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Basic Components of College Writing

Basic Components of College Writing

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Published by: AliaStearns on Jan 07, 2013
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The components of any college essay will depend largely on the specific assignment.Nonetheless, most assignments will require your paper to include several common parts. Theexpectations of what will "fill" those parts can change dramatically with each assignment withina class and from one course to another. Always consult Assignment Instructions for theparticulars.
Page Set-up Format:
You should always have your own name, the class and class hour, the assignment number orname, and the teacher's name on the first page of the paper. You should also have page numbers(usually in the upper right corner) and a title (usually centered below the name, class, andteacher). Margins should be 1-1.25 inches on all sides and, unless otherwise instructed, you
should use double spacing, standard 12 point type, Times New Roman font in black, and a .5”
indentation for new paragraphs. Staple the paper once in the upper left corner.----------------------------------------------Example----------------------------------------------------
Jane DoeAlia StearnsGE36112 May 2012Writing Can Be Hard (But I Love It)There are very few people who would say they absolutely love towrite. Most people find writing difficult, and I am no exception tothat generalization. Despite the struggles I often face when writing,I can truly say that writing is one of my passions, and I enjoy itimmensely.
Titles are important. You should try to be creative and find a title that reflects the paper's mainidea, not just the name of the assignment.
The introduction is usually a single paragraph that grabs the reader's attention and providesbackground for the thesis and the rest of the paper. Many people like to start with a surprisingstatistic, an exciting example, or a hypothetical story. In more academic papers or arguments, itmight be more useful to survey the various opinions on a subject or provide a historical or socialcontext for the topic. Regardless of how you introduce your paper, you should not get into the
details you will use in the rest of the paper. If you summarize the whole paper in the intro, therest of the paper will seem repetitive. If you provide too much about the main point of the paper,there will be little incentive for someone to read the rest. Instead, use the
to providegeneral background for your ideas. Then use your
to hint at the specific points the paperwill make.
Thesis Statement:
The thesis statement is usually the last sentence of the introduction. It turns the reader's attentionfrom the more general introduction or a specific example in the introduction to the point thewriter will be making in the paper. Ideally, the thesis statement might even indicate the essay'sstructure. The thesis is usually 1-2 sentences long. It should carefully reflect the full scope of the paper but do so without saying too much. Often the best thesis statements are complex orcompound sentences in which the paper deals with the full explanation of each part of the thesisand the logical relationship between those parts. (Ex.
Although I have never enjoyedwriting for school, I have always written extensively for my ownenjoyment.
Although the pressure associated with competitioncan become excessive and lead to negative effects, theexperience of age-appropriate competition can also preparechildren for the challenges of life.
Body Paragraphs that Support the Thesis:
After the introduction and thesis (which are usually contained in the first paragraph), papersshould have a fair number of body paragraphs that support the thesis. There is no pre-determined number of body paragraphs for any assignment, and the number of paragraphs willusually be determined by the complexity of the thesis and the page limit set by the teacher. Mostcollege essays are somewhere between 2 and 15 pages in length, so there can be as few as 2-4body paragraphs or more than two dozen. The length of the paragraphs can vary as well;however, it is rare for a paragraph to have fewer than 4-5 sentences or for a paragraph to belonger than a page. Body paragraphs typically include a topic sentence, transitional termssignaling the connection to the preceding paragraph, and fully developed ideas and examples.
Topic Sentences
Paragraphs generally focus on one part of one idea or a cluster of related ideas. The paragraphusually begins with a topic sentence that makes a general statement that the rest of the paragraphwill explain more completely. Thus, in a sense, each paragraph often uses a topic sentence as itsown micro-thesis for that one paragraph.The topic sentences of the body paragraphs should show a clear relationship to the thesis. Forexample, look at the possible topic sentences for the following thesis statement. Each of thesetopic sentences can be the starting point for a whole paragraph on that sub-topic, and eachreflects some aspect of the thesis. You can add a phrase or dependent clause to the topicsentence to create a
Transition (see next page for details):
Although I never enjoyed writing for school, I have alwaysenjoyed writing for myself.
Topic Sentences:
1. I always struggled with writing for school. In elementary school,
2. High school writing experiences were equally uninspiring…
3. Despite these negative experiences in school, I have always writtenfor personal communication and found that kind of writing very
enjoyable. When I was twelve, I had a pen pal…4. When I was in the military, I kept a journal…
 5. Now I have long email conversations with friends who live in otherstates
Supporting Details:
The supporting details you use to flesh out your thesis and topic sentences should be wellorganized and meaningful. Try to arrange the ideas within your paragraph in chronologicalorder, from general to specific, from abstract concept to example to significance or some otherlogical order. It is important for the paragraph to be well developed but it should also havecoherence and focus. If you keep in mind the dominant impression you want the paragraph toprovide and build upon that, you should have a good paragraph. Nothing destroys a good ideamore quickly than b.s. or randomly accumulated mundane details, so if you find yourself resorting to fluff to fill space, take some time to brainstorm your plans for the paragraph.
Transitions provide logical connections between the
topic sentences
of two or more paragraphs.Notice how the topic sentences in #2 and 3 on the preceding page begin with words like
“equally” to transition from a similar example and phrases like “despite these….” to transition
from examples that are different from the first few examples
The conclusion, like the introduction, is usually one paragraph. It rarely contains extendedexamples or material absolutely essential to the essay; however, it might make some final pointabout the thesis, offer some final reflections on the topic, or explain the significance of the mainpoint. It might suggest a course of action, a solution to a problem, or explain the consequencesof ignoring the point the paper makes
Citations and Works Cited Page:
The Works Cited page is essential any time you refer to other published material in your paper.The rules for formatting these citations are complex, and there are several different systems fromwhich to choose. This class uses the MLA system. A sample citation and works cited entrymight look like this:
In-text Citation:
…As Suzanne Sievert suggests, eliminating competitive environmentsfor children doesn’t teach them about the challenges inherent in life.She acknowledges that we shouldn’t “pit our children against each

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