What I want to do in the next several posts is offer mini-lectures that I typically give to my students that first week of school when I talk about what an essay is and how to develop a good one.
An essay, in its simplest form, is a paper that does two things: states a purpose and supports that purpose with clear, vivid details and examples. Of course, your mastery of the English language and of style can take those two things and develop an essay that either moves readers into action or does just enough to get you a C.
First, an essay must serve a purpose.
Traditionally, there are four purposes in essay writing:
- to inform - very important in academic writing because no matter what class a student takes, he/she will be asked to explain, to illustrate things.
- to persuade - another important purpose in academic writing; students (and people in general) should be able to argue a point using logical reasoning.
- to express - we see this more in journal writing, in creative non-fiction; it's the expression of feelings.
- to entertain - again, we see this more outside of academic writing and more in works with a creative quality.
Once you have your topic and have figured out your essay's purpose, you need to know the must-have components for any academic essay:
1- Introduction - something that engages readers about your topic and makes them want to continue reading.
2- Thesis - usually seen at the end of the introduction, the thesis expresses two things: the essay's topic and the writer's overall thought on that topic.
This is your argument, and as such, it has to be something that can be ARGUED, i.e., an opinion. FACTS are not good theses; where is there to go once you've stated a fact?
3- Body Paragraphs - The body of an essay is where you SHOW support for your argument, your thesis. Clear points need to be established, support of those points need to be developed, and connection to the essay's overall idea needs to be stated. Within the body section of an essay, you will find three important components: topic sentences, support sentences, and closing sentences. These will be discussed more in an upcoming post on body development. Here, I'll mention this - topic, support, and closing sentences are what give body paragraphs points, support, and connection to essay's overall idea.
4- Conclusion - something that closes the essay without simply repeating what's already been stated. In the worst essays, I've had students who literally cut and pasted parts of their introduction into their conclusion. BIG no no. A conclusion should make a reader feel something, think something, or do something.
In post two on academic essays, I'll dig deeper and talk about the importance of introductions and conclusions.
In post three, I will look at the importance of body development and transitions.
|Shon Bacon is an author, editor, and educator, whose biggest joys are writing and helping others develop their craft. She has published both creatively and academically and interviews women writers on her popular blog ChickLitGurrl: high on LATTES & WRITING. You can learn more about Shon's writings at her official website, and you can get information about her editorial services and online programs at CLG Entertainment. Shon has her own sexy little story, Saying No to the Big O, that was published last year: check it out!|