English Language OCR - 'Topical Issues' Structure

According to research of the OCR specification and what I've been taught, this is some advice on how to structure your answer for Q2 on Paper One: 'Topical Issues'. 

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Before you write the essay:

You must state the place you are writing for. e.g. Buzzfeed, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, a personal blog, ect.

Include a Title and Subtitle related to your discussion. Questions for subtitles are useful, but remember that you’re being tested on creativity (AO5). 

Struggling to think of a title? An interesting way to think of a title is to think of pop culture references related to the possible topics.

e.g. songs for CLA? Baby by Justin Bieber. TV references for CLA? Stewie Griffin. Songs for Power? Power of Love (Language) by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

Adding breadcrums can gain you a mark. E.g. Huffington Post > Young Voices OR The Guardian > Opinion 

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Possible Topics

Possible topics that you can be asked to discuss (not explicitly): 

  • Language and Gender
  • Language and Power
  • Language Change
  • Child Language Acquisition
  • Language and Technology (Sociolect and Idiolect)
  • Accent and Dialect
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Arguing your point

When planning your answer, look at both YES and NO sides of the argument and argue the strongest side. It’s important that you convey and argue your opinion strongly, tentative language can be thrown out of the window here, you have to seem confident and head-set. 

If you are going to include the counter-argument, make sure it’s brief and even slate it.

For example if you’re Q is: Modern technology is improving language, not killing it’ and you were arguing YES:

Yes, language is improving because….. While Jean Aitchison mentioned that a prescriptivist’s view of this change is that language is like a ‘crumbling castle’ and needs preserving, this is implying that language was once perfect.

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Anecdotal Evidence

Using evidence to back up your argument is important. Using anecdotal evidence alongside the theories is great, for example if you can talk about how your little brother pronounces things and what’s great about this is that you can make it up - talk about your little brother even if you don’t have one.

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Creative Style

It’s marked on AO2 and AO5, which means which means ‘critical understanding in concepts and issues’ and ‘creativity’.

Try and be witty and comedic, but don’t over power it. Remember to stay true to the subject and show off you’re expertise.

As well as snarky remarks, mockery, or pop-culture references, there should be equally as much critical thinking, linguistic knowledge and expertise.

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Non-specialist Audience

Which ever publication you’re writing for, it’s a wise idea to consider NSA (Non-specialist audiences). For example, don’t just write prescriptivist and expect the audience to know what you mean. A brief and informed explanation will seal the deal.

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