A good way to increase your mark to a First Class award is to incorporate less common source material into your research. The type of material will vary depending on your field, but often includes primary sources (historical documents, film or video, scientific data sets, etc.). You might also include information from less-common secondary sources, particularly where these sources have provided foundational theories for more widely-known work. Including sources of this nature demonstrates your research and analytical abilities.
In addition to citing texts you might also include tables, figures, and illustrations to support your arguments. These are particularly useful to support complex or controversial points, and they prove to examiners that you can critically analyse small details and apply them to your broader work. For the highest marks, avoid using these in the main body of the work and instead place them in appendices that you can refer to in parentheses.
Many assignments that receive a 2.1 will use a good range of source materials but neglect to blend the ideas together in a coherent, synthesised way. To earn a First, try to combine the theories of multiple authors when you are addressing a single point. This may involve comparing and contrasting their ideas, or showing how one theorist furthers the work of another. Writing in this way will show your markers that you truly understand these ideas and that you know exactly how they apply to your topic.
First class work will demonstrate a critical approach to the topic overall. This requires an analysis of material that goes beyond a simple summary or overview, and instead offers a detailed critique. You should demonstrate an ability to reflect on the views of other authors, and also address viewpoints that contradict your own argument.
One of the main keys to achieving a First is to demonstrate some originality in your work. The degree of originality will vary depending on the level of your course, but in general you should prove your ability to think independently and construct arguments with your own original slant.
To earn top marks it is always best to write more than one draft, and if possible show these to tutors. If you start this process early enough you may be able to submit at least two drafts to your tutor, and this will greatly improve the content of your work overall. It will also demonstrate your dedication to your tutor, who will likely be the first person marking you!
Greetham, B. (2013) How to write better essays. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Northedge, A. (2005) The good study guide. [S.l.]: Open University Press.
Open University Course Team (2008) Thinking Critically. Milton Keynes: The Open University.