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Essay Development: Writing Review Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 25, 2011

Exercises for this concept can be found at Essay Development: Writing Review Practice Exercises.

So you have an outline. Now what? What should you do with it? Well, you should use it as a map. I know, you're thinking, "But it's not a map. It's an outline!" Think about it this way. When you need to go from Point A to Point B and you don't know the route, you use a map. The map tells you what roads to take so that you don't get lost. It guides you. Well, that's exactly what an outline does. It helps you get from your introduction to your conclusion without getting lost along the way.

Keep your map handy while we do a little essay dissection. Before you write your essay, you should probably know what the parts of an essay are.

Parts of An Essay

Introduction

In your introduction, you say what you're going to say.

Your introduction is the first chance you have to spark your reader's interest and to explain to him or her what you will be discussing in your essay. It's sort of like a movie preview. The object of a movie preview is to introduce you to the movie in an interesting way, so that when you see the preview, you think to yourself, "That movie looks good. I want to watch that." A good preview gives you just enough of a glimpse of who the characters are and what the basic plot is that it leaves you wanting more. An introduction has a similar purpose.

Pace Yourself

Think of a movie that you've seen, and write a preview for the movie in the form of an introduction.

The most important component of any introduction is your thesis statement.

What Is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is your whole argument, boiled down to a sentence. It serves two functions. One, your thesis allows you to test your argument's strength, by seeing how it holds up to being simplified into one brief statement. Does it end up sounding awkward? Or does it sound like a winner? Two, your thesis introduces the reader to your plan of action and answers that important question that readers ask themselves: What is the point?

Fuel For Thought

The word thesis comes from the Greek word tithenai, meaning to put or lay down.

Where Do You Put a Thesis Statement?

In most cases, your thesis statement will go at the end of your introduction. This way, you can build up to it with an intriguing opening. The location of your thesis within the introduction is not nearly as important, however, as the clarity of your thesis statement. Wherever it is, your thesis statement should be clearly identifiable and should make it obvious to your reader what the point of your essay will be.

How Do You Write a Thesis Statement?

Thesis statements are not difficult to write. All you have to do is make sure that you are answering the question you are being asked in your essay assignment. For example, if you are asked to write an essay explaining the major differences between elementary school and middle school, turn that assignment into a question, as follows.

    What are the major differences between elementary school and middle school?

Now your thesis statement will be the answer to the question. It may start like this.

    The major differences between elementary school and middle school are …

A strong thesis statement will not only answer the question and introduce your point, but it will also take a stand, be specific, and lend itself to further discussion. There's no point in having a thesis statement that doesn't lead to more discussion. After all, that's what your essay is, a discussion of your topic. Let's practice writing some strong thesis statements.

Caution!

Don't try to write your thesis after you've written your essay. You'll need to refer back to it as you write.

Let's take a look at what a good introduction may look like.

    Many of us love the cold weather. Skiing and snowboarding have become popular recreational activities; others simply enjoy nestling around a warm fire during the winter months. Although winter temperatures can make for a fun time out in the snow or a relaxing day indoors, there are serious dangers associated with cold weather. It is, therefore, important that everyone learns how to stay safe in the cold. There are several ways that a person can keep warm during cold winter months, including dressing in layers, staying indoors, and drinking warm liquids.

As you can see, this introduction has a clear thesis statement, which appears as the last sentence of the paragraph. There is no confusion as to what the rest of the essay will be about. As we are led up to the thesis, we are given a little bit of background as to why the topic is even being discussed. Why is it important? To whom will this information be helpful? A good introduction will answer these questions for the reader, so that he or she feels there is a good reason to keep reading.

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