Escape the Five-Paragraph Essay: Alternative Essay Formats to Make Your Essay Stand Out
ESCAPE THE FIVE-
Alternative Essay Formats to Make Your Essay Stand
A Presentation by Scribendi.com
While the five-paragraph essay may have been useful
when you were first learning how to organize a written
analysis (probably for that response paper you wrote
on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet), it does not
encourage deeper analysis or the development of
thought; nor does it allow for your conclusions to be
presented in any kind of interesting way. The five-
paragraph essay is like training wheels: if you're still
using it coming into university, you're basically the
14-year-old still pedaling behind all the big kids on
their two-wheeled mountain bikes.
What's the Problem?
But what other options are there? For those
studying the arts and humanities, there really is
no established structure your papers must
follow. This can be incredibly daunting to new
writers at this level. Rather than hiding behind a
strict and overly simplified essay form, embrace
the freedom you now have to use the format of
your essay to help convey your message.
Here are some possibilities to get you started.
What Are My Options?
1. The Stand-Up Comedian
This perfect analogy was penned by David Finkle. To
quote his Twitter profile, Finkle is a "middle school
teacher, author, cartoonist, blogger, and public speaker."
He likens an essay ordered by importance to a comedy
act: open with your second strongest joke (argument),
and end with your strongest one. This is a fairly
straightforward approach for those not confident enough
to tackle a truly unique essay form, but it still guarantees
that your paper catches its readers' attention and ends
with a punch.
2. The Classic Compare and Contrast
Whether it's for 18th-Century English Literature, Film Studies 101, or the History of Conflict in
East Asia, you'll be writing a comparative essay at some point. Think about whether you can
best articulate your points by discussing each item (book, film, war) separately, organizing your
information by similarities and differences, dissecting themes, etc.
3. The Problem Solver
This format works well for history,
philosophy, or psychology papers.
Present a problem, discuss existing
work on the subject, and then develop
and defend a logical solution. Just
make sure you don't trip on the pitfall
of devoting more time and paper to
the problem than to the solution.
4. The Blueprint
This works well for topics that involve a physical space,
geographic location, or different groups of affected
parties. Your paper will move through the discussion of
each individual space or group logically and seamlessly.
5. The Imitation Game
This bold style is most applicable in English literature courses when you
discuss period works or distinct writing forms. This is an alternative essay in
which you write your analysis in the same form as the piece you are
You've got to have a solid grounding in what you're doing here, and the
chosen structure has to support and enhance your critical content, not
distract from it. Should you have the confidence, writing skills, and
appropriate context, however, this kind of paper is one that makes an impact.
While organization and structure are critical to the success of your academic
work, you shouldn't limit yourself to a boring, cookie-cutter format. The
ability to use even the structure of your paper to enhance your thesis is a
powerful one, so embrace it!
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