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How to Write an Essay
Transcript of How to Write an Essay
This should be used as a guide to help you write short essays, papers, the "5-unit essay" and short answer questions.
Essential Elements Every Piece of Writing Should Include
Name of Course
A statement that tells the reader what you are writing about - the main point of your writing.
Thesis statement (This may be for a short or long essay.)
Response to a prompt (This may be in the form of a question of a statement.)
Include part of the prompt in your response
Include part of the question in your answer
*The reader should be able to know the prompt or question that was being asked without having seen the prompt or question.
Support for you statement/response/answer
You should include some reference to the novel/text/story you have read.
This should be done in quotes with the proper citation method.
If what you are writing about all comes from the same source, you can just cite the page number and there is no need for a works cited.
If what you are writing about references multiple sources, you will need to include the author's last name and page number.
This will also require a works cited page (bibliography)
The way you punctuate the citation is important too.
Single author (from a paper on Ralph Ellison):
One need look no further then the words of the main character’s grandfather, which will forever stand the test of time: “Live in the lion's mouth” (p. 1254).
Notice that the period goes after the citation. If the sentence ends in an exclamation, question, or ellipsis (...) the same holds true. The period goes after the citation
One need look no further then the words of the main character’s grandfather, which will forever stand the test of time: “Live in the lion's mouth”(Ellison, p. 1254).
If you are citing poetry, you use / to separate the line breaks. See example below:
As Kent positions himself to meet with Lear, he shares with the audience, “So may it come thy master, whom thou lov’st, / Shall find thee full of labours” (1.4.6-7).
Longer quotes - of forty words or more - are offset and ALL lines of the quote are tabbed in.
As the Indians began to seize her house, Rowlandson writes:
The house stood upon the edge of a hill; some of the Indians got behind the hill, others into the barn, and others behind anything that could shelter them; from all which places they shot against the house, so that the bullets seemed to fly like hail; and quickly they wounded one man among us, then another, and then a third. (p. 119)
Notice: In longer quotes, the citation goes after the punctuation. No additional period.
Poetry is cited by Act.Scene.Lines
Why is this important to know?
Being able to write a sound essay not only helps our ability to be good writers, but also helps us to become more organized.
We will need these organizational skills for college and in whatever job we do.
You never know...You may need to write grants, or ask for assistance (financially for your job).
Okay...Now to the parts of the essay.
There are three main parts to an essay (no matter how short or long):
The introduction is where you are going to introduce the topic you are discussing - or the question you are answering - to your reader.
We usually call this the thesis.
How do we determine the thesis?
Think about it like this:
What is the question you are being asked?
Develop your own question that you are trying to answer.
The answer you come up with is your thesis statement/topic/focus.
This is the POINT of your paper.
The reader then knows exactly what you are talking about.
What should be included in your Introduction
Summary material (This could be some historical background or a short background of the story you are writing about to give the reader some context of what you are about to discuss)
Supporting details (You can include the supporting topics you are going to use to support your thesis)
Surprising statement (You could make a shocking, joyful or emotive statement, or a give a statistic)
Famous quote (You could include a quote that sets up the topic you are about to write about)
Basic format of the Introduction:
A. Background/Setup information
B. Tell the reader (without telling them) the structure/form of the paper
- supporting details and the order that they will appear
C. Your thesis statement
These are the elements that support your thesis, or the claim that you are trying to make. This also gives the reader some insight into what you are talking about.
For shorter essays, you can just include the supporting details in the body of the essay. There may not be any need to add additional paragraphs as there is for a longer essay.
What are the supporting details?
Quotes from the material that you have read.
Citations from multiple authors to prove your point (usually for a research paper)
Facts, figures or statistics.
Here is what the format should look like...
Supporting Paragraph #1
Topic sentence that is your first supporting detail.
Quote from the text/research/fact/figure.
An explanation of how the supporting detail and quote support/prove your thesis.
Transition into next supporting detail or next paragraph.*
Supporting Point #2
WASH, RINSE & REPEAT what you did in supporting detail #1.
Typically, a traditional essay includes three supporting points/details.
Supporting Point #3
*More advanced writing involves
connecting sentences from one
paragraph to the next. This makes
a nice flow and makes it easier on
REMEMBER: How do these details support your thesis?
The conclusion is where you summarize your thesis and summarize the supporting details.
Restate the thesis (why the paper was written). You are telling the reader why it is important that they know this.
Restate and summarize your supporting details
Last sentence should be your final point/the clincher/what you want the reader to walk away from your writing believing.
Essentially it should look something like this:
Note: DO NOT WRITE IT SO THAT IT LOOKS EXACTLY LIKE THIS. This is just the basic idea.
Because of , , and my thesis is true.
Two Major Types of Writing
This type of writing is not personal.
You are still making a point, but objectively. Meaning, you are not putting your opinion in.
Do not use the pronouns: I, you, we, your, our, us.
Instead, use "One" or "The reader."
This type of writing is personal.
You are trying to make the reader buy into what you are saying. Bring the reader over to your point of view.
The title of a major work (novel, anthology, reference book) is UNDERLINED or
The title of a smaller work (poem, short story) goes in "QUOTES".
Outline and Organizational Help
Okay, now that you have the basic idea of how to setup up your essay, it is important that you brainstorm and organize your ideas, so that you can see them clearly and plug them into your essay.
This is the format I like to use...
I. What is the question being asked?
What is your answer?
II. How will you support it?
1. Supporting detail #1
-summary and connecting/transition sentence
2. Supporting detail #2
-summary and connecting/transition sentence
3. Supporting detail #3
-summary and connecting/transition sentence
Because of #1, #2, & #3, my thesis true.
*Note: If the poem is not from a larger work, it is just cited by line numbers.
*We have discussed symbolism a lot in this novel. The green light in particular has shown itself throughout the whole novel (no pun intended) and has had different meanings at different times for Gatsby. I would like for you to discuss the green light as a symbol in this novel.
The green light in F. Scott Fitzgerald's
The Great Gatsby
, is proven throughout the novel to be a particularly important symbol that is closely tied with Jay Gatsby.
*Zoos are sometimes seen as necessary but not poor alternatives to a natural environment. Discuss some of the arguments for and/or against keeping animals in zoos.
Keeping animals in zoos has become an increasingly serious topic of discussion among not only animal rights activists, but others who believe that zoos are a poor alternative to the animals' natural environment.
*How does the character of Aunt Georgiana depict American Realism in Cather's "A Wagner Matinee"?
Willa Cather, in "A Wagner Matinee," uses the character of Aunt Georgiana as a vehicle to convey the realities of people who lived in the Nebraska plains.
Essay Topic Sample Questions and Thesis Statements