Essay Writing: An Exploration Michael Cobden Dalhousie Writing Centre
Help!“I have no idea what a thesisis,” a student said to me,“and no idea how to write anintroduction or a conclusion. Ialways think I’ve gotsomething to say, but I’mfreaked out by having to writeit as an essay.”
The Subject“Imagine,” I said, “that youand I are having a coffee, andyou say, ‘Which do you thinkis the best supermarketaround here?’ That’s like thesubject of an essay.Picture by Jim (http://www.flickr.com/photos/alphageek/121953651) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via WikimediaCommons
The IntroductionI could just answer, ‘The I long for the days when shopping for food meant dropping off a list at mySuperstore on Quinpool local grocery store and coming back an hour later to pick up the order, orRoad,’ but if I wanted to show phoning in my order in the morningyou that I can think, which is and having it delivered that afternoon — and getting a bill once a month. Inwhat one has to do to get those days the grocer knew you andgood marks for an essay, I knew your likes and dislikes. But those days are gone, and now themight start my answer — this only choice I have is whichwould be the essay’s supermarket to go to. As far as Im concerned — here, at the end of myintroduction — by saying introduction, comes my thesis statement—it makes no differencesomething like this: which supermarket one shops at because theres no significant difference in price, quality or service.
Body ParagraphsThen in the body paragraphs, I might quote someone II would present my evidence was talking to the otherand analysis (or arguments) day who said she shoppedon each point. First, prices. in different supermarkets each week just for the fun of it but always ended up spending the same. I might refer to my own research on prices. Or I might refer to research Id read on prices in different supermarkets.
The Topic SentenceI would start by making thepoint I want to make aboutprices. ‘You know, the price ofindividual items may vary(slightly) from onesupermarket to another, butthe price of a family’s weeklyorder of groceries would bemuch the same in anysupermarket.’ In writing anessay, that’s what’s called atopic sentence.
Transition to the Next ParagraphAfter I’d said what I wanted to So, prices aren’t a reason forsay about prices (which would choosing one supermarketbe my first body paragraph in over another. But what aboutan essay), I’d find a way to quality? Which supermarketmove to my next point (my has the best food?next body paragraph), whichis about quality. I’d saysomething like this:
Second Body ParagraphThen (my second body paragraph) Id talk aboutquality, again starting with the point I want to make(the topic sentence) and then reporting evidence (inthis case about quality) and analyzing it.
Another TransitionAnd when I was done with Last week, I went to athat, I’d find a way to move supermarket that has aonto my next point (my next bakery I like. It was just afterbody paragraph), which would 5 p.m., and all the baguettesbe about service. I might say were gone. I complained atsomething like this: the customer service counter and was given a lecture about how much bread is wasted every day. That would lead me nicely into what I wanted to say about service.
Additional Body Paragraphs And when I’d finished making my point about service,if I had other points I wanted to make to support myview (my thesis), I’d discuss each one (in a separatebody paragraph).
ConclusionsOK. So now I’ve made all my That would re-state my pointpoints and it’s time to wrap up (my thesis), but not in the exact(my conclusion): So you see, I same words I used when Imight say (re-stating my thesis started (in my introduction).and summarizing my main Now I have the benefit of all myarguments), all supermarkets arguments and evidence (in theare much the same. Some body paragraphs). It isntpeople might prefer this or that enough just to freshen myproduct at one over the others; language. I need to saysome might find the service something fresh — somethingmore congenial at one than at that grows out of what I’ve saidthe others; some might find the (in the body paragraphs). Theprices better for individual fresh thing I’m saying is thatitems if not overall. Taken though various supermarketstogether, these advantages and do offer advantages todisadvantages tend to even out, shoppers in individual aspects,and it makes no difference taken altogether the individualwhere you shop. advantages disappear.
The ClincherI could end there, but I like to end Isnt it ironic that with all thewith whats sometimes called a choice one has in everyclincher. It’s something I hope will supermarket of which cereal toleave the person I’m talking to (the buy, which kind of sausage, orperson marking my essay) thinking which brand of bread or milk, thethat I know something about this choices are much the same in allsubject and how to analyze what I supermarkets. Sure there are threeknow and how to argue and that I different kinds of milk — but thecan say things with a bit of flair. same three kinds in everyBut I must be careful at this stage supermarket. For the shopper,not to introduce new material or to theres a sameness about everygo off on a tangent. I need to say supermarket and a sense of beingsomething sexy that emerges from caught in a system that knowswhat Ive said (in the body of my nothing about the individualessay) or that it implies. So, I customer and frankly doesnt caremight end by saying: to know. So take that!
Clincher #2I might add (or substitute) something like this: Iasked the manager of my local supermarket why thestore no longer sold Lactantia unsalted butter (in myview the best butter in Canada). He said, “I honestlydont know. We didnt make that decision. It musthave been made at head office.”
Clincher #3Or I might return to my opening thought — you know,the one about grocery shopping in the old days: WhenI was a child, my parents shopped at Wolfsonsgrocery store, rather than Kalinikoss or Smiths,because Mr. Wolfson stocked a particular brand ofsalami just for us and sliced it the way my father likedit, thick and juicy – and because if my mother ordereda pound of apples and they weren’t very good thatday Mr. Wolfson would phone her and ask if she’d liketo have pears instead. Now that was a grocery store.And those were the days.
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