Instead, you can catch all of your ideas, in no particular order, on a sheet or two of A4. Once they are down there it will be easier for you to start to review them critically and to see where you need to focus your reading and note taking. Essentially, this is what you are doing within the essay process: breaking ideas down, then building them up again.
You need to:. Throughout this process, the essay title is the single immovable feature. You begin there; you end there; and everything in between needs to be placed in relation to that title. All three of the processes described above will inform your decisions about what you need to read for a particular essay.
If left unplanned, the reading stage can swallow up huge amounts of time. Fortunately, there is scope for developing efficiency in several ways:.
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While a certain level of efficiency is desirable, it is also important to remain flexible enough to identify relevant and interesting ideas that you had not anticipated. You can use the writing process to help you think through, clarify and develop your early ideas about how you might respond to the title that has been set:. As with teaching, it is often not until you try to communicate an argument and its evidence that you find where the gaps are in your knowledge or argument. Writing is an active and constructive process; it is not merely a neutral recording of your thoughts.
It is therefore useful to go into the writing process expecting to make revisions.
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The first words you write do not have to be part of the final version. Editing your writing as you develop your ideas is a positive not a negative process: the more you cross out, re-write, and re-order, the better your essay should become. All essays need structure. The structure may be strong and clear, or it may be unobtrusive and minimal but, in a good essay, it will be there. Again this may be strong and obvious, or it may be almost invisible, but it needs to be there.
However, even in those essays that appear to be highly creative, unscientific, or personal, an argument of some kind is being made. It is the argument, and how you decide to present and back up your argument, that will influence your decision on how to structure your essay. The essay structure is not an end in itself, but a means to an end: the end is the quality of the argument. By creating a relevant structure, you make it much easier for yourself to present an effective argument. There are several generic structures that can help you start to think about your essay structure e.
These can be useful starting points, but you will probably decide to work with a more complicated structure e. In addition to these macro-structures you will probably need to establish a micro-structure relating to the particular elements you need to focus on e. You may feel that, for your particular essay, structures like these feel too rigid. You may wish to create a more flexible or fluid structure.
An analogy could be that of symphony writing.
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This set out a pattern for the numbers of movements within the symphony, and for the general structure of writing within each movement. The continued popularity of their work today shows that they clearly managed to achieve plenty of interest and variety within that basic structure. Later composers moved away from strict symphonic form. Some retained a loose link to it while others abandoned it completely, in favour of more fluid patterns.
It would be rare, however, to find a symphony that was without structure or pattern of any kind; it would probably not be satisfactory either to play or to listen to. Similarly, a structure of some kind is probably essential for every essay, however revolutionary. The process of essay planning and writing does not need to be a linear process, where each stage is done only once.
It is often an iterative process i. A possible iterative process is:. This section heading is in quotes as it is also the heading of chapter 8, pages , in Barass Barass p80 makes the simple but valid statement, that:. The tutors reading and marking your essays deserve your consideration. They will be reading and marking many, many student essays.
If you make your argument hard to follow, so that they need to re-read a paragraph or more to try to make sense of what you have written, you will cause irritation, and make their job slower. Realistically, it is possible that they may even decide not to make that effort.
Your tutors will not necessarily be looking for the perfect, revolutionary, unique, special essay; they would be very happy to read a reasonably well-planned, well-argued and well-written essay. They will not want to pull your essay to pieces.
They would much rather enjoy reading it, and be satisfied by the thread of your argument. In the words of a tutor:. A powerful introduction is invaluable. It can engage your readers, and can give them confidence that you have thought carefully about the title, and about how you are going to address it. A useful generic structure is to:. It may be possible to use only one paragraph for your introduction, but it may fall more easily into two or more. You will need to adapt and extend this basic structure to fit with your own discipline and the precise task set.
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Here is an example of an introduction for an essay entitled:. Although the introduction appears at the beginning of your essay, you may prefer to write it towards the end of the drafting process:. Questions to ask of your introduction and conclusion may be useful. The middle part of the essay must fulfil the promises made in your introduction , and must support your final conclusions.
Failure to meet either or both of these requirements will irritate your reader, and will demonstrate a lack of self-critique and of editing. The central part of your essay is where the structure needs to do its work, however explicit or implicit your chosen structure may be. The structure you choose needs to be one that will be most helpful to you in addressing the essay title.
The Five Paragraph Essay
The content of this central part will probably contain: ideas; explanations; evidence; relevant referencing; and relevant examples. It will be characterised by:. Questions to ask of your essay content may be useful. A powerful conclusion is a valuable tool. The aim is to leave your reader feeling that you have done a good job. A generic structure that you may find useful is:. The study guide What is critical writing?
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With critical writing, you are doing work with the evidence you are using, by adding a level of examination and evaluation. Questions to ask about your level of critical writing may be useful. Another useful tool to support critical writing is the paragraph! Aim to present one idea per paragraph. Within the paragraph you could:. We need more contributions for these pages. If you are an English Language student or graduate and have work you are willing to submit please send it by email attachment.
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