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Essay Writing Tips
Transcript of Essay Writing Tips
and quotations ORGANIZE your material towards a logical conclusion or point that you want to make. Present a "reasoned argument" Structure Drafting your paragraphs Analyze the question
Research the topic
Write an outline The topic sentence in a paragraph gives the main idea of the paragraph. It is also normally the first sentence in a paragraph. The sentences that follow the topic sentence are called the supporting sentences. These sentences elaborate on, expand, explain and justify the idea in the topic sentence. Here's an example: Industrialization in the Pearl River Delta is a major cause of air pollution in Hong Kong. In the last two decades, China’s manufacturing industries have expanded rapidly, and the Pearl River Delta (PRD) is now one of the country’s most important manufacturing centers. As industry in Southern China has developed, the level of pollution created by emissions from factories has also increased significantly. Many of the factories in the PRD do not have adequate filtering systems, and therefore, they release a number of pollutants into the atmosphere. When winds are blowing from the west or northwest, these pollutants may be blown towards Hong Kong. As a result, emissions that are produced in Guangdong indirectly pollute the air of Hong Kong. Paragraph 1 Some education experts argue that learning in one’s native language is absolutely essential. Educational psychologists claim that cognition (the process of acquiring new knowledge) is connected to language and communication. Specifically, they argue that we need to talk about a new idea to make sense of it. Furthermore, they suggest that in order to understand a new idea, we need to relate it to what we already know. If educational theorists are correct, it is logical that education should be conducted primarily in a student’s mother tongue. If a student tries to learn new concepts in a language that he or she has not yet fully mastered, his/ her ability to discuss new ideas may be limited. Accordingly, education in a student’s mother tongue ensures that the student will have greater opportunity to explore new ideas by discussing them fully and confidently. Paragraph 2 Organizing information in paragraphs. There are many possible ways of organizing the supporting sentences in a paragraph. Here are some suggestions: 1. If you are explaining how a situation developed over time, organize your ideas chronologically or historically. Use time phrases (e.g. ‘Ten years ago’, ‘In the past’, ‘Some years later’); use the simple past verb tense; and use sequencing words (‘Then’, ‘After this’, ‘Subsequently’). 2. If you are explaining the steps in a process, organize sentences so that they describe the process in its logical sequence. Try to say what happens first, second, and so on. Use phrases such as ‘As this occurs’ or ‘When this happens’ to tell the reader that one step is closely connected to another step. 3. Organize your ideas according to their order of importance (i.e. present the most important ideas before the least important ones). Phrases such as ‘The main issue’, ‘An important factor’ and ‘A key consideration’ tell the reader that an idea is more important. Phrases such as ‘Another contributing factor’ or ‘A further issue to consider’ signal secondary or additional ideas. 4. Give general ideas before you provide details. Phrases such as ‘In general’, ‘Overall’, ‘By and large’, and ‘On the whole’ are often used to introduce general ideas. Words such as ‘Specifically’ or ‘More precisely’ can be used to introduce details. 5. If you need to compare and contrast two things in one paragraph, try to first make all the comparisons and then make all the contrasts. Jumping from a comparison to a contrast and then back to another comparison may confuse your reader. 6. If you are describing causes and effects, describe the causes before you describe the effects or consequences. Transition & Signal Words • Words that signal an additional point: moreover, in addition, and, also, additionally, furthermore, as well as • Words that signal an effect or consequence: as a result, thus, consequently, therefore, so • Words that signal stages in a sequence: first, then, next, lastly, finally • Words that signal an example: for example, for instance, such as Words that signal a conclusion or summary: in short, in conclusion, to summarize, to sum up • Words that signal similarity: similarly, in the same way, likewise, equally Words that signal difference: however, in contrast, but, yet, nevertheless, though. • Words that acknowledge an alternative or contrasting idea or opinion: while, although, despite, in spite of. Look at the following paragraph. It has a clear topic sentence, its ideas are developed logically, it uses signal words correctly, and it is grammatically accurate. However, it has a major problem. Can you identify what this is? Industrialization in the Pearl River Delta is a major cause of air pollution in Hong Kong. In the last two decades, manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta has expanded rapidly, and the Pearl River Delta is now one of the country’s most important manufacturing centres. As manufacturing in the Pearl River Delta has developed, the level of pollution created by emissions from factories in the Pearl River Delta has also increased. Many of the factories in the Pearl River Delta do not have adequate filtering systems, and therefore, the factories in the Pearl River Delta release a number of pollutants into the atmosphere. When winds are blowing from the west or northwest, pollution from factories in the Pearl River Delta may be blown towards Hong Kong. As a result, emissions that are produced in the factories in the Pearl River Delta indirectly pollute the air of Hong Kong. Pronouns & Synonyms We can use pronouns such as ‘here’, ‘there’, ‘they’, or ‘it’. Often in academic writing, the pronoun ‘this’ is used with a general noun such as ‘problem’, ‘situation’, ‘dilemma’, ‘solution’ or ‘condition’. We can also reduce the amount of repetition by replacing the repeated words with synonyms (words that are different but have the same meaning). So for example, ‘Southern China’ can be used instead of ‘Pearl River Delta’, and ‘industrial estates’ can be substituted for ‘factories’. Did you get very tired of seeing the words ‘manufacturing’, ‘factories’ and ‘the Pearl River Delta’ repeated so many times? To avoid this kind of repetition, we need to use some substitutes for these words. Now take a look at the paragraph after some pronouns and synonyms have been added to avoid repetition. Can you see an improvement? Industrialization in the Pearl River Delta is a major cause of air pollution in Hong Kong. In the last two decades, manufacturing in Southern China has expanded rapidly, and it is now one of the country’s most important manufacturing centres. As industry in the region has developed, the level of pollution created by factory emissions from Southern China has also increased. Many of these factories do not have adequate filtering systems, and therefore, they release a number of pollutants into the atmosphere. When winds are blowing from the west or northwest, pollution from industrial estates in the Pearl River Delta may be blown towards Hong Kong. As a result, emissions that are produced by industries across the border indirectly pollute the air of Hong Kong. Adverbials Adverbials are another tool for logically connecting ideas in a paragraph. Adverbials are usually used at the beginning of a sentence to show the writer’s attitude or opinion about an idea. For Example: Unfortunately, air pollution in Hong Kong seems to be getting worse. The following adverbials are often used at the beginning of a sentence and are followed by a comma: Clearly, Luckily, Significantly, Sadly, Controversially, Inevitably, Most importantly, Undoubtedly, Without a doubt The following group of adverbs may be used within a sentence (usually just before the verb) to express a writer’s feeling of probability: apparently, certainly, definitely, possibly, probably - Once you have some understanding of how to structure and organize paragraphs, you are ready to organize paragraphs into an essay. A checklist for organizing
your essay Before writing: Think about how many points of view or issues you need to consider in this essay. Determine the main idea in each paragraph. After writing: Make sure that your first paragraph clearly states your main argument or idea.
Check that all the important points have been covered.
Make sure that the main point of each paragraph is clearly given in the topic sentence.
Make sure that other sentences in each paragraph support the idea in the topic sentence.
Check that ideas flow smoothly between paragraphs.
Use signal words (firstly, secondly, in addition, in contrast, however, as a consequence) to show the relationships between ideas and paragraphs.
Make sure that your conclusion clearly re-states your main argument or idea Refine IMPERSONAL TONE Academic writing has an impersonal tone. This tone is achieved in a number of different ways: The pronoun ‘I’ is rarely used, and general pronouns are preferred: ‘We can see’, ‘One notes’. The pronoun ‘it’ is often used with the passive voice: ‘It can be seen’. Non-human/abstract subjects are often used: ‘The trend continued’, ‘Analysis shows’, ‘Evidence suggests’. The passive voice is used to place the focus on the facts, rather than the observers: ‘It can be observed that’. Abstract nouns are favored, such as ‘a continuous improvement’, ‘industrialization’, ‘implementation’. Technical terms are preferred to colloquial language, e.g. ‘A steady decline was noted’ rather than ‘You could see a big fall’. ACADEMIC VOCABULARY Consequently, some of the language that is used in spoken language (such as contractions: ‘I can’t’, ‘we won’t’) is considered too informal for academic writing. Another feature of academic style is the use of more formal vocabulary. The public has failed to understand the extent of the problem. People just don’t seem to see how big the problem is. Consider these two sentences: Look at the following examples of formal/informal synonyms. The words in the left column are more formal and academic in style, while the words in the right column are more conversational. More
Conversational to inform
to talk about
big Soften A Claim When we make claims (or statements that something is true) in academic writing, we need to support them with facts or evidence. Sometimes, we cannot completely support a claim with all the necessary evidence. Likewise, we may not be completely certain that a claim is 100% true or definite. Soften a claim by adding a modal verb. Research suggests that continued industrial growth in the Pearl River Delta may lead to increased air pollution in Hong Kong.
For Example: It is likely that air pollution will increase but we cannot be absolutely sure about this. So, we need to modify the verb ‘lead to’ with ‘may’.) Adverbs such as ‘probably’, ‘perhaps’, and ‘possibly’ can also be used to make a writer’s claims more tentative. PHRASES TO SOFTEN
A CLAIM 'This seems to suggest'
'It apears that'
'It is likely that'
'It may be that' Editing CHECKLIST Questions about content: Does your essay answer all parts of the question?
Are all of the paragraphs related to your topic?
Are all the facts and figures correct?
Have the key terms and ideas been used in the right way?
Are your points clear?
Have you used any examples or illustrations to
back up your point of view? Questions about the essay as a whole: Is it the correct length?
Are the paragraphs in a logical order?
Does it have all the important parts, i.e., introduction, main body, conclusion?
Do all the paragraphs have a similar amount of information?
Have you used any signal (or linking) words or phrases to link the paragraph?
Questions about each paragraph: Does each paragraph have a topic sentence?
Does each paragraph's topic sentence contain
the main idea of the paragraph?
Do all of the sentences in each paragraph relate
to the main idea?
Are the sentences in each paragraph in a logical
Have you used any signal (or linking) words to
link the ideas within each paragraph? Lets Follow-Up Words That: Explain how a situation develops over time
Explain the steps in a process
Organize ideas according to importance You Should: Give general ideas before you provide detailsMake comparisons before making contrastsDescribe causes before effects Words That: Signal an additional pointSignal an effect or consequenceSignal stages in a sequenceSignal an exampleSignal similarityAcknowledge an alternative opinion You Should: Avoid repetition with pronounsUse Adverbials to connect ideasUse Adverbs to express probability Impersonal Tone Uses: General pronounsNon-human/abstract objectsThe passive voiceAbstract nouns Technical termsFormal vocabulary