Writing an Academic Essay The Purpose and Process of Academic Writing
Some Parameters • We will not exhaust every aspect of academic writing • We will focus on the overall process of writing an academic paper • We will not focus on rules • We will instead focus on strategies
What Is The Purpose of the Academic Essay? The word “essay” is derived from the Latin verb “exigere”, which means to: • Examine • Test • Drive out • What could the purpose of an essay be given this definition?
Other Purposes • Discover knowledge • Make a point • Persuade the reader • Share information • Synthesis Information • Analyze a topic • Document your observations • All of the above
Think of Writing as a Step by Step Process • Read and Research • Brainstorm Ideas • Develop Working Thesis and Outline • Write Rough Draft • Review for Content • Revise Rough Draft • Review for Grammar and Mechanics • Revise Second Draft • Continue Reviewing and Revising as Needed
Where Do I Get Ideas To Write About? • Read texts related to your topic • Use brainstorming techniques like: • Listing ideas • Clustering or mind mapping • Free writing • Discuss the issue with others • Research the topic
Reading a Text Compare these two images about Japanese Concentration camps during World War II. The first is by American photographer Ansel Adams. The second is a cartoon by Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel.
Contrasting the Two Texts • Ansel Adams • Uses photograph • Creates sympathy • Documents history • Subtle • Politically motivated • Captures humanity • Shows us the suffering • Emphasizes helplessness • Focused on the individual • Dr. Seuss • Uses cartoon • Stirs animosity • Used for propaganda • Exaggerated • Politically motivated • Uses stereotypes • Makes characters look happy • Emphasizes danger • Focused on the larger view
Clustering • Write your main point in the center of the page and circle it • As ideas come to you, branch off from the main point • Think of the cluster as a tree, each idea branching off a previous idea • Do not censor or edit yourself
Develop a Working Thesis • A thesis comes at the end of the introduction section of your paper • It lets the reader know exactly what overall point you are trying to make • It should be specific, not general • It can be used by the reader and the writer as a road map for the rest of the paper • It is not fixed; it can and should evolve as your ideas evolve • What you present in the paper should not deviate from what you promise in the thesis • Establishes expectations
Thesis Examples • Dr. Seuss’ propaganda cartoons during World War II reduced Japanese Americans to stereotypes, played on the fears of the American public during a time of war, and focused on a the broad, generalized issues of the situation rather than the individual circumstances of the people involved.
Developing an Outline • Once you establish a thesis, use it to help you develop an outline of the paper • An outline will: • Help you organize your ideas • Keep you focused • Save time • Keep in mind there are several ways to approach writing an outline
Outline Example • Thesis • Main Point • Supporting Point • Detail • Detail • Supporting Point • Detail • Detail • Main Point • Supporting Point • Detail • Detail • Supporting Point • Detail • Detail • Supporting Point • Detail • Detail • Main Point • Supporting Point • Detail • Detail • Supporting Point • Detail • Detail • Conclusion
Writing the Rough Draft • Now that you have a thesis and outline, you may begin writing your rough draft. • As you write this rough draft, keep the following strategies in mind: • Organize information in your body paragraphs • Hook the reader in the introduction • Keep your paper coherent with transition words and sentences • Wrap up your paper with a strong closing • Utilize academic writing conventions • Follow the writing process
Introductions • The purpose of the introduction paragraph is to: • Bait the reader • Contextualize your argument or topic • Provide necessary background information about the topic
Strategies to Bait the Reader • Ask a question • Tell a story • Use a quote • Provide interesting statistics • Share an anecdote • Make a provocative statement
Give Context in the Introduction • What does the reader need to know to understand this paper? • Historical background • Issues relating to the topic • Important authors and texts you will be referring to • Cultural issues • Why this topic is important or relevant
Start Your Body Paragraphs with Clear Topic Sentences A topic sentence: • Comes at the beginning of a paragraph • Presents the most important point you want to make in that paragraph • Is specific (or not so broad it would require a full essay to explore)
Use Compelling Supporting Points to Support Your Topic Sentence • Supporting points are examples or pieces of evidence that support the claim you have made in your topic sentence. • They can be: • Facts • Examples • Anecdotes (Stories) • Expert Testimony • Quotes • Observations • Statistics
Make Sure to Elaborate with Concrete Details • Once you have listed your supporting points, you can now elaborate on them by adding details or explaining what you mean further.
Example Topic Sentence: Dr. Seuss emphasized the danger posed by Japanese Americans during World War II. Main Point: His pictures show a parade of smiling Japanese marching down the West Coast collecting explosives. Detail: Each box of TNT these cartoon characters carry plays on the often irrational fears Americans felt toward Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
An Alternative: Using the PIE Formula • Another useful strategy to organize information is to use the PIE formula • PIE • P = Point = The main point you want to make • I = Illustration = A quote or paraphrase from the text • E = Explanation = Your explanation about what the quote or paraphrase means
Use Transitions to Create Coherence • Use transition words or sentences to bridge ideas so the reader does not get confused • First • Second • In addition • Nevertheless • In contrast • Furthermore • Therefore • Etc.
Strategies for a Conclusion • Re-state your thesis statement in a different way • Make a strong closing comment • Use any of the strategies for the introduction • Wrap up the paper with a neat bow tie
Academic Conventions: Things to Avoid • Avoid use personal pronouns like “I”, “We”, and “You”. • Avoid not use contractions like “isn’t”, “they’re”, “wasn’t”, etc. • Avoid slang • Avoid a personal tone • Avoid vague ideas • Avoid plagiarism
Academic Conventions: Things to Do • Do address both sides of an argument • Do cite your sources • Do use a formal tone • Do take a stand • Do use concrete details • Do give yourself time to develop your paper
Remember, Writing is a Process • Every writing assignment is practice for the next one • Writing takes time • Go through every step of the process • Focus on your ideas first • Focus on grammar and spelling last • Get feedback from a peer, instructor, or tutor