Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Essay Writing lesson

Many English students need to know how to write an essay, especially if they are trying to get into certain universities abroad.


The essay is the most common kind of writing every student will do while at university. That is why it is good for a student to begin to learn how and be comfortable with this kind of writing. Essays are often assigned both in class—which requires previous planning and practice (and a bit of creativity)—and as homework, which also asks for a certain amount of preparation. Many bad essays have been written because of little preparation and confidence.

What is an Essay?

The purpose of a short essay is to encourage students to develop ideas and concepts in their writing using only their thoughts. Essays give a lot of information clearly and in a few words, and require the purpose and direction be clear.

This handout will include a brief introduction to the following kinds of essay writing:

  • The Expository Essay
  • The Descriptive Essay
  • The Narrative Essay
  • The Argumentative (Persuasive) Essay

What is an Expository Essay?

The expository essay requires the student to look at an idea, judge the facts, talk more about the idea, and give reasons for any view about that idea clearly and with few words. This can be done through comparison and contrast, definition, example, the analysis of cause and effect, etc.

The structure of the expository essay is held together by the following:

  • A clear, concise, and defined 'thesis statement' that is in the first paragraph of the essay.
  • Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Body paragraphs that include facts that support the idea, each limited to one general idea.
  • Be creative.
  • A conclusion doesn't just repeat the thesis, but looks at the statement with the essays ideas.

A Complete Argument

It might be helpful to think of an essay like a conversation with a classmate, with a beginning, middle, and end to the conversation. The expository essay must be complete and logically.

The Five-Paragraph Essay

A common method for writing an expository essay is the five-paragraph approach.
1. - an introductory paragraph
2,3,4. - three evidentiary body paragraphs
5. - a conclusion

What is a Descriptive Essay?

The descriptive essay asks the student to describe an object, person, place, experience, emotion, or situation. This kind of essay helps the student learn how to write a story about a single experience. A descriptive essay gives the writer a lot of freedom to be creative (the goal is to paint a picture using words that is alive and moving in the mind of the reader).

Here are some guidelines for writing a descriptive essay:

  • Take time to brainstorm - Take time to write down some ideas before you start to describe it on paper. For example, if you choose pizza, you might start by writing down a few words: sauce, cheese, crust, pepperoni, sausage, spices, hot, melted. Once you have written down some words, you can begin by making descriptive lists for each one.
  • Use clear and concise language - This means that words are chosen carefully.
  • Choose vivid language - Why Choose words that paint a picture in the mind.
  • Use your senses! - Remember, if you are describing something, you need to explain how the thing smelled, felt, sounded, tasted, or looked.
  • What were you thinking?! - Describe emotions or feelings about your topic.
  • Leave the reader with a clear impression - Your goal is to 'connect' your topic to the reader.
  • Be organized! - You must write an organized and logical description. Don't write too much

What is a Narrative Essay?

A narrative essay is like telling a story. These essays let the student to express themselves in a creative and, quite often, emotional way.

Here are some guidelines for writing a narrative essay:

  • The essay should include all the parts of a story: introduction, plot, characters, setting, climax, and conclusion.
  • The essay should have a purpose, the reason for writing it.
  • The essay should be written from a clear point of view, usually of the writer (not always)
  • Use clear language with few words throughout the essay.
  • It is okay to use 'I’.
  • As always, be organized!
Have a clear introduction that sets the tone for the remainder of the essay. Do not leave the reader guessing about the purpose of your narrative. Remember, you are in control of the essay, so guide it where you desire (just make sure your audience can follow your lead).

What is an Argumentative Essay?

The argumentative essay asks the student to investigate a topic, collect, generate, and evaluate facts, and establish a position (for or against) on the topic using few words.

Argumentative essay homework usually need a lot of research. They may need the kind of research where the student collects data through interviews, surveys, observations, or experiments. Detailed research allows the student to learn about the topic and to understand different points of view of the topic so that they may choose a position and support it with the facts collected. Argumentative essays must have a clear thesis and follow good reasons.

The structure of the argumentative essay is held together by the following:
  • A clear, concise, and defined thesis statement that occurs in the first paragraph of the essay.
    • In the first paragraph students should review the topic in a general way. Next, students need to explain why the topic is important or why readers should care. Lastly, students should present the thesis statement.
  • Clear and logical transitions between the introduction, body, and conclusion.
    • One thought follows another. But the transition between different thoughts should finish one and begin another.
  • Body paragraphs that include facts that support the idea.
    • Each paragraph should be limited to the discussion of one general idea. It is also important to explain how and why the facts supports the thesis.
    • However, argumentative essays should also consider and explain differing points of view regarding the topic.
  • Facts support the thesis.
    • The argumentative essay requires well-researched, accurate, detailed, and current information to support the thesis statement and consider other points of view.
  • A conclusion that does not simply repeat the thesis, but looks at it using the new facts.
    • Do not introduce any new information into the conclusion. Repeat why the topic is important, review the main points, and review your thesis.

A Complete Argument

It might be helpful to think of an essay in terms of a conversation or debate with a classmate.

The Five-Paragraph Essay

A common method for writing an argumentative essay is the five-paragraph approach. But it is not the only way to write essays. The method consists of 1) an introductory paragraph 2) three evidentiary body paragraphs that may include discussion of opposing views and 3) a conclusion.

original content posted on Purdue OWL
and written by Jack Baker & Allen Birzee

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