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Essay Tips: 7 Tips on Writing an Effective Essay

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❶From there, begin to list your main ideas, leaving space under each one. Many of the general grammar rules do not have to be followed to allow for easier reading.

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2. Stake out a position!
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These other things may have mattered to other teachers in other times of your life, and I may want to hear them on another occasion. But they do not matter here and now. All that matters here and now is your answer to the question.

So before you begin writing anything , get very familiar with that question. Read it very carefully , like a lawyer would. As you read the question, look for technical terms that may need explaining. It may not always be obvious that a word is a technical term e. Technical terms are rarely defined properly in popular dictionaries, so use a theological dictionary.

A day or so before the due date, I always get questions from students that are alarmingly ill-informed about basic course concepts.

If I have posed a question about Christological heresies, I get e-mails that ask me, "What's a Christological heresy? But if you really don't know, then you probably haven't been paying close enough attention to class or the readings. I sometimes ask questions in a confusing way, but I do not purposefully ask obscure questions.

If you are posing a question or crafting a thesis e. Do not be content with a topic that can be reduced to a phrase e. Instead, pursue a thesis that must be in the form of one or more sentences e. This will help you test whether the assignment is interesting, manageable, and provable. Whoever is posing the question, make yours a substantial answer. Structure your essay to develop that answer in the most straightforward way.

Make sure your answer covers all the question's specific points and consults all the required sources. I give half-credit for half-answers, no credit for answers to questions I did not pose, and no credit for visceral reactions.

Of course, arguing rather than just talking or asserting demands that you understand logic and rhetoric. For a brief and accessible guide to examining and constructing arguments, I recommend Weston Williams, A Rulebook for Arguments. The world is full of people saying nothing under the guise of saying something. Consider this description of Jesus.

Mercifully, it comes not from a student, but from the packaging of the Jesus Action Figure I received as a birthday gift. It says that Jesus. Since then, he has been the topic of many heated theological debates. Although he is understood in many different ways, everyone seems to agree that he was a remarkable man. I cannot think of a better argument against universal literacy than this paragraph.

You would think that with such a "remarkable" character to write about, the copy writer would not have written something so utterly unremarkable. What a waste of words! Like weeds, these pseudo-claims choke out real answers. They not only fail to raise a grade, they lower it.

It is better to write nothing at all than to write nothing posing as something. Nevertheless, let those of you who are addicted to such rhetoric take comfort: You have a bright future in public relations or politics. Ministry too, in some churches, but not if I can help it.

Do not just start writing. Instead, outline your argument on one single-spaced page. Use complete sentences, not just phrases. Let the specific structure of the question structure your answer. If mine is a two-part question asking you how A sheds light on B and C, then perhaps the clearest response will be an introduction, then a section on how A sheds light on B, then a section on how A sheds light on C.

Poorly structured answers almost always indicate a failure to understand the question or the sources. This outlining stage is so helpful that I sometimes assign exercises for submission as "prose outlines. This shows me that most students must be forced to structure their writing logically in order to write logically. That is a discouraging sign. As you gain familiarity with your own argument in outline, you will be more and more ready to turn it into traditional paragraphs.

How do you know when you are ready? Well, pretend a parent asked you what you were writing about over the phone. If you cannot answer with a clear, one-minute-long answer in everyday language, you are not yet ready to write. As eyes are a window to the soul, so your introduction is a window to your argument. So, once you are ready to write, start with an introductory summary that condenses your whole argument not just the question or the premises of your answer into three sentences or so.

That one-minute answer you might give in the previous step is generally the kind of introduction I want to see. Do not just repeat the question! Do not just state the premises of your answer! Do not just list the readings you will draw on! Instead, condense your overall argument and state it plainly.

If you do not do this, I will grade you down. The whole introduction should be no more than half of a page. Use your introduction to guide the entire essay and keep you from being distracted. It will help both of us to see where you're planning to go and why it's important. I am your primary audience for these assignments. Make sure I understand what you're doing!

Many writers lead with a cute but tangential introduction intended to lure the reader into the essay's real argument. This practice afflicts sermons, papers, in-class presentations, and final exam essays, and is equally annoying everywhere. It wastes space and time, misleads your reader, and distracts both writer and reader from your actual objective.

Keep your introduction integral to your argument, regardless of how others have trained you to write. Catchy is fine; cute is irritating; tangential is out. The same goes for conclusions.

Often these are unnecessary. Unless it would genuinely contribute to the argument, I recommend you forego a conclusion. I am serious about introductions. When I grade student essays, I can generally tell what grade the whole essay deserves just by reading the introduction. It takes only one paragraph to tell me.

The former gets to the point. The latter clutters and obfuscates. The former writes clearly and incisively. The latter makes elementary mistakes or overcompensates by using and often misusing sophisticated sounding words. The former leads me briefly but decisively into the heart of an essay that does what I intended.

The latter misleads me, distracts me, or just tries to entertain me. The former penetrates beyond the surface and returns with a finding that is both precise and insightful. The latter relies on generalities and banalities. The former appeals to texts explicitly and allusively in ways that reveal a command of the material that goes beyond just what will be mentioned later.

The latter uses course materials either slightly, randomly in the hope of getting something right , narrowly having read only one small part and hoping to fool me , as filler, or as a sourcebook for gratuitous quotations.

The former reveals the structure of his or her overall argument. The latter offers merely emotional impressions, diverting anecdotes, or empty rhetoric. The former writes an introduction that is both comprehensive and brief.

The latter writes a lead that never gives me "the big picture," probably because there isn't one. When I am reading your essays, I am usually reading them in stacks, so my patience level is pretty low already. On the other hand, if you use your introduction well, you awaken me and make me a fan. When I look into your essay's eyes, let me see intelligent life.

As you write, go for precision of language. Use just the right words to capture the nuances of what you or your source means. Lack of clarity buries many a worthy point. Define terms that are important to your argument, so I think they mean what you think they mean.

When I see vague language in your essays, I suspect that you don't really know what you're talking about. My suspicions are usually confirmed. Precision is a matter not just of effectiveness, but of morality.

George Orwell complained about abuses of English writing in a essay called "Politics and the English Language":. Reading that essay makes me squirm, because in my own writing I am guilty of so much of what I am warning you against. It made Orwell uncomfortable too. Don't waste space, especially in the short exercises I assign. Go for key points, not just incidental ones. If you deleted a particular sentence or paragraph, would it hurt your argument? Would it detract from your answer to the stated question?

If not, delete it. Likewise, when you analyze the work of others, identify its weightiest points, not just peripheral ones. Edit out tangential and trivial points as you read. Fixing on and trashing them is poor academic sportsmanship. Condense arguments yours and your sources' down to their essence.

Find the heart of an argument and test its integrity there. Whether every detail is perfect is less important than whether the fundamental argument stands or falls. For density, pithiness, and clarity, don't quote; cite. I'm not all that impressed when I read someone else's words of wisdom in your essay. It is the quality of your education I am evaluating, not theirs.

The longer a quotation, the better off you are simply referring to it rather than reproducing it. Put material in your own words so.

If you cite well, you won't need much or any space to tie the source into your argument, and your writing will flow powerfully. On the other hand, if you quote at length, you will lead me to think you are padding your paper and dodging the difficult work of interpretation. In short papers concentrating on only one or two sources, footnotes waste space. Instead, include brief references in your text like this: If you do footnote, I prefer footnotes to endnotes; readers are more likely to read them.

Of course, when you rely on someone else's work even mine for an idea, a phrase, or a passage of any greater length, you know the rules: Citing sources allows you and me to refer to them later. Moreover, failing to cite sources is called plagiarism. In brief, it is generally defined as passing off another's work as one's own, whether or not you do it intentionally.

To plagiarize is to present someone else's work — his or her words, line of thought, or organizational structure — as our own. This occurs when sources are not cited properly, or when permission is not obtained from the original author to use his or her work. By not acknowledging the sources that are used in our work, we are wrongfully taking material that is not our own. Plagiarism is thus an insidious and disruptive form of dishonesty.

It violates relationships with known classmates and professors, and it violates the legal rights of people we may never meet. Do you see how I set that paragraph apart and acknowledge the writer? If I had not done so, I would have led you to believe I had written it myself. In our culture, such misrepresentation would have constituted both theft in that I am violating the writer and owner by appropriating his words as my own and fraud in that I would have misled you readers.

In my profession, doing such a thing would cost me my academic credibility, and probably my job as well. If you have any doubt about whether something should be cited, I expect you either to cite it, or to check with me beforehand. After your work is turned in, I will accept no excuse. If you engage in academic dishonesty in any part of an assignment, you will fail the entire course. Plagiarism is a mortal sin, and a deed you'll regret for the rest of your life.

Especially if you get away with it. What should you cite? Above all, the course materials. The point of most assignments is to get you back into the course materials. I want to see evidence that you are interacting deeply with the texts and lecture material along the lines of the stated question.

If I don't see it, your grade will suffer. In fact, it may suffer, be buried, and not rise on the third day. Secondary research is less important, often not important at all.

While research papers are important projects in a college education, I assign few of them. I would rather take on the task of helping you discover how to read a few books in depth than how to scan a library shelf. By the way, for now, unless I say otherwise, you can add "Internet research" to your list of oxymorons "jumbo shrimp," "television journalism," "Pepsi Cola".

The library is where you will find peer-reviewed work that reputable scholars thought promising enough to publish, and your school thought important enough to purchase. The Internet is where you will find material offered for free whose quality you are not yet capable of judging. Avoid it unless you are sure it comes from reputable sources. You don't know where that stuff has been!

If not, get to work on your style, pronto. I have required, conditionally required, and recommended books on grammar and style over the years. If you don't like my choices, you may prefer William Strunk Jr. White, The Elements of Style Macmillan, 4th ed. The reader should understand what the paper will be addressing without you having to tell them. Your thesis statement should present the argument to be discussed.

Examples of thesis statements are below. Siberian Tigers Example 1: In Russia, Siberian Tigers do not have a safe habitat in which to live. Siberian Tigers should be protected because they are being killed at alarming rates.

Due to the ever increasing amount of poachers in the eastern region of Russia, Siberian Tigers are facing extinction, and their habitat needs to be protected. The first example is a weak thesis statement.

The second example is better, but it is not specific enough. The third example is the strongest because it not only explains the need for protection of the habitat, but it helps the reader understand that poachers are the main cause for putting the tigers at risk of extinction. Remember, not everyone will be interested in your paper. You will have readers that will agree with you and some readers that disagree.

Jumping from side to side will make your paper seem weak and confusing. Human cloning is helpful to the scientific community because it opens possibilities of creating organs for patients that are in need of these vital tissues. It should not be allowed for research because human lives are affected. However, it could be helpful in the long run. This example shows that jumping from one side to another can make it difficult for the reader to understand your point of view.

It is okay to acknowledge how the other side feels, but you want to keep your own point of view intact. Although some might argue that it should not be allowed because human lives are affected, human cloning could be very resourceful in the long run.

You want to make sure to follow your statements with quotations and evidence of researchers in the field of your topic that can make your argument stronger.

Keep terminology consistent throughout your essay. The type of language used depends on the type of essay you are writing. Pay attention to the assignment given. There are general rules for writing essays, but assignments for class often have specific guidelines that need to be followed. Argumentative Paper Do not stray away from your side of the argument. Your language should be strong and concise. Avoid using first person pronouns I, me, we, us, etc.

Some Christians feel that abortion is wrong because it is considered murder of a human being. I am a Christian, and I feel that abortion is wrong because I consider it murder of a human being. Many Americans would argue that the U. We, as Americans, feel that the government should not bail out any more companies in order to boost our economy. You should argue from a point of view, which could include a large group of individuals.

By taking yourself out of the argument, and by supporting your argument with evidence and scholarly sources, you will be enabling the reader to have an objective opinion about a certain issue.

Personal Narrative The reader should be entertained with your writing. Personal narratives can be both humorous and emotional. You should find a way to establish a connection with the reader so that he or she remains interested. The language should be very personal and first person pronouns are inevitable. Tenses are crucial in this type of writing. This example shows that the author did not use the tenses properly.

Although it can be appropriate to jump back and forth between tenses throughout a paper, it should not occur in the middle of a paragraph about only one topic. The following example shows how this paragraph could be written appropriately. In the last sentence, some words were added to make the sentence clearer and more readable.

Book Report These assignments usually have a certain goal in mind for your paper. You may be asked to write as a critic, analyzing the book from a certain point of view.

On the other hand, you may be asked to write a character analysis or a review illustrating the plot through symbolism. Whatever the case, make sure to follow the instructions of your assignment.

Book reports can either be formal or informal. If it is to be a formal critique, keep your writing objective. You want to give an overall review of the aspects of the plot and characters without making a judgment of your own unless told to do so in the assignment instructions, which would make it an informal critique.

Research Paper Do not use first person pronouns I, me, we, us, etc. See Writing a Strong Research Paper for more information on this topic.

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Do not stray away from your side of the argument. Your language should be strong and concise. It is okay to have personal judgment, but also support your argument with evidence from research and/or scholarly resources. Strong argumentative papers will address the opposing side’s views and have claims against them.

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Given today's competitive college admissions process, a strong essay is critical. It can be the difference between acceptance and rejection. In this course, writing instructor Leigh Ann Chow covers planning, drafting, editing, and polishing an unforgettable college essay.

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Use this list of 20 essay conclusion examples that covers a range of topics and essay formats as a stepping stone to inspire and inform your own writing. You need a strong, coherent body in your essay or else you won't be getting too good a grade. In this quiz, you'll be tested on the ways to make sure you have the strongest essay body possible.

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Looking for even more help understanding the key components of a strong thesis statement? Check out these posts: How to Write a Thesis Statement in 5 Simple Steps; How to Turn a Good Thesis Statement Into a Great One; Turn Your Thesis Statement Into an Essay. Free strong women papers, essays, and research papers.