The Contextual Study – a quick guide.

Unless writing a theoretical essay, all students taking creative writing modules will be expected to compose a contextual study to accompany their creative work in assessments. Marks will be deducted if a contextual study is not included in conjunction with the piece. What is a contextual study? The contextual study is often something that causes confusion among our students. In fact, it’s quite a simple concept that will give you a valuable opportunity to discuss the work you’ve presented, and which will demonstrate your skills as a self-reflexive writer. Basically, it enables you to put your work in context, so that as assessors, we can see that you’re aware of what you’re doing when you’re writing, that you are able to be a self-critic in a productive way. Things you might want to include when you’re writing a contextual study will obviously vary from piece to piece, and as you go through the course, it will naturally become more advanced in style, etc as you become more confident in your writing. The most important questions you’ll probably find yourself asking are ‘how’ – as in ‘how did I do this?’ And ‘why’ – as in ‘why did I choose to do it this way?’ However, specific elements will probably include: Fiction: You might want to talk about your decisions regarding: Style of narrative and why you chose that style. Character creation. Choice of viewpoint/tense – why for example, did you choose first person POV over third, or present tense over past? Plot structure, if any; and if not why not? Use of figurative language – e.g. metaphor, motif, symbol, etc. Use of imagery – how has imagery shaped your piece? Have you used any kind of experimental/innovative styles of writing? If so, discuss the piece’s structure, language – whatever it is you’ve done that makes your piece ‘different’. What precursors are there to the piece you’ve written, e.g., what were your influences, if any? Are you trying to copy another writer’s style, for example, as an experiment? What are your contemporary influences? If you’re writing in a certain genre, e.g. horror, what conventions of that genre have you used? And have you subverted the conventions – if so, how and why?

Creative Non-Fiction uses very similar elements to fiction. Showing this kind of self-reflexivity shows us that you’re aware. if you’re unhappy with the way a piece has gone. Formatting (lineation. contemporaries. so please come and discuss problems with us. Imagery/metaphor (use of. punctuation. all students writing contextual studies should certainly consider mentioning: are you happy with what you’ve written? Do you think it works well? Or did your piece not quite fulfil your expectations. so refer back to those for guidance. may prioritise one aspect of the above. and possibly font). We have already seen what you’ve submitted. was it even – in your opinion – a complete disaster? Discussing these aspects in your contextual study will show awareness of yourself as a writer.Poetry: You might want to discuss: Style and use of language. And remember: if in doubt about your contextual study – or any other piece of work you undertake – we’re always around to help. As well as the above aspects. for instance. Lesley  . or not). Certain forms of poetries. particularly innovative poetry. re-telling achieves nothing. so you will no doubt want to expand on this throughout the study. you might want to say how you might do it differently next time. The context of the piece – precursors. and the poetics of the piece. What we DO NOT want to see is a re-telling of your piece. and we can consider the piece accordingly.

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