I am very glad to have attended the essay writing workshop that the Weidenfeld-Hoffmann Trust (WHT) organized for scholars at the beginning of Michaelmas term. The workshop was taught by Nik Kirby, a philosopher and Professor at the Blavatnik School of Government, which is where I am studying for a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP). Nik has impressive talent for clear teaching and engaging presentations. The essay writing workshop was especially helpful because each participant knew that we needed a little “something” extra before fully embarking on our Oxford journey.  

Regardless of our prior experiences, Oxford presented a new atmosphere, complete with fresh challenges, particularly in the realms of academic writing. The workshop “was a great introduction to the Oxford way of thinking and a great tool to prepare us for writing outside Oxford because it helped us learn how to structure our ideas more fluently,” said Alfredo Ortega Franco (2019, Guatemala, Master of Public Policy, Oxford-Weidenfeld/Chevening), one of the current scholars. Like every other event organized by WHT, from the moral philosophy seminars to the enterprise challenge project, the essay writing workshop was the best way to help scholars prepare to embark on their academic journey at Oxford.

While I had some idea of how to write an academic essay, it was distant and dated; back to my years as an undergraduate. The workshop was really helpful in reminding me how to write academic passages, rather than short activity reports, the writing style I have gotten used to throughout my working years. The first essay of this term I wrote was a Philosophy paper for my Foundations class in the MPP program. I had never written a Philosophy paper before, not even in college! Writing that essay could have been a huge challenge; a challenge I might not have been able to overcome easily, without the techniques I learnt during the essay writing workshop.

Scholars brainstorming essay ideas. 

During the workshop I learnt some specific techniques that would be of great help not only to write for classes but also for my career in the future. For example, introducing a boarder issue and clearly narrowing it down to the exact question one intends to answer, are techniques that might be easily overlooked if a student is not comfortable with academic writing. These skills are also essential points of departure for those of us who might still be settling back into university life. In addition, supporting one’s argument clearly and concisely is crucial to an essay’s success.

One of the most useful methods that I learnt during the workshop was the “They say, I say,” format, which proved very helpful for writing my philosophy papers. These are skills that will not only be useful for me while completing my degree at the Blavatnik School of Government but will also surely be of great help for my career, well beyond my academic life. 

Becoming a stronger writer is just one of my goals here at Oxford, but it is a central one. I firmly believe that we all must be able to make clear decisions on how to communicate our thoughts and express our ideas in writing. As Dr. Priyadarshini Tripathy (2019, India, Global Health Science and Epidemiology, Weidenfeld-Hoffmann/Chevening) said, “The essay skills seminar increased my competency in writing an essay by compiling my ideas and framing them around the hypothesis.”

We never want to be lost in translation.

About the Scholar

Pashtoon Atif

Master of Public Policy (MPP), 2019
St Peter's College, Oxford
Weidenfeld-Hoffmann and Annenberg Scholar