question
The looseness of the title makes it difficult to address the question really well. This is a big subject, and all of the material is relevant to the subject. However, for much of the essay it is not clear how the specific title focus on ‘personality’ has been used to select material from what is relevant to Freud’s work more generally. For example, how is Freud’s theory of ‘personality’ different from his theories of ‘motivation’ or ‘development’? You deal with this to some extent with the points about personality versus character in the first paragraph, but then slip quite quickly into general discussion of Freud’s work and approach, so that by paragraph 2 you are talking about ‘an evaluation of psychoanalytic theory’. This rather general approach to the title continues right up to the bottom of page 2, when you get back on a more specific tack with the discussion of ‘personality formation’. The other part of the question you don’t fully engage with is ‘evaluate.’ The first time you really address the issue of the terms in which Freud’s theory should be evaluated is in the conclusions. 6/10 for this aspect.
Using evidence
There are plenty of external sources, and you have obviously done some quite wide reading. Quite a lot of it is ‘soft’ evidence, however – people’s views and comment. There are just a few really serious sources of actual empirical evidence. These are the research by Lynn Myers and the factor analytic studies. Is Myers’ research really central to the evaluation of the theory? I recall that she was concerned with repression defined in quite a narrow way (scoring certain questionnaires a certain way), and as a coping strategy, and in relation to physical health, rather than as a fundamental psychic process. The evidence about factor analysis really is central, because it links Freudian concepts up with modern personality theory and methods, so I was disappointed you did not say more about it, and disappointed to see that the Fisher and Greenberg source is a secondary reference. In fact you seem to have depended quite heavily on secondary references generally. You also allude to other evidence – from neuropsychological studies – and refer to other material – Baron-Cohen’s suggested study - that seem highly relevant but where I was disappointed that you don’t elaborate. 6/10 for this aspect.
Developing argument
There are several ‘mini-arguments’ in the essay, but no identifiable single theme or thread that is developed throughout that could be said to represent the position of the author. There is the argument that Freud can’t really be evaluated in a conventional way because of cultural/historical/social complications. There is also the argument that, whether his theory is right or wrong, it is valuable because it has stimulated so much debate, thought and research. Those are both reasonable points to make, but as presented they don’t seem to constitute a really strong, satisfying, unifying argument. Producing that kind of argument is very difficult for an essay with this title, because it is so wide and deals with such well trodden ground, but I think you made it harder for yourself by trying to write such a wide ranging essay that takes such a broad perspective. It may have been easier to develop a more impressive argument if you had interpreted the question in a narrower way. As it is, the ‘argument’ that comes closest to defining your position on the subject is: this is a very complex subject. That is flagged up right at the beginning and is supported throughout as the material builds up. The problem is that that seems about the easiest possible position to take, so it makes rather a weak ‘argument’. 6½/10 for this aspect.
Critical evaluation/analysis
There are quite a few critical/analytic points, but most of them seem to take the form of material from external sources, or items of evidence, and the essay does not give much sense of your own critical analysis of the subject and the material. You do make some evaluative points in the last paragraph, using evaluative words like ambitious, imaginative etc., but given the subject matter these are almost descriptive points and there is not much sense throughout of your own evaluative analysis. Again, as for argument, it is difficult to do critical evaluation/analysis well when the subject itself is so broad and you approach it in a very broad way. 6½/10 for this aspect.
The essay is very clearly organised into paragraphs and each paragraph is internally well organised with introductory sentences followed by more detailed material. Also, the paragraphs appear in quite a logical order and follow on from one another quite meaningfully. So this is one of the strongest aspects of the essay. The sense of structure would have been stronger, however, if there had been a strong argument that the structure supported. As it is, the structure is used to organise the material, and helps to guide the reader through the material, but does little more than that, whereas in the best writing the structuring supports an unfolding argument. 7/10 for this aspect.
Use of language
The essay is well written. All the points are clear, and there are no significant writing errors. A great deal of thought and effort seems to have gone into the writing, with the result that in places the essay gives the impression of being over-written, or trying too hard to impress. Phrases like ‘nesting veneers of social acceptability’ and ‘smooth voyage of quotidian behaviour’ made me wonder if more effort had gone into the choice of words than into the analysis of ideas. This is an area of psychology where writers do seem especially susceptible to rhetorical flourishes, but when the objective of the exercise is evaluation, and where the subject matter is already complicated, I often feel that more simple, sober language can help the reader understand the points being made and help to give an impression of the author’s grasp of the issues. 6½/10 for this aspect.


Overall comment:
This is a good, well-written essay that covers a lot of ground within a short word limit and makes some good points. It could be improved by having a clearer focus and a stronger take-home message, which could perhaps be achieved by interpreting the title in a narrower way.
Mark: 62%




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