How to Write an Essay Page 1 How to write an essay 1. Definition of Thesis Statement a.
Thesis statement: A single sentence that controls and directs the entire essay, which states the topic and main point clearly while focusing on one element. You will explain or illustrate with facts while including a judgment. b. Thesis Checklist i. This statement focuses on a single, limited subject. 1. It is the main idea of your entire paper. 2. It is an expression of your position in a full, declarative sentence. 3. It controls the focus of the entire paper. 4. It points forward to the conclusion. 5. It conforms to your reasons, examples, and evidence. ii. Thesis is stated in clear, direct sentence (or sentences). iii. Thesis conveys your point of view or attitude about the topic, but avoids having it based on a personal opinion. iv. You have access to enough good information to support your thesis statement. v. Thesis statement is not too broad or too vague. vi. Thesis statement is not based on an obvious truth (e.g., “Breakfast is an important meal”). vii. Thesis statement conforms to your reasons, examples, and evidence. viii. Thesis statement answers the “why” with a “because,” “since,” or similar statement. 2. Writing the A+ essay a. Introduction should include: i. Topic sentence, which should catch the reader’s attention. ii. Overview of what you plan on discussing in your paper. iii. Thesis statement, which states your POSITION. iv. Smooth transition into your next paragraph b. Avoid these mistakes in your introduction: i. Avoid a purpose statement, such as, “The purpose of this …,” “Now I shall prove …,” “In this paragraph I will tell you ….” Remember, demonstrate, illustrate, suggest, but don’t “show,” don’t “tell,” don’t “prove,” don’t “say.” ii. Avoid repetition of the title or text. iii. Avoid complex or difficult questions that may puzzle your reader if you are not going to address these questions or puzzles to completion in your paper. iv. Avoid simple definitions: explain. v. Avoid artwork or cute lettering. http://www.essayacademia.com/
How to Write an Essay Page 2 Examples of a working three-part (or three-pronged) thesis Opinion and fact Dracula was one of the better films this summer because of its setting, action, and philosophy. Consequence Social ostracism, great expense, and personal hardship are three of the unfortunate results of the most dangerous disease of the century: AIDS. Autobiographical From my personal experience, I believe that poor preparation, alcohol consumption, and insect infestation can cause most family picnics to fail. 3. Introductory paragraph The first paragraph of an essay serves as a type of funnel opening to the essay. It draws and invites readers into the discussion, which is then focused by the thesis statement before the work of the essay actually begins. You may want to consider delaying your thesis statement until the end of the introductory paragraph for expository essays. This would differ if you were writing, say, a Social Studies position paper, where you may be required to develop a shorter introductory paragraph that restates the issue in one or two sentences. What you are learning is that there is more than one way to create an effective introductory paragraph. The following illustrates some of the different forms: a. The Funnel Approach You can start with a general statement and more logically to the thesis statement. To catch the reader’s interest, you can start with an interesting fact or statistic. Only a small percentage of British children was enrolled in schools in the nineteenth century. In fact, for most In his
of the time, no public education was provided.
novel, Great Expectations, Charles Dickens criticized the education that was available. [Notice how the statistic
acts as a hook for the topic!] http://www.essayacademia.com/ b. The Inverted Funnel Approach You can start with a quotation or anecdote to lead to the thesis.
How to Write an Essay Page 3 “By education most have been misled,” declared John Dryden, anticipating Dickens’ view of schooling in nineteenth century England. In Great Expectations, the
novelist depicted his hero as a victim of poor teaching. Poor teachers who used inefficient methods staffed the school Pip attended. [Here the hook is a quotation.]
The beating of students was common in nineteenth century English schools. Charles Dickens has described
pupils as victims of this common disciplinary method. Corporal punishment was not the only problem encountered by students. Poor teachers who used inefficient methods
staffed the school Dickens’ hero in Great Expectations attended. [An anecdote serves as the hook in this case.]
c. Comparison/Contrast Approach You can start your introduction with an interesting phrase opposite to your thesis. The serious student of today was unknown in Dickens’ day. In Great Expectations, he painted the average pupil Pip, the hero of the
as an idler and mischief-maker.
book, saw disinterested students in a non-productive atmosphere. The faulty teaching method used was the
cause of this poor education.
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d. The Problem-Solving Approach You can present a problem and deal with its solution in your paper. Why did Dickens criticize the education offered in nineteenth century England? In many of his novels, he
had established himself as a commentator on life in his time, dealing with children in prison and in the work force. Since he was concerned about young people, he In
naturally concentrated on their preparation for life. Great Expectations, he surveyed the field of education
and found problems in the areas of the teaching staff and inefficient instruction. here.] e. Things not to do in an Introductory Paragraph i. Don’t apologize. Never suggest that you don’t know what you’re talking about or that you’re not enough of an expert in this matter that your opinion would matter. Avoid phrases like: 1. “In my humble opinion ….” 2. “I’m not sure about this, but ….” ii. Don’t announce your intentions. Do not flatly announce what you are about to do in an essay: 1. “In this paper I will ….” 2. The purpose of this essay is to ….” Get into the topic and let your reader perceive your purpose in the topic sentence of your beginning paragraph. [The question provides the hook
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iii. Don’t use a dictionary or encyclopedia definition. 1. “According to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, bigotry means ….” 2. “The Encyclopedia Brittanica explains that ….” Although definitions are extremely useful and it might serve your purpose to devise your own definition(s) later in the essay, you want to avoid using this hackneyed, cliché beginning to your essay. iv. Don’t dilly-dally. Get to it. Move confidently into your essay. Many writers find it useful tow rite a warm-up paragraph (or two, even!) to get them into an essay, to sharpen their own idea of what they’re up to, and then they go back and delete the running start. 4. Body paragraphs a. Fact sentences are sentences that are a demonstration of “reading the lines”— irrefutable evidence or illustrations to support your thesis. These are always cited to enable the reader to reference the source. b. Fact sentences are either direct quotes; a paraphrase of a sentence, paragraph, or chapter; or a summary of a section, chapter, or book. These are always cited to enable the reader to reference the source. c. Thought sentences are sentences that demonstrate “reading between the lines”— your interpretation of the facts and how they support your thesis. These should vary in structure, length, and composition. These are your thoughts! Express them eloquently and uniquely. d. Transition sentences are the last sentence of each paragraph. This last sentence should reflect: i. What you have just discussed in the paragraph ii. A signal to change into the next paragraph 5. Conclusions In your conclusion you should restate your thesis. This is called an “echo.” Go beyond the thesis, however, by stating something worthwhile: reach a judgment; endorse an issue; discuss findings; offer directives. It’s the big “ah ha” moment of your paper. Leave the reader with a thought-provoking statement. If you’ve raised a question in your opening paragraph, you’re answering that question now. Asking yourself, “What was important about what I’ve written?” and “Why is it significant?” are helpful questions. Most writers agree that in the expository/analytical form of writing, a philosophy or theme should conclude the essay. As the writer, ask yourself, “What was important and why?” about the essay, then what does this teach mankind, or how is this applicable in the human experience?
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Graphic depiction of your opening paragraph: “ ” ? ! SS F.A. P.E. Ha-Ha
Expand/Explain/Define General Topic Observation Specific Focus (details) Personal Opinion (judgment)
“ ” ? ! S.S. F.A. P.E. Ha-Ha = Direct Quote = Question = Startling Statement = Shocking Statistic = Factual Account = Personal Experience = Joke or Humor
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Flow Chart of A+ Essay Structure
Introduction • Arouse reader curiosity • Establish working foundation (facts, background) • Reveal your purpose and position (thesis statement)
First support to Main Idea/Thesis Describe using concrete examples from the text or a direct quotation (cite your source). • Support each fact sentence with two thought sentences. • Transition
Conclusion • Tie all ideas together. • Echo the thesis. • Go beyond the thesis by stating something worthwhile: o Reach a judgment o Endorse an issue o Discuss findings o Offer directives • Leave the reader with a thought-provoking Transition statement. • Avoid presenting new ideas • Avoid stopping at an awkward spot.
Second Support to Main Idea/Thesis • Describe using concrete examples from the text or a direct quotation (cite your source). • Support each fact sentence with two thought sentences. Transition
Third Support to Main Idea/Thesis • Describe using concrete examples from the text or a direct quotation (cite your source). • Support each fact sentence with two thought sentences.