Essay Assignment GEOG30024 Africa 2018
Write a research paper (max 2000 words + refs, figures) based on a range of literature
and pertaining to the geography of Sub-Saharan Africa. Essay Due 5 Nov (by
11.00pm), worth 50%. Please submit via TurnitIn on LMS site. No hard copy needed.
If you are late with your essay you may fail this assignment. Marking will occur
intensively from 6 Nov for a few days only.
Appropriate use of illustrations, good presentation, sound arguments, and evidence of
further reading and research, will be rewarded.
A bibliography must be included, and all material drawn from other sources must be
correctly cited there (including web pages). Papers that rely on one or two sources
only, are unlikely to receive a good mark.
Submit single or double spaced, with word-count and your name clearly shown on the
A draft title, which you should design yourself, should be given to tutors or me,
depending on your tute group, by week 8. and if you wish – a brief outline and
some preliminary references. We will try to make some suggestions on the
readings you could consult, or on your essay title, if we can. Please email us or
discuss in tutes.
Penalties for late submission are 5% a day.
Special consideration (e.g. Medical certs. for late work) is now done through your
Student Portal. We are not able to be lenient with special considerations if you
hope to graduate this semester.
Note: we have brilliant plagiarism software. Assignments are submitted electronically
and compared with all websites, and all previous university assignments. Anything
copied from anywhere else needs to be in quote marks and cited. Penalties for
academic dishonesty will range from a mark of 0 to heavy % reductions. If in doubt
see http://academichonesty.unimelb.edu.au/ or ask your tutors.
Guidelines on choosing a topic
The essay will allow you to expand your knowledge on a topic, issue or region/area covered in the
subject, and you are free to choose a topic that really interests you.
The research paper could tackle an issue we have raised (or will raise) in the course. It might examine
the activities of a particular policy, program, project, or a region with which you wish to become more
familiar. The topic has to relate to Africa.
The paper cannot have been submitted elsewhere, and must be your own work. Anything suspected of
being from sites like 15000papers.com will be subjected to textual analysis, and if found to be
plagiarized, may result in failing the whole subject. The easiest way to avoid these problems is to
research your own paper and to discuss it ahead of time with the instructor.
This must be an analytical rather than merely descriptive paper. The choice of topic is purposely open-
ended, so that you can gain skills in independent research and writing.
African land grabs: to what extent can Africans turn them to their advantage?
Is land grabbing a form of neo-colonialism in Africa?
To what extent is rural-urban migration positive for African nations?
What effect is the African middle class having on African cities?
What are the implications of 'reverse colonial migration'? (eg Portuguese
migrating to Angola)
What is the relevance of the concept of sustainable development to Africa [or
to a country] ?
The population bomb – what will be the future effects of population increase in
Africa ? [Mike Mortimore's work suggests population growth is not a problem
because of innovation]
What is the relationship between population growth and agricultural
production? [again, Mortimore and Boserup see a positive link, but is it
Critically assess the physical constraints to economic development in Africa
What is appropriate technology in the African context? Illustrate with
Women have traditionally been the invisible workforce in African rural
societies – discuss.
Discuss the need to incorporate gender perspectives in efforts to promote
sustainable development in Africa
Critically evaluate why the importance of women in resolving Africa's food
crisis in Africa is often overlooked.
Discuss the role of nonprofit organisations in tackling environmental (or
social) problems in Africa . Use case studies to evaluate their success.
Why did democratic government in [x] emerge in the period [xx]
Discuss the effects of decolonization on Africa with reference to….
What are the causes of famine in Africa? [this is a broad one and can be
Responding to the crisis of food security in Africa – is food aid the best
strategy? [World Food Program etc.]
Reasons for the persistence of regional famine in Africa [using case studies]
The management of famine – what are the lessons for success from African
What were the origins of the slave trade in [country x, region x]
What are the causes of desertification and land degradation in arid and
Discuss the impact of climate change and its influence on African land use…..
Can the process of desertification be avoided and reversed, and can degraded
land be rehabilitated in tropical/semi-arid Africa?
Techniques for soil and water conservation in semi arid Africa – what works?
Discuss the emergence of 'fortress' conservation and the creation of national
parks in Africa [the origins of the fortress model origins and its effects]
Resistance to conservation in Africa/ an analysis of community-led
conservation of wildlife in Africa [e.g. Rosalind Duffy's book, Killing for
Conservation about CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe]
Land tenure reform in Africa – can communal rights be protected?
[www.iied.org/drylands has papers]
Explore the argument that many postcolonial leaders in Africa have failed
because their power base is perceived as 'illegitimate'.
How did Britain [or France or Portugal/Spain] try to insure that their colonies
Did Africa's revolutionaries in the postwar period make good [or poor]
Has post-apartheid South Africa been able to resolve the problems of the
What have been the problems incurred by [xx] due to internal indebtedness
and the problem of economic stabilization?
World Bank Poverty Reduction Strategies – what does the future hold?
Crirically evaluate the effects of structural adjustment on [xx]? Discuss using
Does the World Bank put return on investment [its loans] before ecological
concern in Africa?
Do pastoral activities preserve & manage the environment or do they have a
detrimental effect and degrade it?
Discuss the role of/importance of indigenous knowledge in
rural development in Africa
What are the opportunities for 'fair trade' commercial agricultural production
to increase in Africa?
Economic globalization/free trade – good or bad for Africa?
Combining traditional and western health care in contemporary Africa – what
are the constraints?
Discus the effects of the AIDS epidemic on ……in Africa [constrain this a bit]
The differing approaches of France and Britain to colonial rule in Africa
[would need to be more specific]
Social movements and resistance to colonialism in Africa – a case study
African film – a critical analysis of the work of…
What were the causes of the Rwandan genocide? Could it have been
African socialism and African independence – an assessment of political
New colonial powers? The role of the USA/China other countries in Africa
Was the Sankara regime in Burkina Faso unique…..?
Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of state-led economic restructuring in
Environmental issues, poverty and health in African cities [check the journal
Environment and Urbanization]
What have been the impacts on Africans of rising global food prices in 20xx-
Is abundance of resources the primary source of conflict in xx(Congo)?
You have all written essays before and "know the ropes", but here are some
guidelines to help you do a good job.
In this essay you should
Write the title out at the top & your name. Adhere to the guidelines on
presentation above. Don’t write more than 2,000 words.
Follow a structure. The structure of almost all pieces of written work (but no
sections called ‘body of essay’ please!) is
Introduction: introducing the topic
Body of essay: developing the argument with the material assembled
(ideas, models, and evidence). Usually multiple
headings in here.
Conclusion: summarising the argument and pointing out its
Bibliography if in doubt , spell it out – put the whole reference.
This is a bit like a sandwich, with the substance of the argument as the filling –
the filling is the really interesting part. But the bread on each side holds it
together. The bibliography is the listing of ingredients.
A well-tested way of structuring an essay is to use sub-headings for the key
aspects of the argument you want to develop: this helps you to see what you're
doing (and how well you're doing it) – and it helps keep you 'on track' (vs.
wandering off the subject).
Begin with an introduction. What is this essay about? How will you lay out
your argument (e.g. “in this essay I will make x points and dispute the claim
that/agreed with ….”?)
The body: Then you could make three or four major points in subsections.
You decide.The main part or 'body' of your answer is the development of your
argument, the analysis you are proposing, and how you justify it in relation to
the evidence and to other arguments or positions on the question. This is the
largest content of your essay, and the most challenging: this is where your use
of sub-headings to structure the argument is most important; this is where you
have to justify (by logic, by the use of evidence, by debate) the
argument/analysis you are proposing.
In supplying the content to the sections of your argument (marked by sub-
headings), limit your paragraphs to one main point. As a rule of thumb,
paragraphs should not be longer than half a page. We don’t like to see
paragraphs with too much in them – we get confused. If you have a new point,
start a new paragraph.
All (factual) evidence should relate to particular times and places, so make
sure that evidence you use is specified by time and place. Even if you use,
say, climate data, or the price of coffee, specify the dates of the data in the
heading of the table and in the text of your essay. Geography: Don’t over-
generalise by assuming that Africa is a single country or region (it is not),
since this can be very misleading.
All tables and charts and maps (which are very useful to illustrate key
points, especially if you are short of time) should show their source. E.g.
Source: Smith 1994 p 43. Tables, charts and maps will be welcomed.
A conclusion is important – don’t just end your essay in mid-flow. You could
stress again the main points that you have argued, or return to what you said in
the introduction and stress it once more. A very useful extra element a
conclusion can add to an essay is to indicate implications of your answer,
including its connections with other issues. For example, 'This essay
concentrated mostly on USA policy in Africa, but a fuller treatment would
need to examine policies being adopted in other nations', then a few sentences
explaining why this would be important.
Sources/bibliography. Not knowing how to use secondary sources properly
(what other people have written) often causes problems in essays. You can
avoid these problems by remembering some basic points:
When you are quoting directly from a text (using somebody else's
words), always give the exact reference (including page number): if
you don't, this is treated as plagiarism (a form of cheating – see
Syllabus). E.g. correctly done, you might say Smith (1994:23)
said…”There is no greater problem facing humanity than…”…
Then, make sure you put the full name, date, title and publisher of
Smith 1994 in the bibliography. Harvard referencing system is
E.g. Smith N. 1994. Uneven Development. Oxford: Blackwell
Or if it Is a journal:
Batterbury, SPJ. 1998. "The Sahel region; assessing progress twenty-
five years after the great drought." The Geographical. May: 40-45.
If you are using Smith’s arguments but without actually quoting, you
still need to cite him, but placing (Smith 1994) after the relevant
section. E.g. “The case for global warming is far from convincing
(Smith 1994).”. Give web address for web articles. We want to
These guidelines will help you. There are other ‘conventions’ for citing
in essays, so make sure you adapt if you need to, but the principle is
the same in all cases. You should have a full bibliography (listing of
references used). This is very important. You cannot take ideas without
Drafts. Please don’t finish your final sentence, print off the essay, and turn it
in. Once you have finished writing, all you have there is a draft. There should
be time to amend it. In your first draft your principal concern is working out
your argument, getting the main points clear and in the best sequence,
organising your illustrative or supportive evidence, etc. It is then best to leave
your first draft for a day or two (or an hour or two!), before going back to it
with a fresh eye to revise and improve it. In revising, first check the strength
of your argument: does your essay do what you intended in terms of its
structure and analysis? Is it coherent and convincing? Have you used enough
evidence? Appropriate evidence? Used it effectively? Etc. Next (and last)
check the style (spellings, punctuation etc – your word processor can help!)
and consistency (in headings and sub-headings, layout etc. Check it over with
fellow students. Pretend it is someone else’s essay and you are assessing it – is
it clear to you? If not, revise. The ILC and the DRC provide help with essays.
What do examiners give good marks to?
1. Ability to construct and gauge your own position on particular issues, using
the knowledge you have acquired. Remember that, in some of the subjects we
deal with, there are no absolutely 'right' or 'wrong' answers to questions, as in
mathematics or physics – there are better, or worse, argued points of view.
Remember too that you do not gain marks simply for agreeing with your
lecturer's views – examiners are looking for what you think
2. Putting your own position includes the capacity to assess independently and
critically a range of evidence and the views/arguments of others, using a wide
range of sources. We are expecting you will be able to do this with ease at the
3. ability to grasp, assess and communicate the key points of any issue or
question; to differentiate what is more and less important
4. To differentiate between contrasting approaches (like socialist and free-market
economic policies) and how they work out 'on the ground', in policy debates,
5. writing/communicating crisply and economically (making the most of limited
6. Proper bibliography, citation
Good luck! I cannot guarantee that following this sheet will automatically result in a
high grade – that is up to you – but each essay will be assessed on the criteria above.
In particular, the use of a wide range of sources is essential to the possibility of a
high grade. Reading one article off the web, or citing one of my lectures, does not
constitute 'using a wide range of sources'.
What do examiners dislike? (What you should avoid)
1. failing to answer the question
2. poor organisation of your answer
3. failing to keep to the point
4. use of rhetoric (assertion) rather than argument (reasoning) – e.g.
unsubstantiated statements like ‘US policy in Africa has been a disaster’ with
5. sloppy use of evidence, including over-generalisation
6. too much description without analysis
7. summarising what others say without putting your own position
8. unnecessary repetition.
9. Doing no background reading and not citing many sources
11. late work
A humorous list of things to avoid http://granta.com/how-to-write-about-africa/
Simon Batterbury 2002, drawing on Henry Bernstein, 1994. “How to write good
essays” mimeo, Manchester.