Essay Development: Writing Review Study Guide (page 3)
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
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.
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.
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.
If, in your introduction, you say what you are going to say, then the body of your essay is where you actually say it. Each paragraph of the body of your essay should contain a topic sentence (we'll talk more about topic sentences in a minute) and should serve as direct support for your thesis statement. The body of your paper is where you defend and/or support the point you made in your introduction.
So, in your introduction, you've said what you're going to say. Then, in the body of your essay, you've said it. Now, in your conclusion, you say what you said. This is your chance to remind the reader of your thesis and to sum up your major points. You may want to leave it at that, or you may want to take it a step further and make a recommendation or prediction for the future.
Practice identifying the parts of an essay by dissecting a newspaper article.
We need to consider one other means of organization. Not only your essay as a whole, but also each paragraph within your essay, needs to be organized. So here's the deal. Every paragraph in your essay will have a topic. You will need to introduce that topic to your reader with a topic sentence. A topic sentence tells your reader what the paragraph is about, but that's not all the multitalented topic sentence accomplishes. It has to relate simultaneously to your thesis and to the rest of the paragraph. Think of the topic sentence as standing tall on the page, holding hands with both the thesis and the paragraph, so that they never get too far apart.
Parts of a Topic Sentence
Because one of the jobs of a topic sentence is to tell your reader what the paragraph is about, it needs to be composed of two important parts: the topic and the focus.
The topic is what the paragraph is about. The focus is what you think about the topic. Here are some examples of topic sentences with the topic and focus identified.
Kinds of Paragraphs
Now that you know how to write a topic sentence that clearly identifies the topic and the focus, let's talk about how to construct the rest of the paragraph. The first decision to make is where to place your topic sentence. Should it be the first sentence, or the last? Or should it be stuck somewhere in the middle? Well, the middle is not an option. Your reader would be very confused to read one of your topic sentences in the middle of a paragraph. The remaining options are putting your topic sentence first or putting it last. Each of these options creates a different type of paragraph. The two types of paragraphs are deductive and inductive.
A deductive paragraph begins with the topic sentence, so the reader knows right away what the rest of the paragraph will be about. Here's an example.
- One way to prevent tooth decay is to make regular visits to your dentist. Even if you take care of your teeth every day at home, it is still advantageous to get them cleaned by a dentist a couple of times a year. Brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash at home can clean your teeth only so much. The dentist uses special tools that are not available to the average person to use every day on his or her teeth.
An inductive paragraph ends with the topic sentence and, therefore, is not as straightforward as a deductive paragraph. Instead of introducing the topic right away, the inductive paragraph builds up to introducing the topic. Here's an example.
- Dentists use special tools to clean your teeth. These tools are not available to most people and clean teeth better than brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash at home. So, in order to supplement your home cleaning, you should visit the dentist a couple times each year. Visiting your dentist regularly is one way to prevent tooth decay.
For now, don't worry about trying to create inductive paragraphs. Because deductive paragraphs are much more straightforward, they're a good type to start practicing with. After you've had some practice writing essays, you can experiment with different styles.
Details are what make an argument convincing and an essay interesting.
Each paragraph of your essay should have a clear topic sentence as the first sentence. Every other sentence should relate back to that topic sentence. It interrupts the flow and the clarity of your essay when there are sentences that seem like they're stuck in the wrong place. Imagine the reader cruising along down the road of your essay and—pop!—a pothole! Now, maybe the reader has a flat tire and has to pull over to the shoulder and assess the problem. Sounds like a bummer, huh? That's why flow is so important.
Where to Break
Sometimes it can be tricky trying to decide when to start a new paragraph. Well, each paragraph should contain its own topic, so the rule is new topic, new paragraph. When you're reading back over your essay and find that a paragraph seems to be quite long, maybe it's really two smaller topics that could be broken up into two separate paragraphs.
All this important information will enable you to construct your essay, using your outline as a guide. It is essential to know the basic parts of an essay: an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. First, remember that the introduction is the hook that draws the reader in. You don't want your reader to get stuck in the introduction and not continue on to the body of your paper. Make your introduction clear and interesting, and be sure that you have a well-defined thesis statement so that there's no confusion as to what you will write about in the rest of your essay. Take a stand. Make your point. Tell people what you're about to tell them.
Next is the body of your essay. Generally speaking, you should have at least one paragraph for every piece of support you've gathered for your thesis. Each of these paragraphs should be a mini essay on its own, in the sense that it should discuss only one piece of support and begin with a topic sentence that introduces that support. Of course, each paragraph should also relate directly back to the thesis statement. After reading each paragraph, your reader should be able to say, "Hey, so that's why the thesis is true." Also, as you write, keep in mind the two different kinds of paragraphs. Deductive paragraphs begin with the topic sentence, and inductive paragraphs end with it. Although you'll primarily be using deductive paragraphs because they're much more straightforward and interesting, it's helpful to keep the difference between the two types in mind.
Finally, you will conclude. At this point, you don't want to leave your reader hanging. You want to wrap everything up nicely at the end and remind the reader why your essay was so important to read. Your conclusion should restate your thesis without being repetitive. It should also leave the reader with a little something to think about, whether it be how your topic relates to some larger issue or how it's the very first time anyone has ever discussed the topic. If your essay is a movie and the introduction is the preview, then your conclusion is the nicely wrapped-up happy ending that gives the viewer a good feeling or maybe even something to talk about over dinner.
Exercises for this concept can be found at Essay Development: Writing Review Practice Exercises.
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