Writing is an activity many people make unnecessarily difficult. Although there are many rules to follow, there are several principle guidelines that, once learned, will make essay-writing simple. It is important to remain focused, as essays should always be clear, cohesive, and to the point. Secondly, solid organization is imperative. To properly organize your essay, you must include the following: an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion. These are discussed in greater detail below, along with a few other helpful hints.
Introduction and thesis statement:
In your first paragraph you will want to introduce the main point of your paper. Your goal for the introductory paragraph is to clearly and concisely let the reader know what your paper is about, and what it is you are trying to communicate.
Be specific.The point of an introduction is to clearly present a thesis statement. As far as organization of your first paragraph is concerned, you should start by providing the necessary background information on your topic and then conclude with your thesis statement–or the argument to be defended in your paper.
Remember that a thesis statement is not merely a repetition of the topic or question assigned, but it is a statement in which one clearly states the paper’s objective. If a question or subject is assigned, be sure that your thesis addresses it directly. Remember that the quality of your thesis statement will affect the overall impact of the essay.
Introductory paragraphs are often the most difficult part of a paper. Sometimes the best approach is to write a first paragraph, knowing that you will want to change it later. Often you will find that after you have written your paper you will have gained additional insight that will change your thesis statement. Also, unrelated topics or themes should never be included in an introduction, for they weaken an essay’s effectiveness and clarity by distracting the reader’s attention from the paper’s main purpose.
The main component of your paper, the body, must supply ample evidence in support of your thesis. The correct format for presenting your evidence is within body paragraphs -the fundamental units in essay writing. Each paragraph should represent and develop a single distinct idea.
Just as an essay as a whole needs clear and cohesive organization, paragraphs also must be organized around a central theme. This theme is always stated in a topic sentence, which is most often the paragraph’s first sentence. The topic sentence is then supported, explained, and/or defended by evidence in the rest of the paragraph.
Body paragraph sentences can express different types of information, all of which is potentially beneficial in developing strong paragraphs and essays. For example, they can provide reasons for a particular point of view, concrete details, specific examples, facts, statistics, or incidents and anecdotes. Individually or together, these sentence types will function in a paragraph to support and prove the topic sentence and thesis statement.
After you have written enough sentences to support your topic sentence, you should write a concluding sentence that summarizes the main point of the paragraph.Remember, four elements of strong paragraphs are:
- Completeness-a paragraph must have enough information in it to give the reader a clear picture or a full discussion of its main idea (the topic sentence). A paragraph without details or examples will be vague, unconvincing, and incomplete.
- Logical and sensible order-a paragraph’s sentences should be in a logical or sensible order so that the reader is not confused or forced to miss the main point of the paragraph.
- Unity-all sentences in a good paragraph relate to the topic sentence, when any idea doesn’t relate specifically to the paragraph’s main point, the paragraph is not unified.
- Coherence-all of a paragraph’s sentences should be clearly connected to each other.
Conclusion: Your final paragraph, the conclusion, should briefly draw together your evidence and reaffirm your thesis statement. If you have a firm understanding of the material, well-selected evidence, and a strong thesis, your conclusion should write itself. In other words, what does the essay argue or set out to demonstrate, and what are the conclusions which the writer wants the reader to discern and believe?
Keep in mind, conclusions are the place where the writer needs to be strongest, clearest, and most concise, since that is what will be read last and most remembered by the reader. Be persuasive.Ultimately, the quality of an essay is measured by whether or not the reader is persuaded by your thesis and how you supported it.
Revise and then revise again. A lack of revision, poor spelling, and bad grammar are signs to the reader that you have taken little pride in your own work. On this note, plan ahead. In order to revise, you have to finish your paper before the deadline. Try to finish the paper at least one day ahead of the deadline so that you have one final chance to revise the paper after a good’s night sleep.Also, seek help from others.Though it important that your paper be your own work, there is nothing wrong with asking for help.
Finally, always remember to remain focused. The purpose of writing is to communicate. If an essay, or any part of an essay, is unclear, be it a sentence, a paragraph or a theme, then the reader will not follow the writer’s argument. It is imperative, then, that the essay’s purpose be maintained from the first to the last sentence. And readers whose attention is not engaged by an essay will not “hear” what the writer is trying to say. Hence, nothing is communicated, nothing imparted, nothing learned.
Citations: Please use in-text citations to document the sources used within your essays, unless the material cited is considered general knowledge.And, because each of the paper assignments in this class only require one book (Thinking Through the Past for paper 1 and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl for paper 2), students can simply place the page number in parentheses at the end of sentences that cite specific quotations and/or evidence.
Examples: Abigail Adams urged her husband to “Remember the Ladies” as he and the other founding fathers set about creating a new nation (79).
Harriet Jacobs argued, “Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Super added to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own”(86)
Was the American Revolution solely a struggle for independence from Britain, or did it also involve efforts to make American society more democratic?