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THE BASIC COMPONENTS OF A COLLEGE ESSAY

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. The expectations of what will "fill" those parts can change dramatically with each assignment within a class and from one course to another. Always consult Assignment Instructions for the particulars.

Page Set-up Format:


You should always have your own name, the class and class hour, the assignment number or name, 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, and teacher). 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 Doe Alia Stearns GE361 12 May 2012 Writing Can Be Hard (But I Love It) There are very few people who would say they absolutely love to write. Most people find writing difficult, and I am no exception to Despite the struggles I often face when writing,

that generalization.

I can truly say that writing is one of my passions, and I enjoy it immensely.

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Title:
Titles are important. You should try to be creative and find a title that reflects the paper's main idea, not just the name of the assignment.

Introduction:
The introduction is usually a single paragraph that grabs the reader's attention and provides background for the thesis and the rest of the paper. Many people like to start with a surprising statistic, an exciting example, or a hypothetical story. In more academic papers or arguments, it might be more useful to survey the various opinions on a subject or provide a historical or social context for the topic. Regardless of how you introduce your paper, you should not get into the
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details you will use in the rest of the paper. If you summarize the whole paper in the intro, the rest 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 intro to provide general background for your ideas. Then use your thesis to hint at the specific points the paper will make.

Thesis Statement:
The thesis statement is usually the last sentence of the introduction. It turns the reader's attention from the more general introduction or a specific example in the introduction to the point the writer will be making in the paper. Ideally, the thesis statement might even indicate the essay's structure. 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 or compound sentences in which the paper deals with the full explanation of each part of the thesis and the logical relationship between those parts. (Ex. Although I have never enjoyed writing for school, I have always written extensively for my own enjoyment. OR Although the pressure associated with competition can become excessive and lead to negative effects, the experience of age-appropriate competition can also prepare children for the challenges of life.

Body Paragraphs that Support the Thesis:


After the introduction and thesis (which are usually contained in the first paragraph), papers should have a fair number of body paragraphs that support the thesis. There is no predetermined number of body paragraphs for any assignment, and the number of paragraphs will usually be determined by the complexity of the thesis and the page limit set by the teacher. Most college essays are somewhere between 2 and 15 pages in length, so there can be as few as 2-4 body 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 be longer than a page. Body paragraphs typically include a topic sentence, transitional terms signaling 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 paragraph usually begins with a topic sentence that makes a general statement that the rest of the paragraph will explain more completely. Thus, in a sense, each paragraph often uses a topic sentence as its own micro-thesis for that one paragraph. The topic sentences of the body paragraphs should show a clear relationship to the thesis. For example, look at the possible topic sentences for the following thesis statement. Each of these topic sentences can be the starting point for a whole paragraph on that sub-topic, and each reflects some aspect of the thesis. You can add a phrase or dependent clause to the topic sentence to create a Transition (see next page for details): Thesis: Although I never enjoyed writing for school, I have always
enjoyed writing for myself.
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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 written for 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 other states

Supporting Details:
The supporting details you use to flesh out your thesis and topic sentences should be well organized and meaningful. Try to arrange the ideas within your paragraph in chronological order, from general to specific, from abstract concept to example to significance or some other logical order. It is important for the paragraph to be well developed but it should also have coherence and focus. If you keep in mind the dominant impression you want the paragraph to provide and build upon that, you should have a good paragraph. Nothing destroys a good idea more 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:
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

Conclusion:
The conclusion, like the introduction, is usually one paragraph. It rarely contains extended examples or material absolutely essential to the essay; however, it might make some final point about the thesis, offer some final reflections on the topic, or explain the significance of the main point. It might suggest a course of action, a solution to a problem, or explain the consequences of 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 from which to choose. This class uses the MLA system. A sample citation and works cited entry might look like this: In-text Citation:
As Suzanne Sievert suggests, eliminating competitive environments for children doesnt teach them about the challenges inherent in life. She acknowledges that we shouldnt pit our children against each
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other in fierce competition in all aspects of life (321).

She wants

readers to understand that winning and losing are part of life and should be introduced to children so they can learn from their mistakes (321).

Works Cited Page: -------last page of paper--------------------------------------Works Cited Sievert, Suzanne. Its Not Just How We Play That Matters. The Ed. Barbara Fine Clouse.

Student Writer, Editor, and Critic. New York: McGraw/Hill, 2010.

321-322.

Works Cited

Holt, John. School Is Bad for Children. The Student Writer, Editor, and Critic. 2010. 8-12. Its Not Just How We Play That Matters. The Ed. Barbara Fine Clouse. Ed. Barbara Fine Clouse. New York: McGraw/Hill,

Sievert, Suzanne.

Student Writer, Editor, and Critic. New York: McGraw/Hill, 2010. Weiss, Michael. Critic. 443-445.

321-322.

Its Just Too Easy. The Student Writer, Editor, and New York: McGraw/Hill, 2010.

Ed. Barbara Fine Clouse.