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Your name and year here (i.d. number only in P2 and P3).

Your tutor’s name.

Module Title and number.

Date of submission.

The essay question goes here, written out in full.

You may want to centre it.

This page gives you a rough idea of what a completed essay should look like, although we

should add that essays for different disciplines follow different formats, and your other major

subject may require a format that is a little different from that required for English essays. You

can see from this example that essays should use a standard font and font size throughout. Here I

have used Times New Roman, 12 point: this, or something similar, is what you should use in the

essays you hand in. You can also see from this example that I have used A4 paper, double spaced

the lines, used left justification rather than full (left and right) justification, put two spaces

between sentences, and left margins of an inch on both sides of the page: again, you should do all

this in your own essays. It is not necessary to include a cover sheet or title page for your essay,

and neither is it necessary to put it in a folder. In fact, in the School of English and Philosophy

the office staff remove the folders before distributing the essays to the tutors, so it is a waste of

your money to put essays in folders. A simple staple will suffice, but do make sure you remember

the staple.

You will note, too, that there is no need to leave extra spaces between paragraphs, but that

it is necessary to indent the first line of a new paragraph. This you do by pressing the TAB key.

You should also make sure to remember to number your pages (ensuring that you put the page

number in a position where it will not be obscured by the staple) and to spell check and proof read

before you print off your final version and hand it in. Do not rely on the spell check alone,

because it will miss errors: it will not tell you, for example, that there is a mistake in the sentence,

‘Robinson Crusoe lived on an erotic island’; nor will it correct you when you refer to Alexandra

Pope or Evelyn War. Even published authors can find themselves in considerable trouble if they

fail to proof read correctly. In Shakespeare’s The Tempest Prospero conducts a ceremony

blessing the union of his daughter Miranda with Ferdinand, son of the King of Naples. During

that ceremony spirits wish upon the couple all the blessings of the earth:


Earth’s increase, foison plenty,

Barns and garners never empty,

Vines with clust’ring bunches growing,

Plants with goodly burden bowing;

Spring come to you at the farthest,

In the very end of harvest!

Scarcity and want shall shun you;

Ceres’ blessing so is on you. (Shakespeare 1987, 4.1.110-115)

John G. Demaray, writing about this passage in his recent book, Shakespeare and the Spectacles

of Strangeness: ‘The Tempest’ and the Transformation of Renaissance Theatrical Forms,

apparently relied too heavily on his spell checker, rather than proof-reading carefully. As a result,

in his text, Ceres wishes ‘poison plenty’, and ‘barrens and garners, near empty’ upon the happy

couple, and, refers to ‘the very end of hairiest’ rather than the very end of harvest’ (Demaray,

1998, 122-23).

In English, essays should follow the MHRA Style Book: Notes for Authors, Editors, and

Writers of Theses, ed. by Derek Brown and others, 5th edn (Leeds: Modern Humanities Research

Association, 1996). The MLA Handbook and the Chicago Manual of Style are also acceptable,

but you should make sure that you are consistent, whichever you choose. There is a rather longer

synopsis of the most important elements of presentation in the department handbook. You can see

from the quotations above, though, that shorter quotations (less than four lines of poetry, or less

than sixty words of prose) are enclosed in single inverted commas and run on with the main text.

Longer quotations do not need inverted commas, but are separated from the main text by a

skipped line before and after them, and indented. You must give proper references for quotations,

and also for ideas which you have taken from other sources. Here I have used the Author-Date

system, wherein references within the text refer the reader to a bibliography appearing at the end

of it. For undergraduate essays the bibliography should include all the works you have consulted,

not only those you have cited in the essay. There are different rules and regulations for the citing

of books, articles and essays, and you should consult the department handbook, or one of the

various manuals I have mentioned above for further details of correct citation when you come to

write your essays. Finally, you may find it useful to consult the checklist of tasks (see below)

immediately prior to handing your essay in. Finally, you should put a word count at the end of the

essay (the word count should be inclusive everything except the bibliography).

Word count: 856

tesol tasks
 Home
 Reading
 Writing
 Listening/Speaking
 Literature
 English A2/B
 Miscellaneous
 FAQs

Organising a Discursive Essay about Car Use

The two most common types of essays are the argumentative and the discursive.

 An argumentative essay opens with a boldly expressed point of view and then the rest of the essay presents
arguments (examples, proof or logic) to support that point of view. Normally, it refers to opposing
arguments but demonstrates that these are weak or even false. (Look at this essay about zoos for an
 A discursive essay presents both sides of the issue in a more balanced way. In the end, however, it
normally reaches a conclusion; in other words, the writer states what s/he thinks. The following is an
example of how a discursive essay on handguns might be structured:

 Introduction

: The issue of handgun ownership

A. Some people believe individuals should not own handguns
B. Others believe ownership is an important personal right
 Disadvantages

of handgun ownership
- Both adults and children can have accidents
- People can use guns for crimes
 Advantages

of handgun ownership
+ People can protect themselves from intruders
+ People can use guns for recreational purposes (e.g. target practice at gun clubs)
 Conclusion

(a summary & evaluation of arguments above)

= Problems of accidents and crime make gun ownership difficult to
= Gun ownership should not be allowed in the interest of a better
Your task in this assignment is to write a discursive essay about the advantages and disadvantages of car use. You
will be given the various arguments both in favour of, and against, car use. Your first task will be to organise these


Read the following notes.

 Identify all the points in favour of car use and mark them with the symbol ü .
 Identify all the points against car use and mark them with the symbol û .

o Not restricted by schedules as you are with public transport

o Comfortable (spacious, cool, radio/CD etc.)
o They cause air pollution (e.g. exhaust emissions contribute to global warming)
o Roads deface the natural landscape and destroy/disturb wildlife habitats
o Fast, less time-consuming than public transport
o Car parks take up valuable space in city centres (could be used for public gardens instead?)
o Fairly cheap to run?
o Car accidents result in many deaths and injuries
o Modern fuels are lead-free and getting "cleaner"
o Traffic jams lead to stress and "road rage" (angry drivers attacking others)
o Car use contributes to a faster, less natural pace of life that often results in high blood
pressure and heart disease


Now that you have sorted your points into two groups, you will be able to divide the body of your essay into two
sections: advantages and disadvantages (or possibly the other way round). However, each of these two sections still
needs to be divided further – into topics. Each topic will then become a paragraph in the essay.

 Take the advantages above and arrange them under the topic headings of "Convenient" and "Efficient".
 Take the disadvantages and arrange them under the topic headings of "Bad for the environment",
"Dangerous" and "Stressful".


A well-made paragraph usually starts with a topic sentence. This contains the main idea or argument of the
paragraph. It is followed by a few illustrations or examples that support it. In the case of your essay on car use, the
topic sentences in the body of the essay will cover the points in TASK 2 (above).

 Write topic sentences based on each of the headings in Task 2 (i.e. "Convenient", "Efficient" etc.). Here is
an example:

Cars are extremely popular because they are so convenient.

Do not be satisfied with the first thing you write. Rewrite it; share it with a classmate or your teacher;
aim for a more effective sentence.


The structure of your essay is going to be as follows:

 Paragraph 1 (INTRODUCTION)
 Paragraph 2 (Convenient …) ü
 Paragraph 3 (Efficient ...) ü
 Paragraph 4 (Bad for the environment …) û
 Paragraph 5 (Dangerous …) û
 Paragraph 6 (Stressful …) û
 Paragraph 7 (CONCLUSION)

Unless, of course, you decide to deal with the disadvantages first …

You still need to plan an introduction. Basically, this will state that there are both advantages and disadvantages to
car use. However, it will sound rather weak if you simply write: "There are both advantages and disadvantages to
car use". It will make a stronger impact if you start with a bold or surprising statement, or perhaps a striking
statistic. For example:

We have become extremely dependent on cars: there were 580 million worldwide in 1990 and it is
estimated that this figure will grow to 816 million by 2010.
You can follow this with a summary of the main arguments contained in the body of the essay. You should present
these in the order they will appear later.

 Continue this opening paragraph by adding sentences from the jumbled list below. Present them in the
same order as the plan above.

We have become extremely dependent on cars: there were 580 million worldwide in 1990 and it is
estimated that this figure will grow to 816 million by 2010.
 Thirdly, some people argue that they contribute to the frantic, unhealthy pace of modern life.
 On the other hand, there are powerful arguments against car use.
 Firstly, they damage the environment.
 Clearly cars are so popular because they are both convenient and efficient.
 Secondly, they kill and maim large numbers of people.


Let us save the conclusion for later. (Basically, it will sum up the main arguments again and evaluate them – in
other words, you will say whether you think car use should be limited or even banned.)

First, you will try to write the body paragraphs – paragraphs 2-6 in the plan above. Each paragraph already has
a topic sentence. The challenge now is to support it with illustrations or examples. For example (paragraph 2):

Cars are extremely popular because they are so convenient. They allow us far more freedom than
public transport which is often unreliable, slow or even unavailable. Given a choice between walking
in the rain to join a bus queue or stepping straight into a car and driving directly to one’s destination,
who would prefer the latter? Furthermore, cars are more comfortable than buses or trains since they
are less cramped and have luxuries such as an air-conditioner and a sound system.

 Now use the points below to complete paragraphs 3-6. (Start each sentence with your topic sentence from
TASK 3.)

 Fast, less time-consuming than public transport

 Fairly cheap to run, especially if you use a small model
 Modern fuels are lead-free and do not cause a lot of pollution
 They cause air pollution (exhaust emissions contribute to global warming and health problems
such as asthma)
 Roads spoil the natural landscape and disturb wildlife habitats
 Car parks take up valuable space in cities that could otherwise be used for recreation
 Car accidents result in many deaths and injuries (e.g. approx. 125,000 people were killed in
road crashes in the OECD’s 29 member countries in 1999, enough to fill 300 jumbo jets)
 Traffic jams lead to stress and "road rage" (angry drivers attacking others)
 Car use contributes to a faster, less natural pace of life that often results in high blood
pressure and heart disease

You do not need to change the language much. However, you certainly will need to use some linking
words/phrases, such as the following:
 For example, …
 For instance, …
 … also …

 In addition, …
 Furthermore, …
 What is more, …
 Another argument against car use is that …
 Another disadvantage of car use is that …
 Similarly, …


Finally, you need a conclusion. Avoid a weak "sitting on the fence" conclusion such as this: "There are some strong
points both for and against car use and it all depends on what your opinion is." Instead you should sum up the
arguments you have already covered and state whether, on balance, you think the advantages outweigh the
disadvantages or vice-versa. It may be effective to present the arguments in reverse order this time. For example:

In conclusion, car ownership has several negative effects, including stress, road accidents and
destruction of the natural environment. Nevertheless, we have become very dependent on cars
because of the comfort and freedom they offer. A total ban seems out of the question, but for the
sake of our own health and the health of the planet, we must aim to reduce car use – for example, by
improving public transport systems and introducing car pooling schemes.


 Now try a discursive essay on a different topic. You could try the one about handguns (see notes above).
Other possible topics include:

 Computer use by children

 Television viewing
 School uniforms

You may have a better idea yourself, but please check it first with your teacher. Whichever topic you choose, you
will need to do some research first and then draw up an essay plan. Without a plan, you will almost certainly
produce a disorganised, ineffective essay!

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