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Essays seem unnatural, right? Who argues like this in real life? Actually, quite a few people. It just seems foreign to us right now. Academic essays are a lot like… Court Cases Conversations and arguments we have with our friends and family Television shows Movies Books NOTE: Most students will tell you they “hate” writing essays. They want to “just say things in their own words without worrying about organization.” That may work just fine in casual conversations, but if you think of the above examples, we have to have some organization for any of those to be good, right?
An academic essay requires the following elements, in the following order: An introductory paragraph A thesis at the end of the introductory paragraph Body paragraphs that begin with topic sentences and end with transitions to the next body paragraph A concluding paragraph
Most papers you write in this class will require more than five paragraphs, but the basic idea behind the five paragraph essay is sound; simply add more paragraphs to reach your desired essay length! Easy!! Yeah! I like those. I CAN do those. You may be familiar with what is called the “five paragraph essay.”
I need a picture here. What is the point of an essay? Okay, so remember I said an essay was like so many other things we see in regular life? We should look at an example so you see exactly HOW! An essay is JUST like a t.v. show. Let’s imagine a show like Law and Order SVU. A person is accused of murder and must stand trial. That person is called the “defendant.” A prosecutor has to prove to a jury of twelve people that the defendant committed the crime, and support that accusation with evidence to convince that jury. Now you might be thinking, “how in the heck is that like an essay?” Follow me…
An alleged murderer has been found. The police gather evidence to prove that he/she is guilty. The prosecutor goes to trial and starts with an “opening statement” to the jury that introduces them to the case, including why the prosecutor believes the defendant is guilty. The Prosecutor presents evidence that the police put together, and that the Prosecutor has found on his/her own to the jury. The evidence supports the claim that the defendant is guilty – like proving that the murder weapon was found at the defendant’s house, in the defendant’s bedroom! The Prosecutor gives a “closing argument, reminding the jury about the evidence that was presented and why that evidence proves the defendant is guilty. Here is what a court case looks like, step by step …
The police gather evidence to prove that he/she is guilty.
The prosecutor goes to trial and starts with an “opening statement” to the jury that introduces them to the case, including why the prosecutor believes the defendant is guilty.
The Prosecutor presents evidence that the police put together, and that the Prosecutor has found on his/her own to the jury. The evidence supports the claim that the defendant is guilty.
The Prosecutor gives a “closing argument, reminding the jury about the evidence that was presented and why that evidence proves the defendant is guilty.
A text is found (novel, essay, short story)
You gather sources to prove a particular claim about that text, like direct quotes or outside sources.
You (the writer) develop an introduction and a thesis statement to prove to your audience why your claim is valid about your text.
You present evidence (outside sources and your own examples) to your audience to support your claim.
You develop a conclusion that reminds your audience how what evidence was produced and how it supported your claim!
There are two things, though, that make an essay different than our regular, day to day conversations: An essay requires you to back up your opinion with evidence . You can’t simply say “I did not like that movie because it was stupid” in an essay. An essay will require you to define what you call stupid and provide evidence that demonstrates it was stupid, and finally, tell your audience why it matters that it is stupid? Do you not want anyone ever to waste their time seeing that movie? Should they watch it because it is so bad it is good? Why are you telling us it is stupid? An essay requires you to organize your thoughts in a way that will convince someone else about what you believe and why you believe it. Your organization in an essay will make it easy for your audience to follow what you’re saying. So, should I put my opinion in an essay? YES!!! An essay is your opportunity to give your opinion, your side, on a certain issue. That isn’t any different than most conversations you have every day of your life.
Can I use “I” and “you” in my paper since it is my opinion? Nope!! Leave those words in your everyday conversations, but out of your essays. Don’t confuse using the word “I” with having your voice in your paper. Many folks assume that in order to make their opinion obvious they have to say “I think” – but that’s not true! Instead of saying “I think To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel presented by a six year old because as children we have a more honest way of viewing the world” try….. “ To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel presented by a six year old because a child is more honest in the way he/she views the world”