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Back to Basics: Structure of an essay

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SCC Writing Center

on 30 October 2015

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Transcript of Back to Basics: Structure of an essay

Structure of an essay
Parts of an essay:
(Each of these parts should be at least a paragraph.)
Body Paragraphs
These will be the main part of your essay. This is where you discuss your topic, support your thesis, give details, give examples, and tell your reader why what you are saying is true or important. Let's take a closer look at a body paragraph.
The parts of a body paragraph:
Your

topic sentence
could be one of the
reasons
you had for your opinion about the topic (this would be one of the reasons you brainstormed about earlier for the thesis).
What is an Essay?
The first thing you should do is ask yourself, "Why am I writing this essay?" Is this an assignment for class? Probably. So now, review the assignment. What are you being asked to write about?
Each of these parts can be broken down further. Let's do that so we can better understand what goes into an essay.
Introduction
The purpose of this part of the essay is to introduce the reader to the topic of your whole paper. What is it you will be discussing? Tell us a little about it.
It should
NOT
give specific details or examples. Save those for body paragraphs.
What is a hook?
A hook is a device to get your reader's attention and entice them to keep reading your paper.
A surprising statement
- You could use an unexpected statement to grab your reader's attention. This could be a belief you have, something you know, or a shocking fact. For example: "Scientists in Canada discovered ... chickens increase their egg output when pop music is being played" (Botham 42).
Thesis Statement
More tips for your introduction...
What do I think about this topic, or question, and why do I feel that way?
These answers can be formed to make your thesis statement. The thesis is usually the last sentence in your introduction paragraph and it leads us into the body of the paper.
A Body Paragraph
Sometimes you may also need a summary statement or transition sentence
Because man could run faster, he was able to catch food better, and he lived longer.
or other things that help illustrate your point.

In
Caveman Monthly
, author Ted Rex discusses how "cavemen lived 10 years longer after they strapped leather to their feet" (Rex 44). The article also discusses man's ability to catch his food more easily. Rex, explains how a caveman would chase an animal, such as a wild boar, and would injure his feet running on the ground. "This caused him to stop chasing and miss his dinner" (49).
Analysis
Now, you need to explain to your reader why you gave this example. Why is it important or how does it prove/support your thesis?
By strapping some crude leather to his foot, man lived longer and hunted the animals better; he became dominant over the animals.
Transitions
These are an important part of an essay. Transitions are used to move us from one idea to another in a paragraph and from one paragraph to another.
Some logical transition words are: another reason, in addition, furthermore, the most important reason, first... second... third, etc.
Conclusion
One other thing you can do is give a

concluding remark
.
Concluding remarks
At the very end of your paper you can close the paper with a concluding remark or a final thought. This could be a profound observation of your topic, a simple statement , or a recommendation.
The purpose is to leave your reader with something they can take away from the essay.
Without the invention of shoes, man would never have become the dominant species on the planet.
Body Paragraphs
How many body paragraphs should I write?
This depends on the assignment. Pay attention to what you are being asked for. Some instructors will ask you for a 5 paragraph essay. This means 5 total. That would be one introduction, 3 body, and one conclusion paragraph. Your instructor may also ask you to write an essay that has a certain number of words or pages. You will have to write more or less to fit the assignment.
LET'S REVIEW
- can use a closing remark to help the reader feel they got something important out of my paper
References
Botham, Noel and The Useless Information Society.
The Ultimate Book of Useless Information: a few thousand more things you might need to know (but probably don't).
New York: Penguin, 2007. Print.

The
Caveman Monthly,
author Ted Rex, "Shoes Over Time," and author Bobby Shoemaker were made up to use as examples for writing.
You may have been asked to write paragraphs before, or maybe not, but an essay is really just multiple paragraphs put together to form an essay usually about a single subject.
There are many different types of essays. The type of essay you are writing will sometimes change how the essay is structured, but for the most part, the basic essay structure is the same.
What are some different essay types?
Descriptive
Narrative
Argumentative/Persuasive
Compare and Contrast
Cause and Effect
Exemplification
Problem/Solution
Introduction
Body
Conclusion
This paragraph (usually) includes your
thesis statement
. We will come back to that in a minute.
Let's take a closer look at the introduction.
An Introduction is the first thing a person reads. An Introduction should talk in general/broad terms about your topic. It gives the reader an idea of the topic you will be discussing.
You may have heard an instructor ask you to use a
hook
to get your reader's attention. Let's explore that.
A
hook
could be any of the following things:
A
question
- If you start with a question, you should answer that question. You can use the answer to help introduce your topic.
A
quote
- You can use an author's direct words to show a point. Usually, if you are writing about a reading, you can use a quote from that reading to show how it connects to your topic.
A
definition
- You could use the definition of a term you may be using in your paper that is important to your topic, or you can use a definition to explain a concept or idea.
Avoid using announcements. For example, try to avoid phrases such as:
In this essay, I will discuss...
My essay is about...
Also, you want to avoid phrases that make the reader think you don't know what you are talking about or that apologize for your lack of knowledge. For example, avoid phrases like:
I may not know much about XYZ but...
Although I don't really know much about...
I am sorry if I don't explain this well, but...
After you introduce your topic, you need to give your thesis. The thesis is the main idea, or point, of your paper. The thesis is usually the answer to a question (probably from your assignment).
For example, you could have a question like:
Are shoes an important part of history, why or why not?
Your thesis should answer this question.
Or your prompt could say something like:
Write an essay in which you discuss how shoes were an important part of human history.

The thesis is usually your opinion about the topic and your
reason
for that opinion.
To help figure out what you want to say, ask yourself:
And then write down your answer(s).
Now that we know what our question is and what a thesis is...
let's look at an example thesis.
Shoes are an important part of history because they helped man be on top of the food chain.
Shoes are an important part of human history because they helped us be the dominant species on the planet.
OR
Ok so now that we have an understanding of the thesis (and our practice topic), let us revisit the introduction for a second.
The intro should start out broad
and narrow down to your thesis.
So, how do I do that you ask?
So with our shoe topic, what could we say that is general about the topic?
Think about how you could address the reader by relating the topic in terms everyone could relate to.
This means don't be too specific in your introduction.
Let's try.
Example introduction:
In Bobby Shoemaker's article "Shoes Over Time," he discusses the importance shoes have had in shaping our history.
Shoes have been a part of our history for a very long time.
They have had many uses over the centuries.
Shoes have gone from crude leather to fanciful displays of art.
Start broad:
Still broad:
Narrow a bit:
Keep narrowing
your ideas:
This usually includes:
A topic sentence (sometimes followed by clarification)
An example
Analysis
Topic Sentence:
This should be the first sentence of your paragraph.
It should introduce the topic of the paragraph and explain part of your thesis.
Hi, I'm your topic. Nice to meet you.
Let's look at an example topic sentence:
One reason shoes are an important part of history is they helped man run faster.
Now, let's clarify that for the reader.
Explain a little more so your reader knows what you mean.
Your next sentence could be:
Examples:
This should be where you give specific details to prove your point and support your thesis.
A well-developed paragraph will have clear, detailed examples that fully support the main idea (topic sentence).
Examples can include:
a personal experience
a quote
facts or statistics
The parts of a body paragraph:
Let's continue with our shoe paper. We want to give an example that shows how man lived longer because of his shoes.
Imagine that we found our information in an article and let's look at an
example
showing that:
Ok, now let's write an
analysis
of our example:
The parts of a body paragraph:
Some transition types are:
Time
- this is used to show what order things happened in or when.
Some time transition words include: after, before, next, then, during, earlier, or phrases that include dates (In June..., In 1981...).
Spatial
- this is used to show how people, places, or things are in relation to each other.
Some spatial transition words include: above, below, in front of, next to, in the center of, etc.
Logical
- this is used to show importance or familiarity.
This is the last paragraph of your essay and the last thing your readers see.
When they finish reading it, they should feel they understood your essay and that is was effective in making a clear point.
The conclusion should wrap up your essay. You can do this in a few ways.
One way is to summarize your essay. Remind the reader of the main points, which is hopefully what they learned from your essay.
Also, you should restate your thesis in different words. This helps drive home the point of your paper.
Let's look at an example of a concluding remark. This one is using a profound observation of the topic:
owl.english.purdue.edu
where else can I get help?
You can go online to:
Where else?
The Writing Center
Basic Structure of an essay:
Introduction
: introduces my topic and gives my thesis
- thesis: my main idea and my reason(s) for this idea
Body Paragraphs
: support and explain my main idea
- has a topic sentence which explains part of my thesis
- gives examples: details/support of my topic
- has an analysis: explains why my example is important
Conclusion
: wraps up my paper
- may use a summary to remind the reader of the main points
- should restate my thesis in new words to drive home my main point
Shoes have been a part of our history for a very long time. They have had many uses over the centuries. They have gone from crude leather to fanciful displays of art. In Bobby Shoemaker's article "Shoes Over Time," he discusses the many roles shoes have had throughout history. Shoes are an important part of history because they helped people become the dominant species on the planet.
Rough Draft Introduction
Rough Draft: Body Paragraph One
One reason shoes are an important part of history is they helped man run faster. Because man could run faster, he was able to catch food better, and he lived longer. In
Caveman Monthly
, author Ted Rex discusses how "cavemen lived ten years longer after they strapped leather to their feet" (44). His article also discusses man's ability to catch his food more easily. Rex explains how cavemen would chase an animal, such as a boar, and injure his feet running on the ground. "This caused him to stop chasing and miss his dinner" (49). Therefore, by strapping some crude leather to his foot, man lived longer and hunted the animals better; he became dominant over the animals.
For more Information go to:
www.scc.losrios.edu/writingcenter/
Now let's look at the basic structure of an essay.
What about a hook?
A Sacramento City college writing center workshop
Full transcript