Paragraphs and Essays

Paragraphs and Essays

Sentences are a basic structure of language. They convey the action or existence of a person, place, or thing.  Sentences are combined to form paragraphs to form longer written documents.  This may sound simplistic, but to build an effective written communication, sentences have to be combined in certain ways to form the paragraphs which in turn an be combined to write longer works. Even the longest novel is made up of sentences which are organized into paragraphs except for dialogue.  An essay is a special type of writing is a paper focused on proving a point called the thesis.  Essays are composed of special types of paragraphs with very particular content.

The rules for punctuation and sentence structure are covered in the Grammar section.  This section will cover how to compose paragraphs and an academic essay which is also, generally, the way beginning level research papers are organized. Research papers are also called research essays.

Paragraphs

Paragraphs

What is a Paragraph?

A paragraph is a series of sentences on a specific point or topic.  A well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states the main idea: what the paragraph is about.  While some say the  topic sentence can be anywhere in the paragraph, it is best to put it as the first sentence in a paragraph.  The rest of the sentences in the paragraph support, elaborate, and/or further explain the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

Paragraphs have varying length depending upon various factors.  An average paragraph in an academic essay is about six to eight sentences.

Types of Paragraphs

There are various types of paragraphs such as summaries, abstracts, and answers to questions for a specific assignment.  In addition, there are specialized types of paragraphs for various reports such as feasibility studies or performance reports.

The types of paragraphs covered in this lesson are general paragraphs as would be used in the body of a letter or an academic essay, including general research papers (research essays).

Parts of a Paragraph

Topic Sentence – purpose of a paragraph

Unless you are writing specialized report such as a scientific research paper or a feasibility study that may otherwise show the purpose of a paragraph such as a heading , a well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states what the paragraph is about.

Whether you are writing a paragraph for a specific assignment, an academic essay, a research paper, or a simple letter, each paragraph

The topic sentence should be the first sentence of the paragraph so that the reader knows what the paragraph is about.  The topic sentence in a body paragraph of an essay must be support for the thesis: a reason why the thesis is true or accurate.

The rest of the sentences in the paragraph of an essay support, elaborate, and/or further explain the topic sentence.

Here is an example of a paragraph:

The first sentence is the topic sentence. See how the rest of the sentences support, elaborate, and/or or further explain it.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.  From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

Everything in this paragraph is about how modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.

Unity and Coherence

A paragraph must have unity.

All of the sentences of a particular paragraph must focus on one point to achieve one goal: to support the topic sentence.

A paragraph must have coherence.

The sentences must flow smoothly and logically from one to the next as they support the topic sentence.

The last sentence of the paragraph should restate the topic sentence to help achieve unity and coherence.

Here is an example with information that does not support the topic sentence.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved. The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. People are more concerned about health issues and good air quality, so they have started walking or riding a bike to work even though they have the option of using a car or public transportation.   There’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

See how just one non-supporting sentence takes away from the effectiveness of the paragraph in showing how modern conveniences make life better since the unity and coherence are affected.  There is no longer unity among all the sentences.  The thought pattern is disjointed and the paragraph loses its coherence.

Here’s another example of a paragraph

Not only has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that technology has improved lives through efficiency.

Transitions – Words that Connect

Transitions are words, groups of words, or sentences that connect one sentence to another or one paragraph to another.

They promote a logical flow from one idea to the next.

While they are not needed in every sentence, they are missed when they are omitted since the flow of thoughts becomes disjointed or even confusing.

There are different types of transitions such as the following:

  • Time – before, after, during, in the meantime, nowadays
  • Space – over, around, under
  • Examples – for instance, one example is
  • Comparison –  on the other hand, the opposing view
  • Consequence – as a result, subsequently

These are just a few examples.  The idea is to paint a clear, logical connection between sentences and between paragraphs.

Here’s how transitions help make a paragraph unified and coherent

Not only has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Each part of a paragraph must support the topic sentence.  In addition, the sentences must flow logically from one to the other.

See how the following paragraph has ideas that don’t seem to belong

Growing flowers is fun.  The sun rises in the morning and warms the soil.  Flowers come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Sometimes, there is not enough rain.  Flowers also bloom during different times of the year.  Flowers need nutrients to grow strong and beautiful.  There are some children who like to pick the flowers. There are different growing seasons in different parts of the country.  Flowers that will grow high should be planted behind those that will not grow as high.  Some people let their dog’s leash extend allowing the dog to go into the flower beds which is not very nice. Designing a flower bed has to consider the different times the flowers will bloom.  A substitute for rainfall should be planned.  It is fun to grow flowers.

Here is a revised version with unity and coherence.  See how each sentence is clearly part of the whole which is to show how it is fun to grow flowers.

Growing flowers is fun.   Planning the garden is the first step, and it is part of the fun.  Flowers must be selected for their size, color, and time of bloom.  Selections should be made so that there is at least one type of flower blooming throughout the season and that taller flowers are behind shorter ones.  Meeting the challenges to assure growth such as with an irrigation system or hand watering and fertilizing when needed is also part of the fun.   It’s wonderful to check the garden every day to see the little green sprouts starting to appear.  It gives a great sense of accomplishment and joy to see the flowers in bloom.  It is fun to grow flowers.

An example of a paragraph from a business letter which does have unity and coherence:

There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  We are a family owned and operated business and have been in business in this county for thirty-five years.  In addition to thousands of satisfied customers, we have proudly sponsored many community events and organizations.  All of our employees live in this county, and most have stayed with us for years.  We have successfully kept our overhead low and pass those savings onto our customers.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that we are the best company to hire.

Here’s a version of the paragraph which does not have unity and coherence:

I am happy that the warm weather is finally here! It’s been a cold winter. There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.  I have a large family, and in addition to having Sunday dinners, we work together in the company which has many satisfied customers.  Some of my employees take the bus to work, so I am concerned about our public transportation system.  We have proudly served our community, and we use cost saving methods to keep prices low.

An example of a paragraph in an inter-office memo

Beginning January 1, we will have a revised policy concerning new customers.  The updated intake form includes additional information, so please be sure to read through and complete each section.  Pay particular addition to the additional questions at the bottom as they are now required by the insurance company.  We would like to have e-mail addresses as well.  You can assure customers that we will not be sending them solicitations nor giving the list to any other business.  Be sure to fill in the information neatly and accurately. It is preferred that the information be entered directly into the computer although we realize there are times when that is not practical and a hard-copy form will have to be completed by hand.  Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Note:  See how all the sentences work together to support the point shown in the topic sentence that modern technology has expanded accessibility.

Closing/Transitional Statements in Paragraphs

The last sentence of a paragraph should remind the reader of the point of the paragraph and transition into the next paragraph if there is one.  See how the last sentence, for example, in the above paragraph reminds the reader of what the paragraph is about: Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Multi-Paragraph Documents

Most paragraphs we see are part of a multi-paragraph document: newspaper and magazine articles, books, business letters and inter-office memorandum, “how-to” documents, and other informational documents.  Usually, there is an organization of the paragraphs in a specific way.  The opening paragraph generally gives some idea of what the document is about.  The middle paragraphs give more details about the specific point.  The last paragraph ends the writing, generally by summing up and repeating the point.

There are some context-specific documents that have moe clearly defined paragraphs which are something included as sections of the writing.  For example, a feasibility report might have paragraphs as follows: abstract and/or summary, introduction, discussion, conclusion, recommendations.

Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum

Business letters and inter-office memoradums basically have the same organization of the content:  an introduction paragraph, paragraphs that prove or further explain, and a concluding paragraph which sums up and repeats the point.  A business letter, however, is generally written on company stationery and has the date and address block in the upper left, a Re: line, a salutation such as Dear Mr. Haller (although some are no longer using a formal salutation), and a complimentary closing such as Sincerely.    An inter-office memorandum is generally written on plain paper, sometimes with the company logo as part of the template, lines with To:, From:, Date:, and Re: in the upper left, and no complimentary closing.

Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays

Informational Documents

This refers to groups of writings that are designed to give information about a topic or position on a topic.  While they all include a specific thesis (point), have an introduction and concluding paragraph, and have paragraphs that proof or explain the point, there can be wide variety on where the thesis is expressed and the ancillary information presented that is supplemental to the thesis.  These are sometimes called essays.  However, academic essays do have a very specific organizational pattern.

Academic Essays

The introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph of an essay are different from a general paragraph.  An introduction contains general background information on a topic and leads into a thesis statement.  The sentences with background information should be general and not contain proof of the thesis. The sentences should be relevant, however, and logically flow into the thesis.  Background sentences include information about the topic and the controversy. Some instructors may prefer other types of content in the introduction in addition to the thesis.  It is best to check with an instructor as to whether he or she has a preference for content.  In any case, there must be unity and coherence in an introduction paragraph as well. 

While the body paragraph of an academic is the same as a general paragraph in that they have a topic sentence and sentences that support it, the topic sentence must be a reason why the thesis of the essay is accurate.  Body paragraphs should clearly support the thesis and not contain any extraneous information. However, one way of proving your thesis is right is by presenting the opposing view and then rebutting it, that is, showing how it is not valid.  

Some instructors say that any opposing information should be in a separate rebuttal paragraph before the concluding paragraph.  If not specifically indicated by your instructor, either putting opposing information into the paragraphs related to the specific information or having a separate rebuttal paragraph is appropriate, but not both in the same essay.

A concluding paragraph sums up the proof and restates the thesis. Some instructors ask for a statement drawing an implication of the information presented instead of or in addition to a restatement of the thesis.  In either case, while a concluding paragraph as with the introduction paragraph does not start with a topic sentence and have the rest of the sentences support the topic sentence, the concluding paragraph is similar in that the summary of the proof ties directly into the thesis or statement of general implication.  There are not extraneous, off-topic sentences

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Paragraphs

Narration

Narration is when an author writes as though telling a story.  This mode is used more often in fiction, but it can be used in academic essay writing when the best way to help prove the thesis is by relating a sequence of events.

Description/Definition/Exemplification, and Classification

These closely related modes use specific information about certain aspects of a thing, event, or situation. The terms speak for themselves.  Description uses details describing the thing, event, or situation. Definition defines it. Exemplification uses examples, and classification uses categories.

The rose was red. (description)

A rose is a flower with soft petals and a beautiful, brief bloom. (definition)

Roses comes in a variety of colors such as red, yellow, and white. (example)

Roses come in a variety of types including miniature, climbing, hybrid tea, and floribunda. (classification)

Compare/Contrast

Comparing and/or contrasting one thing, event, or situation is a helpful way to show what it is and isn't.  If someone were arguing that a particular type of sneaker was the best, it would be useful to compare to others for support, durability, and price.

Cause and/or Effect

This mode is useful in arguing for or again an action.  Showing the cause and/or effect of an action can be persuasive.  For example, if someone were arguing for an increase in the speed limit, statistics showing an increase in fatalities where limits are higher would be a persuasive argument.

Persuasion/Argumentation

In a sense, the ultimate intent of all communication is persuasion.  Argumentation is one way of talking about debate.  We think of arguing as what we do among friends or family members - and it is - but there is a formal way to argue to prove our point.  Actually, we can learn how to better have civil arguments which will be constructive.  In thinking about persuasion/argumentation as a rhetorical mode, it refers to a type of writing that is clearly arguing in support of a specific point.

To review

  1. A paragraph is a series of sentences on a particular point.
  2. A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence which states that point.
  3. Sentences with supporting details such as examples should follow.
  4. A paragraph must have unity and coherence where the sentences smoothly and logically flow from one to the next and stay focused on supporting the topic sentence.
  5. Transition words and phrases should be used to connect sentencs and paragraphs for unity and coherence
  6. Paragraphs that are part of multi-paragraph documents serve specific functions
  7. Special Types of Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum
  8. Special Types of Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays
  9. Rhetorical Modes can be used as types of paragraphs

Definition of a Paragraph

Definition of a Paragraph

What is a Paragraph?

A paragraph is a series of sentences on a specific point or topic.  A well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states the main idea: what the paragraph is about.  While some say the  topic sentence can be anywhere in the paragraph, it is best to put it as the first sentence in a paragraph.  The rest of the sentences in the paragraph support, elaborate, and/or further explain the main idea expressed in the topic sentence.

Paragraphs have varying length depending upon various factors.  An average paragraph in an academic essay is about six to eight sentences.

Types of Paragraphs

There are various types of paragraphs such as summaries, abstracts, and answers to questions for a specific assignment.  In addition, there are specialized types of paragraphs for various reports such as feasibility studies or performance reports.

The types of paragraphs covered in this lesson are general paragraphs as would be used in the body of a letter or an academic essay, including general research papers (research essays).

Parts of a Paragraph; Multi-Paragraph Documents

Parts of a Paragraph; Multi-Paragraph Documents

Parts of a Paragraph

Topic Sentence – purpose of a paragraph

Unless you are writing specialized report such as a scientific research paper or a feasibility study that may otherwise show the purpose of a paragraph such as a heading , a well written paragraph must have a topic sentence which states what the paragraph is about.

Whether you are writing a paragraph for a specific assignment, an academic essay, a research paper, or a simple letter, each paragraph

The topic sentence should be the first sentence of the paragraph so that the reader knows what the paragraph is about.  The topic sentence in a body paragraph of an essay must be support for the thesis: a reason why the thesis is true or accurate.

The rest of the sentences in the paragraph of an essay support, elaborate, and/or further explain the topic sentence.

Here is an example of a paragraph:

The first sentence is the topic sentence. See how the rest of the sentences support, elaborate, and/or or further explain it.

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.  From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

Everything in this paragraph is about how modern life has been improved through convenience provided by technology.

Unity and Coherence

A paragraph must have unity.

All of the sentences of a particular paragraph must focus on one point to achieve one goal: to support the topic sentence.

A paragraph must have coherence.

The sentences must flow smoothly and logically from one to the next as they support the topic sentence.

The last sentence of the paragraph should restate the topic sentence to help achieve unity and coherence.

Here is an example with information that does not support the topic sentence;

Almost every aspect of modern life has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the alarm clock in the morning to the entertainment center at night, everyday life is improved. The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time. People are more concerned about health issues and good air quality, so they have started walking or riding a bike to work even though they have the option of using a car or public transportation.   There’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

See how just one non-supporting sentence takes away from the effectiveness of the paragraph in showing how modern conveniences make life better since the unity and coherence are affected.  There is no longer unity among all the sentences.  The thought pattern is disjointed and the paragraph loses its coherence.

Here’s another example of a paragraph:

Not only has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that technology has improved lives through efficiency.

Transitions – Words that Connect

Transitions are words, groups of words, or sentences that connect one sentence to another or one paragraph to another.

They promote a logical flow from one idea to the next.

While they are not needed in every sentence, they are missed when they are omitted since the flow of thoughts becomes disjointed or even confusing.

There are different types of transitions such as the following:

  • Time – before, after, during, in the meantime, nowadays
  • Space – over, around, under
  • Examples – for instance, one example is
  • Comparison –  on the other hand, the opposing view
  • Consequence – as a result, subsequently

These are just a few examples.  The idea is to paint a clear, logical connection between sentences and between paragraphs.

Here’s how transitions help make a paragraph unified and coherent:

Not only has modern technology improved life through convenience, it has improved life through efficiency.  The time saved with machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

Each part of a paragraph must support the topic sentence.  In addition, the sentences must flow logically from one to the other.

See how the following paragraph has ideas that don’t seem to belong:

Growing flowers is fun.  The sun rises in the morning and warms the soil.  Flowers come in all different sizes, shapes, and colors.  Sometimes, there is not enough rain.  Flowers also bloom during different times of the year.  Flowers need nutrients to grow strong and beautiful.  There are some children who like to pick the flowers. There are different growing seasons in different parts of the country.  Flowers that will grow high should be planted behind those that will not grow as high.  Some people let their dog’s leash extend allowing the dog to go into the flower beds which is not very nice. Designing a flower bed has to consider the different times the flowers will bloom.  A substitute for rainfall should be planned.  It is fun to grow flowers.

Here is a revised version with unity and coherence.  See how each sentence is clearly part of the whole which is to show how it is fun to grow flowers.

Growing flowers is fun.   Planning the garden is the first step, and it is part of the fun.  Flowers must be selected for their size, color, and time of bloom.  Selections should be made so that there is at least one type of flower blooming throughout the season and that taller flowers are behind shorter ones.  Meeting the challenges to assure growth such as with an irrigation system or hand watering and fertilizing when needed is also part of the fun.   It’s wonderful to check the garden every day to see the little green sprouts starting to appear.  It gives a great sense of accomplishment and joy to see the flowers in bloom.  It is fun to grow flowers.

An example of a paragraph from a business letter which does have unity and coherence:

There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  We are a family owned and operated business and have been in business in this county for thirty-five years.  In addition to thousands of satisfied customers, we have proudly sponsored many community events and organizations.  All of our employees live in this county, and most have stayed with us for years.  We have successfully kept our overhead low and pass those savings onto our customers.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.

Note: See how all the sentences work together to support the point that we are the best company to hire.

Here’s a version of the paragraph which does not have unity and coherence:

I am happy that the warm weather is finally here! It’s been a cold winter. There are several reasons to select my company to do this job.  By far, we are the best company to complete this project.  I have a large family, and in addition to having Sunday dinners, we work together in the company which has many satisfied customers.  Some of my employees take the bus to work, so I am concerned about our public transportation system.  We have proudly served our community, and we use cost saving methods to keep prices low.

An example of a paragraph in an inter-office memo

Beginning January 1, we will have a revised policy concerning new customers.  The updated intake form includes additional information, so please be sure to read through and complete each section.  Pay particular addition to the additional questions at the bottom as they are now required by the insurance company.  We would like to have e-mail addresses as well.  You can assure customers that we will not be sending them solicitations nor giving the list to any other business.  Be sure to fill in the information neatly and accurately. It is preferred that the information be entered directly into the computer although we realize there are times when that is not practical and a hard-copy form will have to be completed by hand.  Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Note:  See how all the sentences work together to support the point shown in the topic sentence that modern technology has expanded accessibility.

Closing/Transitional Statements

The last sentence of a paragraph should remind the reader of the point of the paragraph and transition into the next paragraph if there is one.  See how the last sentence, for example, in the above paragraph reminds the reader of what the paragraph is about: Review the instructions on the back page of the form for more details on the revised policy for new customers.

Multi-Paragraph Documents

Most paragraphs we see are part of a multi-paragraph document: newspaper and magazine articles, books, business letters and inter-office memorandum, “how-to” documents, and other informational documents.  Usually, there is an organization of the paragraphs in a specific way.  The opening paragraph generally gives some idea of what the document is about.  The middle paragraphs give more details about the specific point.  The last paragraph ends the writing, generally by summing up and repeating the point.

There are some context-specific documents that have moe clearly defined paragraphs which are something included as sections of the writing.  For example, a feasibility report might have paragraphs as follows: abstract and/or summary, introduction, discussion, conclusion, recommendations.

Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum

Business letters and inter-office memoradums basically have the same organization of the content:  an introduction paragraph, paragraphs that prove or further explain, and a concluding paragraph which sums up and repeats the point.  A business letter, however, is generally written on company stationery and has the date and address block in the upper left, a Re: line, a salutation such as Dear Mr. Haller (although some are no longer using a formal salutation), and a complimentary closing such as Sincerely.    An inter-office memorandum is generally written on plain paper, sometimes with the company logo as part of the template, lines with To:, From:, Date:, and Re: in the upper left, and no complimentary closing.

Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays

Informational Documents

This refers to groups of writings that are designed to give information about a topic or position on a topic.  While they all include a specific thesis (point), have an introduction and concluding paragraph, and have paragraphs that proof or explain the point, there can be wide variety on where the thesis is expressed and the ancillary information presented that is supplemental to the thesis.  These are sometimes called essays.  However, academic essays do have a very specific organizational pattern.

Academic Essays

The introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph of an essay are different from a general paragraph.  An introduction contains general background information on a topic and leads into a thesis statement.  The sentences with background information are not really in support of the thesis, but they are relevant and do logically flow into the thesis.  In other words, there must be unity and coherence in an introduction paragraph as well.

While the body paragraph of an academic is the same as a general paragraph in that they have a topic sentence and sentences that support it, the topic sentence must be a reason why the thesis of the essay.  Body paragraphs should be clearly support for the thesis and not contain any extraneous information.

A concluding paragraph sums up the proof and restates the thesis. Some instructors ask for a statement drawing an implication of the information presented instead of or in addition to a restatement of the thesis.  In either case, while a concluding paragraph as with the introduction paragraph does not start with a topic sentence and have the rest of the sentences support the topic sentence, the concluding paragraph is similar in that the summary of the proof ties directly into the thesis or statement of general implication.  There are not extraneous, off-topic sentences.

Rhetorical Modes; Review of Paragraphs

Rhetorical Modes; Review of Paragraphs

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Paragraphs

Narration

Narration is when an author writes as though telling a story.  This mode is used more often in fiction, but it can be used in academic essay writing when the best way to help prove the thesis is by relating a sequence of events.

Description/Definition/Exemplification, and Classification

These closely related modes use specific information about certain aspects of a thing, event, or situation. The terms speak for themselves.  Description uses details describing the thing, event, or situation. Definition defines it. Exemplification uses examples, and classification uses categories.

The rose was red. (description)

A rose is a flower with soft petals and a beautiful, brief bloom. (definition)

Roses comes in a variety of colors such as red, yellow, and white. (example)

Roses come in a variety of types including miniature, climbing, hybrid tea, and floribunda. (classification)

Compare/Contrast

Comparing and/or contrasting one thing, event, or situation is a helpful way to show what it is and isn't.  If someone were arguing that a particular type of sneaker was the best, it would be useful to compare to others for support, durability, and price.

Cause and/or Effect

This mode is useful in arguing for or again an action.  Showing the cause and/or effect of an action can be persuasive.  For example, if someone were arguing for an increase in the speed limit, statistics showing an increase in fatalities where limits are higher would be a persuasive argument.

Persuasion/Argumentation

In a sense, the ultimate intent of all communication is persuasion.  Argumentation is one way of talking about debate.  We think of arguing as what we do among friends or family members - and it is - but there is a formal way to argue to prove our point.  Actually, we can learn how to better have civil arguments which will be constructive.  In thinking about persuasion/argumentation as a rhetorical mode, it refers to a type of writing that is clearly arguing in support of a specific point.

To review

  1. A paragraph is a series of sentences on a particular point.
  2. A paragraph should begin with a topic sentence which states that point.
  3. Sentences with supporting details such as examples should follow.
  4. A paragraph must have unity and coherence where the sentences smoothly and logically flow from one to the next and stay focused on supporting the topic sentence.
  5. Transition words and phrases should be used to connect sentencs and paragraphs for unity and coherence
  6. Paragraphs that are part of multi-paragraph documents serve specific functions
  7. Special Types of Paragraphs in Business Letters and Inter-Office Memorandum
  8. Special Types of Paragraphs in Informational Documents and Academic Essays
  9. Rhetorical Modes can be used as types of paragraphs

Essays

Essays

Essay Organization – Overview

There are various types of writing assignments an instructor may give such as journals, reaction papers, questions to be answered, paragraphs on topics or questions, essays, and research papers.

An essay is a writing on a specific question or topic.  Instructors may vary in what they are expecting when they assign an essay.  It’s important to always ask your instructor if you are not sure.  Some may simply want a discussion on a topic or question and are not asking for formal organization.

Others may be expecting a formal academic essay, also called a thesis-and-support paper, organized with an introduction, body, and conclusion that includes the following parts:

an introductory paragraph which gives a background and states the thesis (the point of the essay

a concluding paragraph which sums up the proof and restates the thesis.

body paragraphs which contain proof, also called supporting ideas, of the thesis statement

While some instructors may have slight variations about formal academic essay organization, you won’t have a problem if your paper has the following three components:

a thesis statement at the end of the introductory (opening) paragraph

body paragraphs contain only proof of the thesis, and

a concluding paragraph which contains a review of the proof and restatement of the thesis.  Some instructors also ask for some general prediction or observation instead of or in addition to a restatement of thesis.

Always check with your instructor if you are not sure about what is expected.  The discussion here is for a formal academic essay (thesis-and-support paper).

What is an academic essay and how should it look?

An essay is a collection of paragraphs that fit around one idea or position on an issue. This is usually called the thesis or main idea.

The sentence that contains the main idea is called the Thesis Statement.  The Thesis Statement must take a position and not just state a fact.   While some instructors vary on where a thesis statement may appear, it is safe to place it as th last sentence of the first paragraph.

An academic essay must have at least three paragraphs: an introduction, a body paragraph, and a concluding paragraph.  Since there should be a separate body paragraph for each proof point, the more substantial the proof, the more paragraphs there will be. A typical essay of about five hundred words will usually have at least two or three proof paragraphs making the essay four to five paragraphs.

Instructors often require a specific page format (margins, line spacing, and so on).  Page formatting is part of the requirements of a style system.  Both MLA and APA styles have similar formatting requirements.  Unless your instructor states otherwise, it use MLA page format.

Parts of an Academic Essay

In a way, these academic essays are like a court trial.  The attorney, whether prosecuting the case or defending it, begins with an opening statement explaining the background and telling the jury what he or she intends to prove (the thesis statement).  Then, the attorney presents witnesses for proof (the body of the paragraphs).  Lastly, the attorney presents the closing argument (concluding paragraph).

The Introduction and Thesis

There are a variety of approaches regarding the content of the introduction paragraph such as a brief outline of the proof, an anecdote, explaining key ideas, and asking a question.  In addition, some textbooks say that an introduction can be more than one paragraph.  The placement of the thesis statement is another variable depending on the instructor and/or text.  The approach used in this lesson is that an introduction paragraph gives background information leading into the thesis which is the main idea of the paper, which is stated at the end.

The background in the introductory paragraph consists of information about the circumstances of the thesis. This background information often starts in the introductory paragraph with a general statement which is then refined to the most specific sentence of the essay, the thesis. It is important to note that in this approach, the proof for the thesis is not found in the introduction except, possibly, as part of a thesis statement which includes the key elements of the proof. Proof is presented and expanded on in the body.

The thesis is the position statement. It must contain a subject and a verb and express a complete thought. It must also be defensible. This means it should be an arguable point with which people could reasonably disagree. The more focused and narrow the thesis statement, the better a paper will generally be.

If you are given a question in the instructions for your paper, the thesis statement is a one-sentence answer taking a position on the question.

If you are given a topic instead of a question, then in order to create a thesis statement, you must narrow your analysis of the topic to a specific controversial issue about the topic to take a stand. If it is not a research paper, some brainstorming (jotting down what comes to mind on the issue) should help determine a specific question.

If it is a research paper, the process begins with exploratory research which should show the various issues and controversies which should lead to the specific question.  Then, the research becomes focused on the question which in turn should lead to taking a position on the question.

These methods of determining a thesis are still answering a question. It’s just that you pose a question to answer for the thesis.  Here is an example.

Suppose, one of the topics you are given to write about is America’s National Parks. Books have been written about this subject. In fact, books have been written just about a single park. As you are thinking about it, you may realize how there is an issue about balancing between preserving the wilderness and allowing visitors. The question would then be Should visitors to America’s National Parks be regulated in order to preserve the wilderness?

One thesis might be There is no need for regulations for visiting America’s National Parks to preserve the wilderness.

 Another might be There should be reasonable regulations for visiting America’s National Parks in order to preserve the wilderness.

Finally, avoid using expressions that announce, “Now I will prove…” or “This essay is about …” Instead of telling the reader what the paper is about, a good paper simply proves the thesis in the body. Generally, you shouldn’t refer to your paper in your paper.

Here is an example of a good introduction with the thesis in red:

Not too long ago, everyday life was filled with burdensome, time-consuming chores that left little time for much more than completing these tasks.  People generally worked from their homes or within walking distance to their homes and rarely traveled far from them.  People were limited to whatever their physical capacities were.  All this changed dramatically as new technologies developed.  Modern technology has most improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

Note how the background is general and leads up to the thesis.   No proof is given in the background sentences about how technology has improved lives.

Moreover, notice that the thesis in red is the last sentence of the introduction. It is a defensible statement.

A reasonable person could argue the opposite position:  Although modern technology has provided easier ways of completing some tasks, it has diminished the quality of life since people have to work too many hours to acquire these gadgets, have developed health problems as a result of excess use, and have lost focus on what is really valuable in life.

Quick Tips:

The introduction opens the essay and gives background information about the thesis.

Do not introduce your supporting points  (proof) in the introduction unless they are part of the thesis; save these for the body.

The thesis is placed at the end of the introductory paragraph.

Don’t use expressions like “this paper will be about” or “I intend to show…”

For more information on body paragraphs and supporting evidence, see Proving a Thesis – Evidence and Proving a Thesis – Logic, and Logical Fallacies and Appeals in Related Pages on the right sidebar.

Body

Body paragraphs give proof for the thesis.  They should have one proof point per paragraph expressed in a topic sentence. The topic sentence is usually found at the beginning of each body paragraph and, like a thesis, must be a complete sentence. Each topic sentence must be directly related to and support the argument made by the thesis.

After the topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph should go on to support this one proof with examples and explanation. It is the details that support the topic sentences in the body paragraphs that make the arguments strong.  Proof may include discussion of an opposing view, but it must include a rebuttal explaining why that opposing view does not make sense or otherwise not be considered valid.

If the thesis statement stated that technology improved the quality of life, each body paragraph should begin with a reason why it has improved the quality of life.  This reason is called a topic sentence.  Following are three examples of body paragraphs that provide support for the thesis that modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility:

     Almost every aspect of our lives has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the sound of music from an alarm clock in the morning to the end of the day being entertained in the convenience of our living room, our lives are improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time.  Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Some may say the conveniences are not worth the extra cost and effort keeping these devices working, but, overwhelmingly, people opt to use them.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

     Not only has technology improved our lives through convenience, it has improved our lives through efficiency. The time saved by machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  The opposing view might argue that people misuse their increased free time sitting around and watching television.  While some people have health problems as a result of technology, by far, lives are improved. Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives and pursue their goals thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

     Accessibility to a wide range of options has been expanded through modern technology.  Never before could people cross a continent or an ocean in an afternoon.  Travel is not the only way technology has created accessibility.  Software which types from voice commands has made using computers more accessible for school or work.  People with special needs have many new options thanks to modern technology such as special chairs or text readers.  Actually, those people who need hearing aids as a result of normal aging have access to continued communication and enjoyment of entertainment they did not previously have. There are many ways technology has improved lives through increased accessibility.

Notice how these proof paragraphs stick to one proof point introduced in the topic sentences in red. These three paragraphs, not only support the original thesis, but go on to give details and explanations which explain the proof point in the topic sentence.

Some instructors would like a rebuttal paragraph which raises the opposing arguments and explains why they are not valid instead of addressing opposition within the paragraphs as appropriate as shown in the above essay.  In that case, the rebuttal should go before the conclusion.

Quick Tips on Body Paragraphs

  1. The body of your essay is where you give your main support for the thesis.
  2. Each body paragraph should start with a Topic Sentence that is directly related to and supports the thesis statement.
  3. Each body paragraph should also give details and explanations that further support the poof point for that paragraph.
  4. Don’t use enumeration such as first, second, and third. The reader will know by the topic sentence that it is a new proof point.

See Proving the Thesis in Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information on proof.

The Conclusion

Instructors vary of what they expect in the conclusion; however, there is general agreement that conclusions should not introduce any new proof points, should include a restatement of the thesis, and should not contain any words such as “In conclusion.”

Some instructors want only a summary of the proof and a restatement of the thesis. Some instructors ask for a general prediction or implication of the information presented without a restatement of thesis. Still others may want to include a restatement along with a general prediction or implication of the information presents. Be sure to review assignment instructions or check with instructor.  If your assignment instructions don’t specify, just sum up the proof and restate the thesis.

Example which sums up proof and restates thesis:

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

See how the thesis statement was restated in red. The two major arguments about the possible locations proven to be incorrect were also included to remind the reader of the major proof points made in the paper.

Example which makes a general prediction or implication of the information presented:

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday life from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Without it, everyday life would be filled with burdensome tasks and be limited to our neighborhood and our physical capacity.
Here’s an example of a conclusion with a general prediction or implication statement with a restatement of thesis.

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday life from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Without it, everyday life would be filled with burdensome tasks and be limited to our neighborhood and our physical capacity. Modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

Quick Tips for Conclusions

  1. The conclusion brings the essay to an end and is typically the shortest paragraph.
  2. It is important to not introduce new ideas or information here.
  3. Unless otherwise specified in your assignment, just sum up the proof and restate the conclusion.
  4. Some instructors may want the concluding paragraph to contain a general prediction or observation implied from the information presented.

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Essays

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.  Rhetorical modes are ways of using language with a specific focus.  Narration, for example, tells a story or a sequence of events.  A narrative essay tells a story.

Other rhetorical modes focus on describing, defining, using examples (exemplification), or classifying as the primary purpose.  Comparing and contrasting simply compares one thing to another showing the differences as well as the similarities.

In a cause and/or effect paper, the causes and/or effects of a situation are the focus.

A persuasive or argumentative paper proves a position on a controversial issue.

Sometimes, instructors assign essays requiring a specific mode such as defining something or discussing the causes of a problem. These are considered useful ways to develop the particular skill such as looking closely at something to describe it or finding ways to define an object or situation.

More commonly, however, a writing assignment does not require a specific mode;  these strategies are used as appropriate within an essay or other writing.  For example, a paper arguing that pesticides are harmful might include information defining and describing various pesticides. It could include classifying them by potential harm and use examples of the types of pesticides.  It could have information on the effects of particular pesticides.

It can be argued that all papers, regardless of the primary rhetorical strategy used, are persuasive or argumentative since all writing ultimately is to prove something – even if it is only the legitimacy of one’s feelings such as in a reaction paper or creative writing.  Most writing blend the uses of rhetorical styles.

Stylistic Considerations

Unity and Coherence

Like all effective writing, essays must have unity.  They must clearly stay focused on one purpose: proving the thesis.  All the sentences in each paragraph and each paragraph must work together to achieve that purpose.  It is critical for each sentence in each paragraph to start with a topic sentence that states a reason why the thesis is right and that the rest of the sentences in the paragraph support that topic sentence.

Essays must have coherence.  Each sentence must flow smoothly and logically into the next.  Each paragraph must flow smoothly and logically into the next.  Words and word groups called transitions must be used to link one sentence to the next and one paragraph to the next.

See Unity and Coherence in Essays in Related Pages on the right side bar for more information.

Word Use (Appropriate Language)

Generally speaking, use of Standard English vocabulary and grammar is expected.  These types of papers should not sound as though you were talking casually to a friend.  Don’t use slang, for example, such as ok.  Also, while we use second person (you, your) in informal speech, formal academic writing should not use second person since the reference is not specific.  Here’s an example. You should know where your children are.  The reader may not have young children or any children at all.  Here’s an example with clear reference.  Parents of young children should know where their children are.

Instructors will vary about accepting the use of first person (I, me, my, we, us, our) in essay writing.  While first person may be appropriate in journal writing or reaction papers, typically, instructors will require third person (not first or second) in formal essays and research essays. Be aware of requirements for any particular assignment.

Formal academic essays should not include sentences that refer to yourself or the paper.  Don’t use statements such as “In the opinion of this writer (referring to yourself)….” or “This paper will show….”

For more information on language use, see Appropriate Language in Related Pages on the right sidebar. 

Literary Analysis Essay - Close Reading

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to carefully examine and sometimes evaluate a work of literature or an aspect of a work of literature. Examining the different elements of a pieces of literature including plot, character, setting, point of view, irony, symbolism, and style to see how the author develops theme is not an end in itself but rather a process to help you better appreciate and understand the work of literature as a whole. The focus of a literary analysis essay is as expansive as the writers’ interests. For example, a short story analysis might include identifying a particular theme and then showing how the writer suggests that theme through the point of view of the story. It is important to remember that literary analysis does not merely demonstrate a particularly literary element. The focus is explaining how that element is meaningful or significant to the work as a whole. See Essay Organization and Elements of Fiction for more information.

Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text function; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper. When you read a text paying specific attention to certain literary elements, looking for particular patters, or following the development of a particular character, you are practicing close reading. Likewise, when you watch a film with particular emphasis on a certain element, you are doing a close reading. Of course, when one writes an essay that teases out a certain element, this is the beginning of a close reading. Like literary analysis more generally, close reading is not a means in and of itself. Close reading helps inform the larger meaning or import of a work.

Literary analysis involves examining the components of a literary text, which allows us to focus on small parts of the text, clues to help us understand the work as a whole. The process of close reading should produce questions. When you begin to answer these questions, you are ready to participate thoughtfully in class discussion or write a literary analysis paper. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order form to as many questions as you can.

Outlining

An outline includes the thesis and proof points.  It is the skeleton of an academic essay.  Starting with an outline can be extremely helpful in writing an essay.  Once an outline is completed, it is a matter of developing the proof points (body paragraphs),adding a background before the thesis for an introduction paragraph, and adding a concluding paragraph.  See Outlining in Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information.

Summary

The important thing in essay writing is to have a point, thereby knowing what you are trying to prove, and stick to that point.  Keep it simple and focused.

This format is the basis for writing a research paper as well.  If you can get the idea in a simple essay, writing research papers will be much easier.

Parts of an Academic Essay

Parts of an Academic Essay

Overview

In a way, these academic essays are like a court trial.  The attorney, whether prosecuting the case or defending it, begins with an opening statement explaining the background and telling the jury what he or she intends to prove (the thesis statement).  Then, the attorney presents witnesses for proof (the body of the paragraphs).  Lastly, the attorney presents the closing argument (concluding paragraph).

The Introduction and Thesis

There are a variety of approaches regarding the content of the introduction paragraph such as a brief outline of the proof, an anecdote, explaining key ideas, and asking a question.  In addition, some textbooks say that an introduction can be more than one paragraph.  The placement of the thesis statement is another variable depending on the instructor and/or text.  The approach used in this lesson is that an introduction paragraph gives background information leading into the thesis which is the main idea of the paper, which is stated at the end.

The background in the introductory paragraph consists of information about the circumstances of the thesis. This background information often starts in the introductory paragraph with a general statement which is then refined to the most specific sentence of the essay, the thesis. Background sentences include information about the topic and the controversy. It is important to note that in this approach, the proof for the thesis is not found in the introduction except, possibly, as part of a thesis statement which includes the key elements of the proof. Proof is presented and expanded on in the body.

Some instructors may prefer other types of content in the introduction in addition to the thesis.  It is best to check with an instructor as to whether he or she has a preference for content. Generally, the thesis must be stated in the introduction.

The thesis is the position statement. It must contain a subject and a verb and express a complete thought. It must also be defensible. This means it should be an arguable point with which people could reasonably disagree. The more focused and narrow the thesis statement, the better a paper will generally be.

If you are given a question in the instructions for your paper, the thesis statement is a one-sentence answer taking a position on the question.

If you are given a topic instead of a question, then in order to create a thesis statement, you must narrow your analysis of the topic to a specific controversial issue about the topic to take a stand. If it is not a research paper, some brainstorming (jotting down what comes to mind on the issue) should help determine a specific question.

If it is a research paper, the process begins with exploratory research which should show the various issues and controversies which should lead to the specific question.  Then, the research becomes focused on the question which in turn should lead to taking a position on the question.

These methods of determining a thesis are still answering a question. It’s just that you pose a question to answer for the thesis.  Here is an example.

Suppose, one of the topics you are given to write about is America’s National Parks. Books have been written about this subject. In fact, books have been written just about a single park. As you are thinking about it, you may realize how there is an issue about balancing between preserving the wilderness and allowing visitors. The question would then be Should visitors to America’s National Parks be regulated in order to preserve the wilderness?

One thesis might be There is no need for regulations for visiting America’s National Parks to preserve the wilderness.

 Another might be There should be reasonable regulations for visiting America’s National Parks in order to preserve the wilderness.

Finally, avoid using expressions that announce, “Now I will prove…” or “This essay is about …” Instead of telling the reader what the paper is about, a good paper simply proves the thesis in the body. Generally, you shouldn’t refer to your paper in your paper.

Here is an example of a good introduction with the thesis in red:

Not too long ago, everyday life was filled with burdensome, time-consuming chores that left little time for much more than completing these tasks.  People generally worked from their homes or within walking distance to their homes and rarely traveled far from them.  People were limited to whatever their physical capacities were.  All this changed dramatically as new technologies developed.  Modern technology has most improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

Note how the background is general and leads up to the thesis.   No proof is given in the background sentences about how technology has improved lives.

Moreover, notice that the thesis in red is the last sentence of the introduction. It is a defensible statement.

A reasonable person could argue the opposite position:  Although modern technology has provided easier ways of completing some tasks, it has diminished the quality of life since people have to work too many hours to acquire these gadgets, have developed health problems as a result of excess use, and have lost focus on what is really valuable in life.

Quick Tips:

The introduction opens the essay and gives background information about the thesis.

Do not introduce your supporting points  (proof) in the introduction unless they are part of the thesis; save these for the body.

The thesis is placed at the end of the introductory paragraph.

Don’t use expressions like “this paper will be about” or “I intend to show…”

For more information on body paragraphs and supporting evidence, see Proving a Thesis – Evidence and Proving a Thesis – Logic, and Logical Fallacies and Appeals in Related Pages on the right sidebar.

Body

Body paragraphs give proof for the thesis.  They should have one proof point per paragraph expressed in a topic sentence. The topic sentence is usually found at the beginning of each body paragraph and, like a thesis, must be a complete sentence. Each topic sentence must be directly related to and support the argument made by the thesis.

After the topic sentence, the rest of the paragraph should go on to support this one proof with examples and explanation. It is the details that support the topic sentences in the body paragraphs that make the arguments strong.

If the thesis statement stated that technology improved the quality of life, each body paragraph should begin with a reason why it has improved the quality of life.  This reason is called a topic sentence.  Following are three examples of body paragraphs that provide support for the thesis that modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility:

     Almost every aspect of our lives has been improved through convenience provided by modern technology.  From the sound of music from an alarm clock in the morning to the end of the day being entertained in the convenience of our living room, our lives are improved.  The automatic coffee maker has the coffee ready at a certain time.  Cars or public transportation bring people to work where computers operate at the push of a button.  At home, there’s the convenience of washing machines and dryers, dishwashers, air conditioners, and power lawn mowers.  Modern technology has made life better with many conveniences.

     Not only has technology improved our lives through convenience, it has improved our lives through efficiency. The time saved by machines doing most of the work leaves more time for people to develop their personal goals or to just relax.  Years ago, when doing laundry could take all day, there wasn’t time left over to read or go to school or even just to take a leisurely walk.  Nowadays, people have more time and energy than ever to simply enjoy their lives and pursue their goals thanks to the efficiency of modern technology.

     Accessibility to a wide range of options has been expanded through modern technology.  Never before could people cross a continent or an ocean in an afternoon.  Travel is not the only way technology has created accessibility.  Software which types from voice commands has made using computers more accessible for school or work.  People with special needs have many new options thanks to modern technology such as special chairs or text readers.  Actually, those people who need hearing aids as a result of normal aging have access to continued communication and enjoyment of entertainment they did not previously have.  There are many ways technology has improved lives through increased accessibility.

Notice how these proof paragraphs stick to one proof point introduced in the topic sentences in red. These three paragraphs, not only support the original thesis, but go on to give details and explanations which explain the proof point in the topic sentence.

Quick Tips on Body Paragraphs

The body of your essay is where you give your main support for the thesis.

Each body paragraph should start with a Topic Sentence that is directly related to and supports the thesis statement.

Each body paragraph should also give details and explanations that further support the poof point for that paragraph.

Don’t use enumeration such as first, second, and third. The reader will know by the topic sentence that it is a new proof point.

See Proving the Thesis in Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information on proof.

The Conclusion

Instructors vary of what they expect in the conclusion; however, there is general agreement that conclusions should not introduce any new proof points, should include a restatement of the thesis, and should not contain any words such as “In conclusion.”

Some instructors want only a summary of the proof and a restatement of the thesis. Some instructors ask for a general prediction or implication of the information presented without a restatement of thesis. Still others may want to include a restatement along with a general prediction or implication of the information presents. Be sure to review assignment instructions or check with instructor.  If your assignment instructions don’t specify, just sum up the proof and restate the thesis.

Example which sums up proof and restates thesis:

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

See how the thesis statement was restated in red. The two major arguments about the possible locations proven to be incorrect were also included to remind the reader of the major proof points made in the paper.

Example which makes a general prediction or implication of the information presented:

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday life from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Without it, everyday life would be filled with burdensome tasks and be limited to our neighborhood and our physical capacity.
Here’s an example of a conclusion with a general prediction or implication statement with a restatement of thesis.

Modern technology has created many conveniences in everyday life from waking up to music to having coffee ready to getting to work and doing a day’s work.  The efficiency provided by technology gives people more time to enjoy life and pursue personal development, and the accessibility has broadened options for travel, school, and work.  Without it, everyday life would be filled with burdensome tasks and be limited to our neighborhood and our physical capacity. Modern technology has improved our lives through convenience, efficiency, and accessibility.

Quick Tips for Conclusions

  1. The conclusion brings the essay to an end and is typically the shortest paragraph.
  2. It is important to not introduce new ideas or information here.
  3. Unless otherwise specified in your assignment, just sum up the proof and restate the conclusion.
  4. Some instructors may want the concluding paragraph to contain a general prediction or observation implied from the information presented.

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Essays

Rhetorical Modes as Types of Essays

Rhetorical Modes

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion.  Rhetorical modes are ways of using language with a specific focus.  Narration, for example, tells a story or a sequence of events.  A narrative essay tells a story.

Other rhetorical modes focus on describing, defining, using examples (exemplification), or classifying as the primary purpose.  Comparing and contrasting simply compares one thing to another showing the differences as well as the similarities.

In a cause and/or effect paper, the causes and/or effects of a situation are the focus.

A persuasive or argumentative paper proves a position on a controversial issue.

Sometimes, instructors assign essays requiring a specific mode such as defining something or discussing the causes of a problem. These are considered useful ways to develop the particular skill such as looking closely at something to describe it or finding ways to define an object or situation.

More commonly, however, a writing assignment does not require a specific mode;  these strategies are used as appropriate within an essay or other writing.  For example, a paper arguing that pesticides are harmful might include information defining and describing various pesticides. It could include classifying them by potential harm and use examples of the types of pesticides.  It could have information on the effects of particular pesticides.

It can be argued that all papers, regardless of the primary rhetorical strategy used, are persuasive or argumentative since all writing ultimately is to prove something – even if it is only the legitimacy of one’s feelings such as in a reaction paper or creative writing.  Most writing blend the uses of rhetorical styles.

Outlining

Outlining

What is an outline?

An outline of an academic essay contains the thesis and brief information about the proof paragraphs. 

The proof paragraphs are the paragraphs between the introduction paragraph and the concluding paragraph.  Proof paragraphs contain evidence, also called supporting details, that the thesis is accurate.

An outline  is like a skeleton of the essay.  Outlines for academic essays and research papers that are not reports on research or other specialized report have a very specific organization.  Here is a sample for a 500-word essay.  The number of body paragraphs will vary, generally from two to four, for a 500-word essay.

Thesis and Supporting Details (Body Paragraphs)

Thesis: A one-sentence answer taking a position on the research question or, if assigned a topic and not a question, the thesis is a one-sentence statement taking a position on a controversial aspect of the topic.  The thesis must be a statement, not a question.  The thesis must be a sentence, not a topic.  See Thesis in Related Links on the right sidebar..

I. One reason why your thesis is accurate.

A.  Supporting detail

B.  Supporting detail

II. Second reason why your thesis is accurate.

A.  Supporting detail

B.  Supporting detail

III.  Third reason why your thesis is accurate.

A. Supporting detail

B. Supporting detail

Concluding paragraph

 sums up proof and restates thesis and/or draws an implication from the information presented as to significance depending upon instructions.

For a shorter essay, possibly only two body paragraphs will be needed.  For a longer essay, you may need more proof paragraphs.  

Note that the outline begins with the thesis statement.  What you intend to put into the introduction paragraph as background information leading up the thesis is not part of the outline.

Note that I, II, and III represent what will go into the body (proof paragraphs).

Note that the outline does not ordinarily include a reference to the concluding paragraph even though we have listed it above, but all essays must have a concluding paragraph.

How outlining helps in writing an essay

There are three ways that an outline can help you in writing your essay.

It helps to organize your thought or research, if you are writing a research paper, into a writing plan.

It can also help you decide what information should be included and which information is not really needed.

Finally, it can also help you manage the large amount of information you need to sort in order to write a well supported paper.

Once you have an outline, you can actually write the essay from the outline.  Just open the file, delete the word Thesis and the paragraph numbering, add background information before the thesis, develop details for each proof paragraph, and write the concluding paragraph.

How to create an outline

An outline must start with a thesis statement: a one-sentence statement (not a question) taking a position answering a research question (if given a research question to answer) or taking a position on a controversial aspect of a topic (if given a topic on which to write a paper).

Sometimes, you know your position and can easily start with a thesis. If you also know your reasons why you are taking that position, you can simply list your reasons (I, II, …).

At other times, you may not be sure and have to do some thinking or research on the issue.   Let’s take the question “Why don’t some Americans vote?” If this is not a research paper, you might have to do some brainstorming before you can come up with a thesis: a one-sentence answer to the question.  If this is a research essay (research paper), you will do some research. Creating a working bibliography (a list of sources) or doing a synthesis activity can be very helpful for gathering ideas.

Whether you are required to do research or not, the first step is determining a thesis statement.   From brainstorming and/or research, you may have identified the several reasons some people don’t vote as follows:

Age restrictions

Believe that the system is fixed

Believe nothing will ever change

Don’t know where to go to vote

Physically disabled

Don’t know where to register

Happy with the status quo

Too young

Believe their vote doesn’t count

Can’t vote because of incarceration

Don’t know when to vote

Not an important part of upbringing/culture

Felony conviction

Don’t know what identification is needed

Illegal status

Receiving false information about where to vote

Now, we have to cluster these points into categories so that they can be discussed in an organized way in the essay.  We can see that there are some general reasons such as legal barriers, confusion about how to register or where to vote, and lack of concern or interest where people just don’t think voting would change anything.

I.   Lack of concern or interest

II.  Confusion

III. Legal barriers

Looking over the notes that you made from your brainstorming or research, the next step is to eliminate duplications and group ideas under the categories.  Depending on the assignment length, you don’t necessarily have to include everything you find.

For example:

Age restrictions - proof paragraph   III

Believe that the system is fixed - proof paragraph I

Believe nothing will ever change - proof paragraph I

Don’t know where to go to vote - proof paragraph  II

Physically disabled - proof paragraph II

Don’t know where to register - proof paragraph  II

Happy with the status quo - proof paragraph I

Too young - proof paragraph - proof paragraph III

Believe their vote doesn’t count - proof paragraph  I

Can’t vote because of incarceration - proof paragraph III

Don’t know when to vote - proof paragraph II

Not an important part of upbringing/culture - proof paragraph I

Felony conviction - proof paragraph III

Don’t know what identification is needed - proof paragraph   II

Illegal status - proof paragraph III

Receiving false information about where to vote - proof paragraph II

Now you have a rough outline. You have your three major causes and some details that support each. The next step is to make a solid thesis.

The most important part of your paper is the thesis. A good thesis clearly answers your research question and will provide guidance to the reader about the direction and scope of your paper. Make sure that your thesis is a defensible point that others could reasonably disagree. For this paper a reasonable thesis could be: Three major reasons that Americans do not vote are apathy, confusion, and legal barriers.

Next it is time to think about the body of your essay. Since the thesis very clearly shows the three main points, you can use these along with the grouped details you sorted earlier. As you are making your outline you may discover that you have more ideas than you can fit into your paper’s length or that you have gone beyond the scope of your topic. If so, feel free to remove some ideas. For example, because you have many different types of ideas listed under legal barriers, you may wish to remove the weakest or least supported detail.

Some instructors also require that you include a concluding statement. Remember that this statement should simply be a restatement of your thesis and should never introduce new ideas or begin a new discussion. 

This is an acceptable outline to the research questions we’ve developed here:

Your Name

Your Instructor’s Name

Course Title

Day Month Year

Outline

Thesis: Three major reasons that Americans do not vote are apathy, confusion, and legal barriers.

I.  Lack of concern or interest

A.  Disbelief in the system

1.  One vote doesn’t matter

2.  Voting is tampered with

B.  Social/culturally not valued

C.  Satisfaction with the status quo

II.  Confusion

A.  Location

1.  Where to register

2.  Where to vote

B.  When to vote

C.  What documents are needed

III.  Legal barriers

A.  Incarceration

B.   Conviction of a felony

C.  Immigration status

Concluding paragraph:  Sum up proof and restate thesis and/or draw an implication from the information presented showing the significance depending upon your instructions.

Note that this outline has three support details for each reason your thesis is right (each proof point – I, II, III).  Sections I, II, and III each represent one body (proof) paragraph.  Each body paragraph in the essay must begin with a topic sentence that is a reason your thesis is accurate.  This may vary from essay to essay.  What is described here is more like a scratch outline or topic outline which gives just the general ideas.  A formal outline would include detailed sentences and subsections. These are called sentence outlines.  In a sentence outline, the sentence next to each I, II, and III must be a topic sentence which clearly expresses what point that shows the thesis is right will be shown in the paragraph.  

See Related Pages on the right sidebar for more information.

 

Stylistic Considerations

Stylistic Considerations

Unity and Coherence

Like all effective writing, essays must have unity.  They must clearly stay focused on one purpose: proving the thesis.  All the sentences in each paragraph and each paragraph must work together to achieve that purpose.  It is critical for each sentence in each paragraph to start with a topic sentence that states a reason why the thesis is right and that the rest of the sentences in the paragraph support that topic sentence.

Essays must have coherence.  Each sentence must flow smoothly and logically into the next.  Each paragraph must flow smoothly and logically into the next.  Words and word groups called transitions must be used to link one sentence to the next and one paragraph to the next.

See Unity and Coherence in Essays in Related Pages on the right side bar for more information.

Word Use (Appropriate Language)

Generally speaking, use of Standard English vocabulary and grammar is expected.  These types of papers should not sound as though you were talking casually to a friend.  Don’t use slang, for example, such as ok.  Also, while we use second person (you, your) in informal speech, formal academic writing should not use second person since the reference is not specific.  Here’s an example. You should know where your children are.  The reader may not have young children or any children at all.  Here’s an example with clear reference.  Parents of young children should know where their children are.

Instructors will vary about accepting the use of first person (I, me, my, we, us, our) in essay writing.  While first person may be appropriate in journal writing or reaction papers, typically, instructors will require third person (not first or second) in formal essays and research essays. Be aware of requirements for any particular assignment.

Formal academic essays should not include sentences that refer to yourself or the paper.  Don’t use statements such as “In the opinion of this writer (referring to yourself)….” or “This paper will show….”

For more information on language use, see Appropriate Language in Related Pages on the right sidebar. 

Literary Analysis Essay - Close Reading

Literary Analysis Essay - Close Reading

Purpose

The purpose of a literary analysis essay is to carefully examine and sometimes evaluate a work of literature or an aspect of a work of literature. Examining the different elements of a pieces of literature including plot, character, setting, point of view, irony, symbolism, and style to see how the author develops theme is not an end in itself but rather a process to help you better appreciate and understand the work of literature as a whole. The focus of a literary analysis essay is as expansive as the writers’ interests. For example, a short story analysis might include identifying a particular theme and then showing how the writer suggests that theme through the point of view of the story. It is important to remember that literary analysis does not merely demonstrate a particularly literary element. The focus is explaining how that element is meaningful or significant to the work as a whole. See Essay Organization. 

Close Reading

Close reading is deep analysis of how a literary text function; it is both a reading process and something you include in a literary analysis paper. When you read a text paying specific attention to certain literary elements, looking for particular patters, or following the development of a particular character, you are practicing close reading. Likewise, when you watch a film with particular emphasis on a certain element, you are doing a close reading. Of course, when one writes an essay that teases out a certain element, this is the beginning of a close reading. Like literary analysis more generally, close reading is not a means in and of itself. Close reading helps inform the larger meaning or import of a work.

Literary analysis involves examining the components of a literary text, which allows us to focus on small parts of the text, clues to help us understand the work as a whole. The process of close reading should produce questions. When you begin to answer these questions, you are ready to participate thoughtfully in class discussion or write a literary analysis paper. Close reading is a process of finding as much information as you can in order form to as many questions as you can.