Essay structure for Arts students
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Essay structure for Arts students

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Some useful guidelines for structuring Arts essays.

Some useful guidelines for structuring Arts essays.

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Essay structure for Arts students Essay structure for Arts students Presentation Transcript

  • Essay Structure
  • Are you ready to write? Reading and thinking Making useful notes Brainstorming / mind-mapping Unpacking the question
  • Writing
    • If you have…
    • Unpacked the question
    • Asked questions
    • Read and made notes
    • Brainstormed / mind-mapped ideas
    Then you’ve been writing all along! Now it’s time to create some structure…
  • What you have been doing…
    • Unpacking, questioning, brainstorming and mind-mapping involve taking critical distance to:
    • Categorise ideas and research
    • Create links between ideas
    • Add or delete material
    • Collate ideas into paragraphs
    • Order ideas into a logical sequence
  • How does it fit together? Before you start writing a full draft, you need to know what the overall structure should look like…
  • Basic essay structure INTRODUCTION PARA 1 PARA 2 PARA n+1 CONCLUSION DEVELOPMENT
  • Introduction GENERAL SPECIFIC
    • Four elements:
    • Respond to the question
    • Introduce context / background
    • Foreshadow your points
    • State your position
    Psst! The introduction is ~10% of the word count.
  • Introduction
    • 1. Respond to the question
    Return to your ‘unpacking’: Show that you understand the question and indicate what you find most interesting about it. Psst! Don’t repeat the question here. The professor already knows what it says!
  • Example Qn: “ The Australian desert is a sublime void that inspires both mystery and madness. ” Discuss. Possible 1 st sentence: Australia’s desert centre, or heart, is often romantically interpreted as a vast, empty expanse that has uncanny and unreal effects. Poor 1 st sentence: The Australian desert is a sublime void that inspires both mystery and madness.
  • Introduction 2. Introduce context / background Return to your ‘questioning’: Show the important issues and questions you identified earlier. You can also include definitions of terms. Psst! This is a good place to take some authority. Don’t try to include the entire history of an idea. Focus on showing what you think.
  • Example Possible 2 nd sentence: However, the idea of a sublime void is a European one that suggests the desert is both site and symbol of estrangement and threat. Qn: “ The Australian desert is a sublime void that inspires both mystery and madness. ” Discuss. Poor 2 nd sentence/s: As Kant shows in his Critique of Judgment … which is best understood alongside Burke … and we might as well throw in Longinus and Lyotard for good measure...
  • Introduction 2. Foreshadow your points Return to your brainstorming: Identify the main points you will cover to answer the question. These should be shown in order of importance. Psst! Avoid wordiness. Use your paragraphs to develop your points. Here, try to seduce your reader with the most vital and interesting details.
  • Example Qn: “ The Australian desert is a sublime void that inspires both mystery and madness. ” Discuss. Possible 3 rd sentence: Far from inspiring mystery and madness, representations of the desert in contemporary Australian feature films including Holy Smoke (1999), Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994) and Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) construct the desert as a space where otherwise marginalised social identities are critiqued. Poor 3 rd sentence/s: More about Kant and perhaps some speculation on whether or not ghosts really do exist…
  • Introduction 4. State your position What is your overall main position, or claim? This is your thesis statement (you’ll learn more about this on the next page of the module). You must state what your essay claims, and why. Psst! Complete the sentence ‘This essay argues…’ to get yourself in the frame of mind for creating a strong case. You can change it later!
  • Example Possible 4 th sentence: This essay argues that the desert is a productive space in contemporary Australian film for critiquing the social structures of gender, family, sexuality and race, and, further, that the idea of a threatening void is not a fact but is an indicator of the urgency of these concerns. Qn: “ The Australian desert is a sublime void that inspires both mystery and madness. ” Discuss. Poor 4 th sentence: Hence, the Australian desert is a sublime void that inspires both mystery and madness.
  • Possible introduction Australia’s desert centre, or heart, is often romantically interpreted as a vast, empty expanse that has uncanny and unreal effects. However, the idea of a sublime void is a European one that suggests the desert is both site and symbol of estrangement and threat. Far from inspiring mystery and madness, representations of the desert in contemporary Australian feature films including Holy Smoke (1999), Priscilla: Queen of the Desert (1994) and Rabbit Proof Fence (2002) construct the desert as a space where otherwise marginalised social identities are critiqued. This essay argues that the desert is a productive space in contemporary Australian film for critiquing the social structures of gender, family, sexuality and race, and, further, that the idea of a threatening void is not a fact but is an indicator of the urgency of these concerns.
  • Development Did you know? You will often need to rewrite your introduction once you finish writing your developing paragraphs. AND… A developing paragraph usually contains more than one sentence! It should be about 150-200 words long.
  • Development
    • Five elements:
    • Topic sentence .
    • Evidence - example / research.
    • Comment on the evidence you gave – summarise or clarify.
    • Discussion – give your opinion, relate to further research, explain why this is an important point.
    • Refer back to topic and link to next developing paragraph.
  • Development 1. Topic sentence The topic sentence is a general statement showing the topic your paragraph will discuss. So, if you identified ‘gender politics’ as a key topic in your introduction, your reader expects to find it in a topic sentence. Psst! The topic sentence should be written in your voice! Don’t quote other authors here!
  • Example Possible 1 st sentence: Whilst Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke is geographically located in the Australian desert, Sydney and India, it is conceptually located in questions of gender identity. This essay argues that the desert is a productive space in contemporary Australian film for critiquing the social structures of gender, family, sexuality and race, and, further, that the idea of a threatening void is not a fact but is an indicator of the urgency of these concerns. We’ll keep the thesis statement close by to keep focused!
  • Example This essay argues that the desert is a productive space in contemporary Australian film for critiquing the social structures of gender, family, sexuality and race, and, further, that the idea of a threatening void is not a fact but is an indicator of the urgency of these concerns. Possible 1 st sentence: Whilst Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke is geographically located in the Australian desert, Sydney and India, it is conceptually located in questions of gender identity. Link your introduction and topic sentence.
  • Development 2. Evidence – example / research Refer to your notes, and look for a relevant example from the film. You can include some research you’ve done here as well. Psst! If you are including research, ensure you introduce and reference it clearly!
  • Example Possible 2 nd sentence/s: For example, Harvey Keitel’s costuming at the start of the film includes cowboy boots, Levi jeans and dark fitted shirts, but at the film’s climax he wears lipstick and a red frock. When giving an example always give an accurate representation. Don’t give your opinions yet!
  • Development 3. Comment on the evidence Explain the evidence to your reader. You can provide more context to assist with their understanding too. Psst! Assume your reader has no idea what you’re thinking! Explain all of your claims.
  • Example Possible 3 rd sentence/s: The dress is that of his much younger lover, played by Kate Winslet. The colour red is an interesting choice as it connotes scarlet, and hence, the conservative stereotype of the temptress, or ‘scarlet woman.’ Note that the author does not jump to the conclusion of Keitel’s scarlet woman until clear links between red, scarlet, and cultural stereotyping are made.
  • Development 4. Discussion Link your evidence to your topic sentence and broader argument. This is the place to raise and consider some interesting questions. Psst! Don’t rely solely on other authors’ studies. Include your own opinions.
  • Example Possible 4 th sentence/s: This suggests Keitel now ‘wears’ the weight of scandal usually associated with this identity. Here, the desert serves as a site for subverting the sexuality and gender norms that give approval to demure, frocked women and Levi-clad, virile men. As Alison Bartlett (2001) describes, this exploration of identity is made possible by the apparent limitlessness of the desert, but is not reducible to the desert per se . Make sure you know how to correctly reference other authors’ ideas!
  • Development 5. Refer and link ‘ Tie up’ the paragraph by referring to the broader question you are answering, and then link to the next point. Psst! Try to avoid finishing a paragraph with a quote!
  • Example Possible 4 th sentence/s: Thus, as a site of gender-subversion, Holy Smoke follows a pattern of representing the Australian desert in terms of social critique. You might like to use some words or synonyms drawn from the essay question or thesis statement to strengthen the links.
  • Whilst Jane Campion’s Holy Smoke is geographically located in the Australian desert, Sydney and India, it is conceptually located in questions of gender identity. For example, Harvey Keitel’s costuming at the start of the film includes cowboy boots, Levi jeans and dark fitted shirts, but at the film’s climax he wears lipstick and a red frock. The dress is that of his much younger lover, played by Kate Winslet. The colour red is an interesting choice as it connotes scarlet, and hence, the conservative stereotype of the temptress, or ‘scarlet woman.’ This suggests Keitel now ‘wears’ the weight of scandal usually associated with this identity. Here, the desert serves as a site for subverting the sexuality and gender norms that give approval to demure, frocked women and Levi-clad, virile men. As Alison Bartlett (2001) describes, this exploration of identity is made possible by the apparent limitlessness of the desert, but is not reducible to the desert per se . Thus, as a site of gender-subversion, Holy Smoke follows a pattern of representing the Australian desert in terms of social critique. Possible developing paragraph
  • Conclusion GENERAL SPECIFIC
    • Three elements:
    • Restatement of the main thesis
    • Summary of points
    • Link to a broader context of debate
    Psst! The conclusion is ~10% of the word count.
  • Conclusion 1. Restatement of the main thesis This is simple! You don’t need to use the exact wording, but make sure you reinforce the basic position you made in your introduction here. Psst! You might like to use a couple of key words from the question to show that you answered it!
  • Example Possible 1 st sentence: Despite the long history of colonial literature that represents the desert as a sublime void, contemporary Australian film interrogates this narrative by constructing a site of social and cultural critique. Double check: Have you changed your thesis? Do you need to adjust the introduction? Do you still agree with yourself??!!
  • Conclusion 2. Summary of points Briefly remind your reader of what you argued in order to make your case. There is no need to go into detail – you’ve already done that! Psst! Avoid introducing any new material in the conclusion.
  • Example Possible 2 nd sentence/s: This has proved to be true in a variety of films since the 1990s and is most convincingly shown in representations of race, gender and sexuality in Holy Smoke , Rabbit Proof Fence , and Priscilla . As I have argued, these films’ portrayals of the desert are entrenched in current social conditions and contexts, and are not elevated to the sublime. Double check: Do you still agree with yourself??!! Need to make any changes to your points?
  • Conclusion 3. Refer to a broader context Situate the essay within the current field of debate in your area. This can include referring to: film; literature; theory; politics; culture; economics… Psst! Try to avoid finishing off with a bit of wisdom from Shakespeare or Confucius.
  • Example Possible 3 rd sentence/s: Australian landscape films cannot be reduced to questions of aesthetics. Nor, it would seem, can its deserts. Finish strong. Don’t ‘take back’ or ‘apologise’ for your ideas with a weak finishing sentence.
  • Possible conclusion Despite the long history of colonial literature that represents the desert as a sublime void, contemporary Australian film interrogates this narrative by constructing a site of social and cultural critique. This has proved to be true in a variety of films since the 1990s and is most convincingly shown in representations of race, gender and sexuality in Holy Smoke , Rabbit Proof Fence , and Priscilla . As I have argued, these films’ portrayals of the desert are entrenched in current social conditions and contexts, and are not elevated to the sublime. Australian landscape films cannot be reduced to questions of aesthetics. Nor, it would seem, can its deserts.
  • Linked essay structure INTRODUCTION PARA 1 PARA 2 PARA n+1 CONCLUSION ARGUMENT
    • Using STUDY Smarter Resources
    • This resource was developed by the STUDY Smarter team at UWA for students enrolled at UWA. We are happy for our resources to be used but we would ask that you:
    • Do not amend them
    • Do not remove the STUDY Smarter or UWA logos
    • Give credit/reference to the STUDY Smarter team where necessary