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Essay Basics

Essay Basics

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Essay Basics

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  1. Essay Basics Prewriting, Audience, Purpose, Introduction, Thesis, Support, Conclusion

  2. Prewriting • Select a topic • Narrow the scope • Free writing • Web/cluster • Brainstorming • 5W’s and H: who, what, where, when, why, and how

  3. Take Five • Practice these prewriting techniques using the following topic: • “School Lunch"

  4. Audience • Questions to consider • Who will see the writing? • How much background information? • Types of details? • Terms need definition? • Tone? • Reader’s opinion on the topic?

  5. Audience • Who are you writing for? • Influences: • Sentence and paragraph structure • Simple, compound, complex, compound-complex sentences • Brief, concise paragraphs vs complex, detailed paragraphs • Word choice • Reading level • Jargon

  6. Purpose • Why are you writing? • To entertain • To inform • To persuade • Satire • Each choice determines • Tone • Serious – Sarcastic - Humorous • Structure • Research • Format

  7. Purpose • Polanski Article • What is Benson’s purpose in this article? • What is his thesis? • List two arguments Benson refutes • List two ways Benson tailors his argument for a 13-year-old. • List two persuasive reasons Benson uses to support his thesis. • How effective is his essay?

  8. Practice Part I • Subject: The different tools a cell phone has that helps people communicate • Purpose: To explain • Audience: Young Children Use at least one of the four prewriting skills to come up with ideas and highlight things you will need to adjust in order to better communicate with your audience.

  9. Practice Part II • Topic: Same • Purpose: Same • Audience: see below • How would you outline change if the audience changed?List 5 words that you would use for each of the following audiences: • Your parents • A church group • Your friends • The world (internet posting)

  10. Introduction Elements • Opens the essay • First impression is vital • Avoid cliché • Avoid errors • Be creative • Requires • Hook • Thesis

  11. Introduction Elements:Thesis Statement • The heart of any paper • A one-sentence summary answer to the problem/question a paper addresses • The paper is written to provide support/evidence/proof of the thesis • The author should plan on the audience being skeptical of the thesis, thus putting forward the need to prove his/her idea.

  12. Introduction Elements:Goal of a Thesis: Part I • Your thesis should do at least one of the following: • Be the discovery of a question where there seemed not to be one • Start with an observation that is puzzling – something you want to figure out, not something you already understand • Explain something that needs to be explained • Give new information - Provide a new solution for a problem

  13. Introduction Elements:Goal of a Thesis: Part II • Your thesis should do at least one of the following: • Account for some dissonance – explain why some things don’t seem to fit together • Show that a commonly accepted answer to a question isn’t always correct • Explore the logical consequence of a given position • Show underlying differences in similar concepts • Connect elements of a subject and explain the significance of the connection

  14. Introduction Elements:Strong vs. Weak Thesis • A weak thesis statement makes no claim • For Example: I’m going to write about Darwin’s concerns with evolution in The Origin of the Species. • How to Fix: You need to raise specific issues to explore • A strong thesis statement takes some sort of stand • For Example: Darwin’s concern with the survival of the fittest in The Origin of Species leads him to neglect a potentially conflicting aspect of his theory of evolution – survival as a matter of interdependence.

  15. Introduction Elements:Strong vs. Weak Thesis • A weak thesis statement states an obvious truth or fact • For Example: The jean industry targets its advertisements to appeal to young adults. • How to Fix: Find an area of question that can be raised by some of the facts. Make an assertion that some could disagree with. • A strong thesis statement justifies discussion • For Example: By inventing new terms, such as ‘loose fit’ and ‘relaxed fit,’ the jean industry has attempted to normalize, even glorify, its product for an older, fatter generation.

  16. Introduction Elements:Strong vs. Weak Thesis • A weak thesis statement restates conventional wisdom (offers nothing new) • For Example: An important part of one’s college education is learning to better understand others’ points of view. • How to Fix: Look for more than one point of view that could open the window to new ideas to explore. • A strong thesis statement expresses one main idea • For Example: Although an important part of one’s college education is learning to better understand others’ points of view, a persistent danger is that the students will be required to simply substitute the professor’s answers for the ones they grew up uncritically believing.

  17. Introduction Elements:Strong vs. Weak Thesis • A weak thesis statement offers personal conviction as the basis for the claim • For Example: The environment should be protected because it is the right thing to do, not because someone is forcing you to do it. • How to Fix: Treat your ideas as hypothesis rather that fact • A strong thesis statement is one that can be supported through research • For Example: Although I agree with the argument that the environmentalists and business should work together to ensure the ecological future of the world, Kirkpatrick’s argument undervalues the necessity of pressuring business to attend to the environmental concerns than may not benefit them in the short run.

  18. Introduction Elements:Strong vs. Weak Thesis • A weak thesis statement is overly broad (too vague) • For Example: Violent revolutions have both positive and negative results. • How to Fix: Find ways to look at the complexity of your issue – look for specific areas to cover – narrow the topic - -pick a side • A strong thesis statement is specific • For Example: Although violent revolutions begin to redress long-standing social inequities, they often do so at the cost of long-term economic dysfunction and the suffering that attends it.

  19. Introduction Elements:How to Create a Thesis Statement Part I • Imagine the reader’s view of the subject • Thesis should provide NEW ideas to add to the reader’s store of knowledge • Thesis should CLARIFY knowledge • Add Tension • Attempt to stretch reader’s sensations from a familiar idea to a NEW, SUPRISING ONE • Give the reader something NEW to consider • Use words like WHERAS and ALTHOUGH

  20. Introduction Elements:How to Create a Thesis Statement Part II • Ask a question and answer it • Q: What are the benefits of using computers in a fourth-grade classroom? • A: Using computers in a fourth-grade classroom promises to improve…(your answer to the question is your thesis)

  21. Introduction Elements:Create Your Own Thesis! • Time to practice! • Free write for 10 minutes on the following topics: • Competitive sports • High Speed Rail between Milwaukee and Madison • Homelessness • Celebrities • Politics You must choose three of the above and create the following: • Topic • Question • Possible thesis

  22. Body: Prewriting Connection • Each supporting paragraph does just that – supports or proves your thesis • Prewriting should provide focus for areas of focus/research • Go over your prewriting ideas and evaluate them, keeping in mind your purpose and audience. • Are there things that need to be explained? • Words that need to be changed? • Can some ideas be grouped together?

  23. Body: Organization • Need to organize your supporting points in a logical, appropriate order • Chronological • Topical • Cause/Effect • Spatial

  24. Body: Research • Use research to • Clearly explain status quo (the details of the current situation) • Illustrate potential problems • Provide examples of how others are dealing with the issue • Personalize the issue with personal stories • You need to explainhow the cited support connectsto/proves/supports your thesis.

  25. Body: Sources • Check sources for • Is the information current? • Is the source reliable? Biased? • How will specific details supportyourthesis? • Be sure to maintain an MLA Works Cited page as you research your topic • As you surf, have a Word document opened • Copy and paste URL and write a sentence summarizing source • Copy and paste usable segments; don’t print out entire articles! • Use www.easybib.comto properly format your citation.

  26. Body: Sources Practice • Complete the Internet Source Evaluation Sheet for your practice essay.

  27. Introduction Elements:Hook • Relates the topic to the audience • States the importance of your topic • Clearly defines where the essay is going • Need to show how the hook relates to the thesis • Write the hook LAST – after you know your position and how you are going to write about it.

  28. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Persuasive and Informative 1. Startle the reader with interesting facts/statistics • Provides proof of serious approach • Shows specific impact of issue • “101 Dalmatians , Peter Pan, and Hercules are the only three Disney cartoon movies with both parents that are present throughout the movie.”

  29. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Persuasive and Informative 2. Rhetorical questions • Quickly brings audience to your side (flatters) • “Who can be optimistic when the economy is in such a deplorable condition?”

  30. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Persuasive and Informative 3. Quotations • Provides proof of serious approach • Puts experts in your support • “Government isn’t the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” Ronald Reagan

  31. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Persuasive and Informative 4. Tell a story/anecdote • Everyone loves a story • Relates the issue on a personal level • “Scott’s dad one day decided to have a rummage sale. He dug through a plethora of boxes, deciding what to keep and what could be sold. Old toys, records, clothes that would only be good for a 70’s retro party, and books that were never cracked open went into the pile. Everything went, including some old comic books he had forgotten about, for bargain prices. Unfortunately for Scott’s dad, he never checked to see how much those comics were really worth.”

  32. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Persuasive and Informative 5. Give historical information • Provides proof of serious approach • Connects the past to the present – learn or repeat • “Here's where things stood in 1980, Carter's last year in office, and in subsequent periods: • Carter: Interest rate, 21%. Inflation, 13.5%. Unemployment, 7%. The so-called "Misery Index," which Carter used to great effect in his 1976 campaign to win election, 20.5%. • Reagan's last year: Interest rate, 9%. Inflation, 4.1%. Unemployment, 5.5%. Misery Index, 9.6%. • Bush today: Interest rate, 8%. Inflation, 2.6%. Unemployment, 4.5%. Misery Index, 7.1%. (From 'Malaise' MaestroByINVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY |Posted Tuesday, May 22, 2007 4:20 PM PT

  33. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Narrative 6. Dialogue • Good for personal narrative • Puts reader immediately into the story • “Congratulations, you have a new baby boy!” my child development teacher said as she handed over the 10-pound bundle.” (from “It’s a Boy!”) 7. Question • Gets the reader thinking about the topic • “What possessed me me to try to catch a skunk? I will never know.” 8. Command • Good for the moral of the story • Forceful start • Provides a hint to the conflict of the story • Arouses curiosity • Never try to outsmart a skunk

  34. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Narrative 9. Action • Lively entrance into a personal narrative • I have never run so fast in my life. Unfortunately, it was not fast enough. 10. Sound Effect • Strong sensory introduction puts reader into the action • “PSFST!” I smelled the skunk’s spray almost as soon as I heard it.

  35. Introduction Elements:Hook Strategies – Narrative 11. Inner Thought • Puts reader into the narrator’s head • I thought I was the luckiest kid in the world until I saw him, John McKay. 12. Description • Don’t overdo the description • Purpose could get lost in flowery language • Quick description clearly illustrates character/setting • The day started out like every other day. It was sunny out and the birds were chirping. No one could have guessed that the biggest storm of the year would be coming our way in a few short hours.

  36. Introduction Elements:Great Opening Narrative Lines • “A screaming comes across the sky” • (Thomas Pychon, Gravity’s Rainbow, 1973) • “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.” • (George Orwell, 1984, 1949) • “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” • (J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, 1937) • “It was the day my grandmother exploded.” • (Iain Banks, The Crow Road, 1992)

  37. Hook Practice • Complete class handout

  38. Parenthetic Citation:Print • Immediately following a quotation from a source or a paraphrase of a source's ideas, you place the author's name followed by a space and the relevant page number(s) and end with a period. • Paraphrase: Human beings have been described as "symbol-using animals" (Burke 3). • Quote: “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit” (Tolkien 1). • Internet sources use the same format but do not refer to any given page.

  39. Parenthetic Citation:No Known Author • No known author? • Use a shortened title of the work instead of an author name. • Place the title in quotation marks if it's a short work, • Place the title in italics or underline it if it's a longer work. • Applies to print and internet sources

  40. Parenthetic Citation: Multiple Sources • To cite multiple sources in the same parenthetical reference, separate the citations by a semi-colon: • has been discussed elsewhere (Burke 3; Dewey 21). • Again, internet sources do not refer to any given page.

  41. Parenthetic Citation: Internet Sources • For an individual page on a Web site: • list the author or alias if known • If unknown, follow unknown author rules • For other internet sources go to, go to the MLA F.Y.I. page, and follow the links

  42. Parenthetic Citation: To Cite or Not to Cite • Common sense and ethics determines documenting sources. • No citation needed for the following: • familiar proverbs • well-known quotations • common knowledge. • To cite or not is based on audience. • Audience determines common knowledge.

  43. MLA Format • Typed on standard, white 8.5 x 11-inch paper, • Double-space • Times Roman. The font size should be 12 pt. • Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise instructed by your instructor). • Set the margins to 1 inch on all sides.

  44. MLA Format • Indent the first line of a paragraph one half-inch (five spaces or press tab once) from the left margin. • Create a header that numbers all pages consecutively in the upper right-hand corner, one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor may ask that you omit the number on your first page. Always follow your instructor's guidelines.) • Use either italics or underlining throughout your essay for the titles of longer works and, only when absolutely necessary, providing emphasis.

  45. MLA Format:The First Page of Your Paper • No title page unless specifically requested. • In the upper left-hand corner of the first page , double-spaced list: • your name • your instructor's name • the course • the date • Double space again and center the title. • No underline or quotation marks • write the title in Title Case, not in all capital letters. • Use quotation marks and underlining or italics when referring to other works in your title, just as you would in your text, e.g., • Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas as Morality Play • Human Weariness in "After Apple Picking“

  46. MLA Format:The First Page of Your Paper • Double space between the title and the first line of the text. • Create a header in the upper right-hand corner that includes: • your last name, followed by a space with a page number • number all pages consecutively with Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, 4, etc.) • one-half inch from the top and flush with the right margin. (Note: Your instructor or other readers may ask that you omit last name/page number header on your first page. Always follow their guidelines.)

  47. MLA Format:The First Page Example