As you've probably noticed, essay writing assignments can pop up in any class.
An essay is a literary composition that expresses a certain idea, claim, or concept and backs it up with supporting statements. It will follow a logical pattern, to include an introductory paragraph (make the claim), a body (support), and a conclusion (summary of statements and support).
English and Literature teachers use them on a regular basis, but essays are required in many other fields. Essay exams are also a test tool used commonly in the social sciences, and even in math and science class.
Of course, essays play a big role in the college application process, as well. In short, there's just no avoiding essays, as long as you're in school!
Luckily, you can learn to craft a great essay if you can follow the standard pattern and write in a clear and organized manner.
The introduction is the first paragraph in your essay, and it should accomplish a few specific goals.
1. Capture the reader's interest.
It's a good idea to start your essay with a really interesting statement, in order to pique the reader's interest.
Avoid starting out with a boring line like this:
"In this essay I will explain why Rosa Parks was an important figure."
Instead, try something with a bit of a surprise factor, like this statement:
"A Michigan museum recently paid $492,000 for an old, dilapidated bus from Montgomery, Alabama."
The second sentence sounds much more interesting, doesn't it? It would encourage most people to keep on reading.
2. Introduce the topic.
The next few sentences should explain your first statement, and prepare the reader for your thesis statement.
"The old yellow bus was reported to be the very one that sparked the civil rights movement, when a young woman named Rosa Parks..."
3. Make a claim or express your opinion in a thesis sentence.
At the end of your introductory paragraph, you will place a powerful thesis statement. Your thesis sentence should provide your specific assertion and convey a clear point of view.
"In refusing to surrender her seat to a white man, Rosa Parks inspired a courageous freedom movement that lives on, even today."
Your intructor will be looking for the specific elements above when reviewing your introductory paragraph, so be sure to review your first paragraph to make sure it meets these three goals.
The body of the essay will include three paragraphs (if this is a five-paragraph essay), each limited to one main idea that supports your thesis. You should state your idea, then back it up with two or three sentences of evidence or examples.
Example of a main idea:
"It took incredible courage for an African American woman to make such a bold stance in 1955 Alabama."
Offer evidence to support this statement:
"This act took place in an era when African Americans could be arrested and face severe retribution for comitting the most trivial acts of defiance."
Include a few more supporting statements with further evidence, then use transition words to lead to the paragraph that follows. All of your body paragraphs should follow the pattern of statement, supporting ideas, and transition statement.
Sample transition words to use in your transition statements:The fifth paragraph of your five-paragraph essay will be your conclusion.
on the whole
as a result
for this reason
it follows that
The final paragraph will summarize your main points and re-assert your main claim (from your thesis sentence). It should point out your main points, but should not repeat specific examples.
Once you complete the first draft of your essay, it's a good idea to re-visit the thesis statement in your first paragraph. Read your essay to see if it flows well.
You might find that the supporting paragraphs are strong, but they don't address the exact focus of your thesis. Simply re-write your thesis sentence to fit your body and summary more exactly.
By doing this, you will ensure that every sentence in your essay supports, proves, or reflects your thesis. Your instructor will be looking for this!