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Essay Tips


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Guidelines to help you write an essay.

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Essay Tips

  1. 1. Essay Tips<br />Guidelines for writing a strong essay<br />
  2. 2. Methods of Development<br />
  3. 3. Methods of development<br />The type of essay you choose to write is called the “method of development”. There are several, including:<br />Exposition<br />Narrative<br />Descriptive<br />Compare/Contrast<br />Process<br />Classification/Division<br />Cause and Effect<br />Argumentation/Persuasion<br />Definition<br />Research and Report<br />Critical Writing<br />(All explanations and tips are adapted from What Can I Write About?: 7000 Topics for High School Students by David Powell, and Canadian Content by Sarah Norton and Nell Waldman)<br />
  4. 4. MOD: Exposition<br />Exposition is setting forth purpose or meaning. It opens the subject up and lays its bones bare. It attempts to explain the subject, or to offer it up fully so others can “see” it in the light you provide.<br />Clarity is essential. Limit your subject; keep it tight, unified, concrete.<br />This is best suited to discussing a subject you know well, rather than one you are just discovering.<br />
  5. 5. MOD: Narrative/Descriptive<br />Be specific and concrete. Search out the telling detail, the essential characteristic, and then nail it down—but without stabbing it to death.<br />Include all the senses: the smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and feels. <br />Descriptive writing may be objective (purely factual) or subjective (involving the writer’s feelings and beliefs).<br />Often, the best descriptions are those that incorporate the flaws of something, rather than only the perfections.<br />A narrative relates a sequence of events: it tells a story. Skillfully done, narration does not merely tell the readers what happened; it re-creates the experience for them so that they may see and hear and feel exactly what it was like.<br />The trick is to use narration to help explain or illustrate a point. In <br />re-creating a series of events, good narration makes clear the casual connections between the stages of the action.<br />
  6. 6. MOD: Compare/Contrast<br />Two effective methods: subject-by-subject and point-by-point. <br />Subject-by-subject: separate the two subjects and discuss them individually (e.g. Paragraph 1is about Beth’s job and family; Paragraph 2 is about Bob’ job and family).<br />Point-by-point: discuss each subject under separate category headings (e.g. Paragraph 1 is about Beth and Bob’s jobs; Paragraph 2 is about Beth and Bob’s families). This makes the resemblances and differences between the two subjects more readily apparent.<br />We could compare an idealistic young guerilla, son of a peasant, with a business student who only cares where the surest money is. There is little room to develop common ground between the two people. <br />This is where contrast would be more effective. We could contrast the guerilla with a someone from the revolutionary’s own country: child of a wealthy landowner, graduate economics student at the University of Chicago. The two threads of such a contrast could weave the social fabric of a nation and pattern the history of our time.<br />Comparison and contrast can also be used together, to create a fuller picture of all the similarities and differences between things.<br />
  7. 7. MOD: Process<br />Often used in magazines in articles like “How to Get a Date in 5 Easy Steps” or “Jump-Start Your Metabolism”.<br />Central feature is the procession from one point to another in a sequential order.<br />Instructions must be clear so the reader can follow along, step by step (whether or not you actually intend them to).<br />Process writing generally tells the reader how to do something, or how something is done, by proceeding one step at a time. This may be used for a recipe, a repair manual, or a political movement.<br />
  8. 8. MOD: Classification/Division<br />Classification involves a subject which is a group of things. The writer’s task is to sort the group into categories on the basis of some shared characteristic (e.g. fast-food hamburgers can be classified according to where they are made).<br />In division, a single subject is divided into its component parts (e.g. a Big Mac can be divided into its ingredients).<br />These both separate something into its parts in order to determine their essential features and to study their relationship to each other.<br />
  9. 9. MOD: Cause and Effect<br />Take into account both obvious and less immediately obvious reasons or effects for something.<br />Oversimplification is a pitfall. Recognize that an event can be triggered by a complex variety of things.<br />The writer can explain the reasons for something, or analyze its consequences. Sometimes, a writer attempts to do both, which is necessarily a longer, more complex process. Taking one direction, either cause or effect, is usually sufficient in a paper.<br />
  10. 10. MOD: Argumentation/Persuasion<br />The argument should be logical and formal; if it is not, it loses its strength.<br />Even if a certain degree of ambiguity or subjectivity is called for, the writer should be clear about it.<br />A balanced, reasonable argument is often most effective, and proof is always better than opinion. Nothing will put people off more than a hedgehog piece of writing bristling with opinions.<br />Get all the facts straight. An argument is only as strong as the logic behind it. <br />You can argue a counter-position for the fun of it, to play the devil’s advocate. But when you turn serious you had better believe in what you are doing.<br />Reason, logic, emotion, humor, irony, satire—any of these can be viable forms of argumentation.<br />Argumentation shows proof in order to convince, defend, or attack. It is convincing someone by way of the brain.Persuasion is bringing someone over to our side, sometimes with a nod, a wink, and usually with a word or two. Persuasion is the term often applied to the emotional approach, convincing a person by way of the heart.<br />
  11. 11. MOD: Definition<br />Definition establishes the limits or boundaries of a word as it is used in a given context.<br />Avoid writing word-for-word definitions out of the dictionary into the piece. As an introductory strategy, this is both boring and irrelevant. It’s your meaning the reader needs to understand.<br />There are three especially useful purposes of extended definitions: explaining the abstract, the technical, or the changed meanings of a word or concept.<br />Definition is a way of explaining a word clearly, precisely, concretely; of exploring both the word and how it relates to its private context.<br />
  12. 12. Introductions<br />
  13. 13. Introductions<br />
  14. 14. Sample Introduction: Pro/Con<br />At bus stops or in convenience stores, we can tell instantly if students from private schools are there. Their uniforms make them hard to miss. Some parents and school trustees think that all school children should be wearing uniforms. Although many students feel horrified at the idea, they would soon find that uniforms are economical, convenient, and morale-boosting.<br />
  15. 15. Sample Introduction: Anecdote<br />In junior high, we all wore uniforms. The guys wore long grey itchy trousers, a never-very-clean, never-very-pressed white shirt, ugly black shoes, a green cap, and a green, long-sleeved cardigan without pockets. The girls wore slightly cleaner and better pressed white blouses, grey jumpers or skirts, the same kind of pocketless sweaters and ugly black shoes. Because uniforms are uncomfortable, ugly, and inconvenient, no child should have to wear them.<br />
  16. 16. Sample Introduction: Definition<br />Uniform just means “the same”. McDonald’s restaurants all over the world make uniform Big Macs. Pickets in a fence are uniform as are the hanging baskets along downtown streets. Why do students get so upset if someone says that they should wear school uniforms? Usually, it is because they believe uniforms are ugly and uncomfortable. The definition of uniform, however, does not include these ideas. In fact, public school uniforms could be economical, fashionable, and comfortable.<br />
  17. 17. Thesis Statements<br />
  18. 18. Thesis Statements<br />It should answer the question, “If I had only one idea I wanted my reader to understand, what would it be?”<br />
  19. 19. Thesis Statements<br />There are different levels of thesis statements. Take a look at the ones below, which all answer the question: How is hope important in The Book Thief?<br /> <br />Simple and general: Hope is important in The Book Thief.<br />More specific: Hope is important to some characters in The Book Thief because they need it to survive.<br />Specific and well-written: World War II was a desperate time for both Germans and Jews. For many of the characters in Markus Zusak’sThe Book Thief, hope was the only thing that gave them the willpower to try to survive with the hope of creating a better life.<br />Specific, stylish, and with some foreshadowing: In the desperate times of World War II, hope was the only thing that gave many of the characters in The Book Thief the willpower to survive with the desire to create a better life, filled with justice and equality.<br />
  20. 20. Body Paragraphs<br />
  21. 21. Body Paragraphs<br />Remember: one paragraph for each main point!<br />Start with your POINT—your topic sentence that explains your opinion about the paragraph’s topic<br />State your QUOTE or EVIDENCEas primary evidence to support your point,integrated your own sentence<br />Include an EXPLANATIONof one or more sentences explaining how the quote supports your point<br />You can have more than one quote or piece of evidence, so repeat the Quote/Explanation steps as needed.<br />
  22. 22. Conclusions<br />
  23. 23. Conclusions<br />Begin by restating your thesis in new words. For example:<br />Thesis: Violent movies exemplify and glorify what is wrong with our culture.<br />Conclusion: The violence in society is reflected in the movies we watch.<br />
  24. 24. Conclusions<br />Then, do one of the following:<br />Suggest a solution for improvement<br />Apply the theme or thesis to a wider context<br />Answer a question you posed in the introduction<br />If you used a flashback, return to the “present”<br />In a narrative, give an explanation of the lesson learned or the insight gained<br />Emphasize the value that the topic holds for you or society<br />A strong, on-topic quote can add authority<br />Logically predict the future of the topic<br />Encourage your readers to do something about the problem<br />
  25. 25. Conclusions<br />Don’t say “In conclusion…” (yawn!)<br />Avoid summarizing your essay (boring!)<br />Keep it (relatively) short<br />In a “one-hour” essay, a reader expects 3-5 sentences<br />Reread your thesis statement… Has your writing strayed from the original thesis? <br />