When we write, it becomes clear that the bestpractice is to approach the work in smallerstages, especially if the assignment is particularlylong. Even for short assignments, breaking thework up into manageable pieces allows the writergreater flexibility; time to plan, write, and revise;and an opportunity to edit the work before it isdue. What we know for certain is that the mosteffective methodology of writing is ProcessWriting. Note: Much of the material for this lecture can be found in your textbook.
Your textbook has some excellent suggestions for beginning the process of drafting an essay. If you find that you are having difficulty beginning, take a look at these suggestions. Remember that a first draft is NOT a final draft and may not even resemble your final draft. In fact, a first draft is designed for revision. It is your chance to experiment with what you want to say before you refine your thoughts.
Introductions and conclusions are often the hardest parts of a paper to write. In fact, if you feel stumped and just don’t know how to begin, it is okay to start with the body of the paper first and then come back to the introduction. However, before you try this method, you will want to make certain that you have a strong thesis statement so that you know where the draft is headed.
One of the major purposes of an introductory paragraph is to entice the reader and pull him or her into the essay. Your reader wants to be interested in what he is reading. No one wants to sit through an essay that offers nothing in the way of entertainment or interest value. The process by which you draw the reader in is sometimes called the “hook.” There are several strategies that successful writers use to “hook” their readers. These include:
Stating the thesis directly ◦ This is a common type of opening in which the writer gives some general background information and then narrows the focus to a preview of what is coming up in the draft Defining difficult or pertinent terms ◦ This kind of introduction works particularly well in a paper that acquaints the reader with an unfamiliar topic Posing a question ◦ A provocative question can entice the reader into the essay in search of the answer
Using a quote ◦ A beginning quotation, particularly from an authority in the field, can be an effective springboard for the ideas that follow Sharing an anecdote or story ◦ A well-told anecdote or personal experience can lure readers into the rest of the paper to see what will happen to the characters in the story Utilizing a statistic ◦ Sometimes you can jolt the reader into attention, using content, language, or statistics that point to the importance of the topic
Note that the thesis statement does not necessarily fall at the end of the first paragraph. You can sometimes open with the thesis statement. Also, especially in longer essays, the first paragraph may be used as a way of introducing background information or other hook devises. In this event, the thesis statement may actually fall at the end ofAbove all, try not to stress about the second paragraph.the thesis statement; rememberthat it is tentative until the paper Your thesis statement isIs finished. also not limited to one sentence; at times, you may opt for two sentences in order to convey your complete idea.
Conclusions can again pose difficulties for the writer. We are often taught the five-paragraph essay technique in grade and secondary schools. This sounds something like – ◦ tell the reader what you will tell him, ◦ spend three body paragraphs telling him, ◦ and then tell him what you told him. While this technique is effective in teaching students the basic structure of how to draft an essay, it does little to advance student writing beyond the middle school level. While you certainly do want to reiterate your thesis statement in your conclusion, it is just too simplistic to stop there. Fortunately, there are ways of crafting a conclusion so that it goes beyond this grade school replica of writing.
If you have chosen to open your essay with one of the hooks listed above, it is effective to revisit that idea in your conclusion. Come back to the anecdote, the statistic, or the question (but be sure you answer the question explicitly in your conclusion). This type of circular writing wraps up the essay nicely for the reader and leaves her with a sense that the essay tied up any loose ends.
It is also effective towrite a call-to-action. This strategyasks the reader to get involved bydoing something herself to helpsolve the problem or advance thecause.Pointing out the bigger picture alsoasks the reader to picture what theresults might be if nothing is done orif your suggestions are followed.These strategies can be combinedso that you, for example, reiteratethe thesis statement, complete thestory you began in the beginning ofthe essay, and advocate a call-to-action that gets the reader involved.
The real work of writing or beginning to draft an essay can be taken in smaller chunks. For instance, just as the planning process lies the groundwork for an effective essay, writing effective paragraphs breaks the daunting work of writing an essay into smaller pieces. It also provides structure for your paper and works to guide the reader through the text, providing readability (in computer terminology, we call this being user-friendly). But, what constitutes an effective paragraph?
There are several characteristics of good paragraphs. Those characteristics are unity, effective topic sentences, adequate development, organization, and coherence. Unity. A paragraph that has unity develops one, and only one, key controlling idea. This means that other ideas that don’t belong to the paragraph should be omitted or turned into their own paragraph.
A topic sentence states the main or controlling idea of a paragraph. This topic sentence is combined with supporting sentences which further elaborate on your main point for the paragraph. Note that the placement of a topic sentence can vary, depending upon where it works best in the paragraph you are writing.
Underdeveloped paragraphs are often a problem. Writers tend to write for the assignment rather than to inform the reader of all the details they need to know in order to fully understand what they are reading. The common statement, “it’s all in the details” is an effective benchmark for developing a paragraph. Your text suggests that you can include facts, figures, thoughts, observations, steps, lists, examples, and personal experiences to help your reader better understand your point.
An effective paragraph unfolds in a clear pattern of organization so that the reader can easily follow the flow of ideas. There are many ways to organize a paper. Some of the organizational strategies you might employ are emphatic order, chronological order, spatial order, and climactic order, to name a few.
Emphatic order begins with the big moment in the text and then backtracks to fill in the gaps created by this type of ordering. For instance, think of a movie that begins with a big car crash in which a main character is killed. The story then backtracks and tells us what happened before the car crash. By the time the car crash happens again at the end of the movie, we not only understand more about what happened, but we care about the characters as well.
Chronological order simply means telling a story from start to finish, even if the main event happens before the end of the story. This is also an effective way of narrating an event. Spatial order is used to describe something in great detail, especially when you need to delineate top/bottom, front/back, right/left, around/through, etc.
Climactic order means that the details of the story build from the seemingly least important to the big crescendo at the end of the paper. Organization also implies that your reader can easily follow your train of thought as he or she progresses through the paper.
Students often ask how to achieve a paper that “flows.” ◦ The answer to that question is “organization and coherence.” Coherent writing flows smoothly from one sentence to the next, one paragraph to the next, and one idea to the next.
The idea is that writers should provide clues to their readers as to what is coming next. We do this naturally when we speak, backing up and explaining something better or giving an example when we see looks of confusion on our audience’s faces, using transitions to guide the reader through the story, and consciously thinking about the structure of what we are saying.
When we write, these same elements are similarly important. Connecting words and phrases, or transitions, clarify relationships between sentences and give the reader clues as to what is coming up next. Your text provides additional information about sentence-level and paragraph-level transitions and a list of common transitions.
*Note that a breakdown in any one of these areas can create breakdowns in other areas. For that reason, it is imperative that you spend quality time with your essay to ensure that you have addressed each of these body issues.
Hacker, Diana. A Writer’s Reference, Seventh Ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Reinking, James A. and Robert von der Osten. Strategies for Successful Writing, Ninth Ed. Boston: Prentice Hall, 2011.