This Essay Will Demonstrate

Almost all students will at some time be expected to write an essay, or some other kind of argument, e.g. a review or discussion section, in a longer piece of writing. In English, an essay is a piece of argumentative writing several paragraphs long written about one topic, usually based on your reading. The aim of the essay should be deduced strictly from the wording of the title or question (See Academic Writing: Understanding the Question), and needs to be defined at the beginning. The purpose of an essay is for you to say something for yourself using the ideas of the subject, for you to present ideas you have learned in your own way. The emphasis should be on working with other people's ideas, rather than reproducing their words, but your own voice should show clearly. The ideas and people that you refer to need to made explicit by a system of referencing.

According to Linda Flower (1990, p. v), "students are reading to create a text of their own, trying to integrate information from sources with ideas of their own, and attempting to do so under the guidance of a purpose."

2. Main text

English essays are linear:

- they start at the beginning and finish at the end, with every part contributing to the main line of argument, without digressions or repetition. Writers are responsible for making their line of argument clear and presenting it in an orderly fashion so that the reader can follow. Each paragraph discusses one major point and each paragraph should lead directly to the next. The paragraphs are tied together with an introduction and a conclusion.

The main text of the essay has three main parts:

  1. An introduction
  2. A main body
  3. A conclusion

    The introduction consists of two parts:

    1. It should include a few general statements about the subject to provide a background to your essay and to attract the reader's attention. It should try to explain why you are writing the essay. It may include a definition of terms in the context of the essay, etc.
    2. It should also include a statement of the specific subdivisions of the topic and/or indication of how the topic is going to be tackled in order to specifically address the question.

    It should introduce the central idea or the main purpose of the writing.

    The main body consists of one or more paragraphs of ideas and arguments. Each paragraph develops a subdivision of the topic. The paragraphs of the essay contain the main ideas and arguments of the essay together with illustrations or examples. The paragraphs are linked in order to connect the ideas. The purpose of the essay must be made clear and the reader must be able to follow its development.

    The conclusion includes the writer's final points.

    1. It should recall the issues raised in the introduction and draw together the points made in the main body
    2. and explain the overall significance of the conclusions. What general points can be drawn from the essay as a whole?

    It should clearly signal to the reader that the essay is finished and leave a clear impression that the purpose of the essay has been achieved.

Essays are organised differently according to their purpose. Essays can be divided into the following main types.

1. The descriptive essay

a. Description of object or place

b. Describing a sequence of events.

c. Describing a process

d. Describing and explaining

2. The argument essay

a. The balanced view

b. The persuasive essay

c. The to what extent essay.

3. Compare and contrast essays

a. The contrast essay

b. The compare essay

c. The compare and contrast essays

1. The descriptive essay

a. Description of object or place

Describe essays require you to state the appearance of something, or to state the major characteristics of it. Note the word state i.e. you are not asked to comment on the subject or to give your personal point of view on it. Questions are often introduced by:

Describe ....
Narrate...
Tell....

Plan:

Introduction

major aspects of the subject.

description of aspect A

description of aspect B

etc.

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Describing objects, locations & directions

b. Describing a sequence of events.

Describing a sequence of events is simply telling a story.

State clearly when events happened or how one event caused another. Questions may be introduced by:

Give an account of...
Trace...
Examine developments in...

Intoduction

First situation

then A happened

then B happened

etc.

Final situation

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Reporting & narrating

c. Describing a process

This is like telling a story but here the connections between the facts must be clearly shown and explained. Group the events into steps or stages.

Examples of such questions are :

Explain/What is the connection between...
Describe the procedures by which...

Definition of process

Main equipment/Main steps

Step One

leads to

Step Two

leads to

Step Three

Conclusion

Summary of process

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Describing processes & developments

d. Describing and explaining

Some of the words and phrases which introduce this type of description are:

Explain the causes/reasons....
Account for....
Analyse the causes....
Comment on (the reasons for)....
Show that....
Show why...
Examine the effect of....
Suggest reasons for....
Why did...?
What are the implications of...?
Discuss the causes of....
Discuss the reasons for....

When we are asked to describe or explain causes, factors, functions or results, the examiner wants us to group our facts. Similar causes are put together, for instance the economic causes of a situation. There are basically two main ways to organise this type of essay.

The question is "Describe the causes of A. Illustrate your answer by specific examples."

i.

Introduction to causes of A

Cause 1 + example

Effects 1

Cause 2 with example

Effects 2

Cause 3 with examples

Effects 3

Cause 4 with example

Effects 4

etc.

Conclusion

ii.

Introduction to causes of A

Causes + examples

Transition

Effects

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Expressing reasons and explanations / cause and effect

2. The argument essay

There are two main methods of presenting an argument, and in general the one you choose will depend on exactly how the essay title is worded.

a. The balanced view

If the essay title begins with something like:

Give the arguments for and against....
Assess the importance of....
Examine the arguments for and against....
What are the advantages and disadvantages of...?
Evaluate....
Critically examine the statement that....
To what extent is...true?

or even just the word

Discuss....

then it is clear that a balanced essay is required. That is to say you should present both sides of an argument, without necessarily committing yourself to any points of view, which should always be based on evidence, until the final paragraph.

At its simplest your essay plan will be as follows:

Introduce the argument to the reader.

e.g. why it is particularly relevant topic nowadays
or refer directly to some comments that have been voiced on it recently.

Reasons against the argument

Reasons in favour of the argument

After summarising the two sides,
state your own point of view,
and explain why you think as you do

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Arguing and discussing; - Expressing degrees of certainty; - Generalising; - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Giving examples

b. The persuasive essay

This second type of argumentative essay involves stating your own point of view immediately, and trying to convince the reader by reasoned argument that you are right. Perhaps the essay title will begin with something like:

Give your views on....
What do you think about...?
Do you agree that...?
Consider whether....

Or perhaps the title itself will be so controversial that everyone will hold a definite opinion in one direction or another.

The form of the essay will be, in outline, as follows:

Introduce the topic briefly in general terms,

and then state your own opinion.

Explain what you plan to prove in the essay.

Reasons against the argument.

Dispose briefly of the main objections to your case.

Reasons for your argument

the arguments to support your own view,

with evidence and examples.

Conclusion - Do not repeat your point of view again.

End your essay with something memorable

e.g. a quotation or a direct question.

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Arguing and discussing; - Expressing degrees of certainty; - Generalising; - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Giving examples

c. The to what extent essay

In this type of essay the examiner is giving you a statement. It is obviously true but truth is never 100%. You must decide how true it is? Are there some areas where you disagree with the statement. If so, describe how far you agree, and your points of agreement and disagreement. Words used in the question are:

To what extent ....
How true ....
How far do you agree....

A possible answer structure is:

Introduction to problem

Aspect 1 - true

Aspect 1 - false

Aspect 2 - true

Aspect 2 - false

Aspect 3 - true

Aspect 3 - false

etc

Conclusion

a ‘subtraction’ sum

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Arguing and discussing; - Expressing degrees of certainty; - Generalising; - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Giving examples

3. Compare and contrast essays.

a The Contrast essay

Contrast or distinguish between questions usually present you with two or more terms, instruments, concepts or procedures that are closely connected, and sometimes confused. The purpose of the essay is to explain the differences between them. The question may be of the form:

Contrast ....
Distinguish between ...
What is the difference between....
What are the differences between....
How are ... and ... different?

A suitable answer structure would be:

Introduction to differences between A and B

Contrast A & B in terms of first difference

Contrast A & B in terms of second difference

Contrast A & B in terms of third difference

etc

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Defining; - Generalising; - Giving examples

b. The Compare essay

Compare questions usually present you with two or more terms, instruments, concepts or procedures that are closely connected, and sometimes confused. The purpose of the essay is to explain the similarities between them. Words used are:

Compare ....
What features do ... and ... have in common?
What are the similarities between....
How are ... and ... similar?

A suitable answer structure would be:

Introduction to similarities between A and B

Compare A & B

in terms of first similarity

Compare A & B

in terms of second similarity

Compare A & B

in terms of third similarity

etc.

Conclusion

See: Academic Writing: Functions - Comparing and contrasting: similarities and differences; - Defining; - Generalising; - Giving examples

c. The compare and contrast essay

Compare and contrast essays require you to indicate areas in which the things to be compared are similar and different.

Compare and contrast....

There are two main ways to answer such questions:

i.

Introduction to differences and similarities between A and B

Difference 1

Difference 2

Difference 3

etc.

Transition

Similarity 1

Similarity 2

Similarity 3

etc.

Conclusion

ii.

Introduction to differences and similarities between A and B

Aspect 1 - similarities

Aspect 1 - differences

Aspect 2 - similarities

Aspect 2 - differences

Aspect 3 - similarities

Aspect 3 - differences

etc

Conclusion

13. TIPS FOR ACADEMIC WRITING

Tip 1 - First and second person pronouns
Tip 2 - Complex sentences
Tip 3 - Signposting & Linking
Tip 4 - Read questions carefully
Tip 5 - Answer the question
Tip 6 - Be very, very careful when taking notes



TIP 1. AVOID FIRST AND SECOND PERSON PRONOUNS

This point is a bit controversial. Some lecturers will say that you can use 'I' in the introduction. Others will say that you shouldn't do it. So it is safer for you to avoid it. Likewise with 'you,' it is safer to avoid it. Here's how.

DANGEROUSSAFE
In this essay, I will demonstrate ... This essay will demonstrate ...
Firstly, I will look at ...

Firstly, this paper will ...

As you can see ... As can be seen ...
You may wonder ... A question a reader may have is ...



TIP 2. USE MORE COMPLEX SENTENCES

If you have mastered basic sentence structure, you can make your sentences more interesting and more succinct by considering that in academic writing, nouns are often preceded or followed by one or two words or a phrase. These words are known as modifiers as they modify the noun.

You can also combine sentences.

BASIC SENTENCESCOMPLEX SENTENCES

There was a rise in temperature. It was attributed to an increase in greenhouse gases.

There was an unexpected rise in temperature. It was attributed to a sharp increase in greenhouse gases.

The unexpected rise in temperature was attributed to a sharp increase in greenhouse gases.

The unexpected rise in what had for hundreds of years been a steady temperature was attributed to a sharp increase in greenhouse gases.



TIP 3. SIGNPOSTING & LINKING

Make sure that you use appropriate signposting and linking words and phrases. They make your ideas clearer and easier for your readers to follow.

SIGNPOSTING WORDS & PHRASES LINKING WORDS & PHRASES

SEQUENCE
firstly, secondly, finallly

AIMS
the aim is
the purpose of this paper is
this paper critically examines
this essay argues

ADDITION or SIMILARITY
also, in addition, furthermore, as well, similarly

SHOWING CAUSE
because, because of, due to, for this reason

SHOWING EFFECT
as a result, thus, therefore, consequently

USING EXAMPLES
for example, for instance, an example of this, to illustrate the point, to exemplify

TIME
after that, before that, next

OPPOSITE or UNEXPECTED
however, even though, but, despite, although, on the other hand



QUIZZES

How can we use these words? Try the quizzes below to get some practice with the meaning and the grammar associated with the words.

QUIZSTAR

The first time you do a quiz, you will need to sign up and register (steps 1 - 4)..

Search for the course called T4E. Use the 'exact match' button.

1. click link to quizzes 13 - 15

2. click yellow 'sign-up' arrow.

3. search for t4e

4. click blue link 'go to classes'

5. Click '24 untaken quizzes'

6. Click TAKE next to quiz 13 --> start quiz --> start quiz.

QUIZ 22, 23, 24
(Signposting & Linking 1, 2, 3)



TIP 4. READ QUESTIONS CAREFULLY

If you do everything else perfectly, but you don't read the question carefully, your work may still fail! READ THE QUESTION. It is always surprising how many students don't do this!!

Does your task / question tell you to ... ?

  • discuss
  • compare
  • contrast
  • compare and contrast
  • analyse
  • explain
  • give reasons

Make sure you do what it asks. Maybe you don't really understand what the words mean or you are not sure what to do. In that case your options are:

  • guess
  • ask a friend
  • use a dictionary or the internet
  • just hand in something (anything is better than nothing)
  • ask your lecturer.

Which option do you think is best?

A combination of these things is probably best. Do some research yourself by asking friends and checking a dictionary or online. Then when you've tried to find the answer, check with your lecturer. Make sure that you are on the right track.



TIP 5. ANSWER THE QUESTION

When you start your work, read the question carefully. Make sure that your research is relevant to the question. Underline the important words in the question. When you are half way through, go back and check the question, make sure that you are actually answering it. Just before you finish, go back to the question / task sheet again and check. Make sure that you are doing all of the things that you have underlined. Make sure that you are answering the question.

A brilliant paper that doesn't answer the question will probably score poorly!



TIP 6. BE VERY, VERY CAREFUL WHEN TAKING NOTES

An important academic skill is careful notetaking. Each time you read a text, take notes and make sure that you write down ALL of the information that you will need to use for the List of References. You need to take notes of the author, year of publication, name of text, publisher, location and page numbers.

Here's a video lesson that helps you focus on the source information you need to put into your notes. NOTE-TAKING VIDEO 1 - Take notes efficiently

 

If you copy quotes to use later and forget to write down the author's name, name of text, publication date and so on, you WON'T BE ABLE TO USE YOUR QUOTE. If you use your quote without all of this information, you will not be able to cite properly or maybe not be able to cite at all. You may find yourself guilty of plagiarism.

Here's a video lesson that helps you focus on paraphrasing and quotations in your note-taking. NOTE-TAKING VIDEO 2 - Mind your Ps & Qs

 

Efficient note-taking is probably one of the most basic and one of the most important skills to help you through your academic life.

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