Once you get the assignment, make sure you go over it carefully and fully understand what it is you are to do and how you will be marked. Also check to see if you are banned from using certain resources or must use certain resources. Ask your teacher about any questions you have BEFORE you start so you do not have to redo work. Choose your topic Your essay should be focused enough to be interesting and informative but not so focused that you can not find sources for it.
Now that you have your topic settled you need to find some sources of information. You might used some of the following: Books – information will be reliable but may be out of date Journals – very detailed information, may be hard to find in high school Newspapers – recent information, may lack details Encyclopaedias – recent information, easy to read, will lack details – good to use to get to know your topic NOT as a primary source – check to see if you can use Wikipedia Web pages – potential very good information but also risk getting biased or even completely false information
Once you have a source that is both relevant and reliable it is time to take notes: 1. Record the source information. This will vary depending on the source but is the information you will need to do an entry for a Reference Page 2. Write your notes, you should have several types: Direct quotations Stats or other tables copied completely and accurately Summarized information 3. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as to many notes! However if you do not have enough notes it is very hard to write an essay. So if in doubt write it down!
Once you have all the notes you think you need then it is time to organize. Consider the various subtopics that your essay will have – introduction, background, arguments for both sides, conclusion, etc. Read over your notes and using several different coloured highlighters (or a letter system if you prefer) place your notes into the various subtopics by colour
Now it is time to start planning your essay, some teachers might call this power notes, or a concept web. What ever it is called it is more detailed then an outline, think of it as a point form version of your essay. This step can be done in a number of different ways – only one of which will be discussed here. Talk to your teacher about other ways of doing an organizer. It is suggested but not required that you type all of this on a computer.
As you move through all of these parts always consider the reader and what this will look like to them when they read it. Start by putting down your subtopics in a logical order Next consider what categories of information will go in this topic and in what order Now it is time to add your notes. This will be easy as you have already decided where they are going. Do NOT worry about order yet, particularly if you are typing this. Do make sure to include either the source of the notes or something that will lead you back to the source. I suggest numbering each source you use and then just putting that number at the end of each note from that source.
Now that all of your notes are in the proper subtopics put them in the order that you will use them Next add your thesis statement and if appropriate sub thesis statements Then look over your essay does any section of it seem to be lacking in information? If so go back and research some more Finally read over what you have and ask your self, does this make sense? Is there a good flow to this information? If something in your organizer does not seem to fit then feel free to cut it out.
Title – Cats vs. Dogs Which is the Superior Pet? Introduction Attention grabber Thesis Statement Background Define topic and any relevant terms or issues Definition 1 Definition 2 Where do things currently stand? Fact 1 Fact 2 Fact 3
Pro Cat Sub thesis statement Major argument 1 Fact 1 Fact 2 Fact 3 Major argument 2 Repeat above Major argument 3 Repeat above Pro Dog Repeat above
Analysis Strengths of side you oppose Weaknesses of side you favour Weaknesses of side you oppose Strengths of side you favour Conclusion Restating thesis Opinion on topic Support for opinion 1 Support for opinion 2 Support for opinion 3
With your research and organizer done the majority of the hard work is now over. All that is left is turning your organizer into a properly formatted and well written essay. The majority of your time in this step is going to be spent in your segues and your analysis. Keep in mind that HOW you say something is often at least as important as WHAT you say. You can have the best ideas ever but if you write them like you were in grade 3 no one will take you seriously.
This is an essay spelling and grammar are VITAL make sure to check this over carefully do NOT just trust your word processer. The following excerpt by Mark Eckman and Jerrold H. Zar should hopefully make this point clear I have a spelling checker, It came with my PC. It plane lee marks four my revue Miss steaks aye can knot sea. Eye ran this poem threw it, Your sure reel glad two no. Its vary polished in it's weigh. My checker tolled me sew. A checker is a bless sing, It freeze yew lodes of thyme. It helps me right awl stiles two reed, And aides me when eye rime. Each frays come posed up on my screen Eye trussed too bee a joule. The checker pours o'er every word To cheque sum spelling rule.
This is a formal essay, that means you should be using proper FORMAL English! Do NOT use: Slang Text or Web speak Contractions (ex. Don’t for do not, it’s for it is) Use with caution abbreviations and make sure that you use the full form the first time you abbreviate. Example: The Office of the Treaty Commissioner (OTC) says that... When using people’s names use either their full name or their last name do NOT use just their first name.
Do NOT use first person (I, we, etc.) outside of your conclusion! Do NOT use big words or complicated sentences to impress the reader. This just tends to confuse you and cause problems. Good rule of thumb if you can not define the word do not use it! Having said that do NOT dumb down your language. Make every attempt to make your every point in your essay clear and to the point. Whatever you do, do NOT be like Calvin!
Do NOT just go right into your essay you need to get the reader’s attention – you do not want them thinking “Do I have to read this?” You could get there attention by: Telling a brief but interesting story related to the topic Giving an interesting quote related to the topic Using some interesting statistics related to the topic Ask some thought provoking question(s) related to the topic What ever you do, do NOT be cheesy or try to kiss up to the reader
Next you need to work your way from what ever you used to get the reader’s attention to your thesis statement. This will take some time and require one or more transition sentences. At the end of your paragraph will be your thesis sentence(s) – it might be more than one but try to avoid it and do not be more than two.
This is where you will clearly and concisely tell the reader what your essay is about. Make sure that you are specific, one of the most common mistakes people make is to be to vague. Avoid at all costs statements like: This essay will... I will be talking about... An example might be: An analysis of the college admission process reveals two principal problems facing counselors: accepting students with high test scores or students with strong extracurricular backgrounds.
This section of your essay contains 4 major parts: 1. Background – what is your issue and where do things currently stand 2. Pro Side – what the people in favour of the issue have to say 3. Con Side – what the people opposed to the issue have to say 4. Analysis – what are the strengths and weakness of both sides arguments
When looking at each side you must: Remain impartial – the reader should not know your feelings until the end Cover both sides equally well Clearly state what the major arguments for both sides are and explain them
This is obviously the major portion of your essay and contains all of your relevant facts. It is vital that the paragraphs in your essay be tied together, otherwise your essay will lack flow and be hard to read and understand. To achieve this the last sentence and first sentence in every paragraph should be transition or segue sentences tying the paragraphs together.
It is also here that you will analyze the arguments of the two sides of your issue. You should not be bringing new information into this paragraph(s) but instead looking at the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments.
Some things that you might want to consider when analyzing both sides: Is the information accurate given what I know? Do both sides arguments make sense? Is it legal? Will the public support it? Does it treat people fairly? How would I feel if this logic applied to me? What would society be like if everyone acted like this? Would this logic work if applied to a similar situation?
This is a research essay, that means you looked up information that other people collected. You MUST give them credit for their work otherwise it is plagiarism and you get ZERO. If you are not sure how to do an in text citation after this section please ask your teacher or go to one of the following sites: Son of Citation Machine – this will format an in text citation for you for basic situations Owl at Purdue – this site will not only tell you how to format the citation for any situation but tell you when to put an in text citation
Use in-text citations whenever you: Use a direct quotation. Use statistics or a specific date. Restate, summarize, or paraphrase an idea, theory, or opinion given by another author. Incorporate facts that are not common knowledge. A general rule of thumb is, if you can find the fact in at least three sources, it is common knowledge. If you are in doubt than use an in-text citation
In general terms the in text citation goes at the end of the sentence(s) that come from a particular source. You may however put an in text citation at the end of a paragraph if ALL of the information came from the same source. You may NOT use one in text citation for several paragraphs even if their information comes from the same source. You MUST place an in text citation at the end of every direct quotation used.
Short Quotations: If you are directly quoting from a work, you will need to include the author, year of publication, and the page number for the reference (preceded by "p."). Page number is NOT required for electronic sources. According to Jones (1998), "Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time" (p. 199). Jones (1998) found "students often had difficulty using APA style" (p. 199); what implications does this have for teachers? She stated, "Students often had difficulty using APA style" (Jones, 1998, p. 199), but she did not offer an explanation as to why.
Long Quotations – 40+ words Start the quotation on a new line, indented 1/2 inch from the left margin, i.e., in the same place you would begin a new paragraph. Type the entire quotation on the new margin, and indent the first line of any subsequent paragraph within the quotation 1/2 inch from the new margin. Maintain double-spacing throughout. Jones's (1998) study found the following: Students often had difficulty using APA style, especially when it was their first time citing sources. This difficulty could be attributed to the fact that many students failed to purchase a style manual or to ask their teacher for help. (p. 199)
Paraphrasing, Statistics, or Specific Dates If you are paraphrasing an idea from another work, you only have to make reference to the author and year of publication in your in-text reference, but APA guidelines encourage you to also provide the page number (although it is not required.) According to Jones (1998), APA style is a difficult citation format for first-time learners. APA style is a difficult citation format for first- time learners (Jones, 1998, p. 199).
This is your opportunity to finally say what you believe about this topic. Given everything that you have now learned about both sides of your issue what do you believe and more importantly WHY. You need to be thorough, convincing and fit with the analysis you have just done. This needs to be much more than just a summary of the issue. It is YOUR interpretation of the issue after looking at both sides and examining MANY sources.
You will list any books / sources that you cited in your essay You will list any books / sources that were significant in your research but not cited You will NOT list books / sources just to flesh out your reference page
This will be done in APA style It is recommended but not required that you use the web resource Son of Citation Machine at http://citationmachine.net/ to help you create your reference page http://citationmachine.net/ Click on APA Style Choose from the sources that are listed on the left Fill in the blanks and click submit Copy and paste to your reference page If you are not using Son of Citation Machine then it is strongly recommended you use Owl at Purdue APA style guide to assist you
The title is References centered at the top of the page but done in normal font with no bolding or underlining Your entries must be in alphabetical order Entries should be double spaced Entries should be done in a hanging indent style – much like this bullet Entries should NOT be bulleted OR numbered Entries should NOT be divided into groups based on type or any other way
A title page will contain the following: Title of your essay – centred and in top 1/3 of paper done in normal font with no bolding or underlining The following is centered under the title (in normal font and size): Your name Teacher’s name Class Due date Running header – a shortened version of your title and the page number. The running header will be done all in capitals. Also on the title page only it will include the phrase Running head:
Remember that your paper should have the following: Title repeated on the first page of the actual paper, centered but not bolded or underlined Level 1 headings for each of the sections EXCEPT for the introduction – centered, bolded and in all upper case Level 2 headings for each of your major arguments in both the pro and con – bolded and key words capitalized While it is allowed by APA do NOT include the following: Author’s notes on the title page An abstract of the paper Level 3 headings
Formatting your paper, it should be: Typed Double Spaced 1” margins all around OR 1” margin top and bottom and 1.25” on left and right sides Times New Roman or similar font Size 12 font Black ink on white paper
Now that you are done your first draft you need to get it ready to hand in. Read the essay over yourself – feel free to repeat this step Have a friend or family member read over your essay – feel free to repeat this step also. Make sure that if you are asking a teacher to proof read your essay you allow several days. Do NOT ask them to proof read it the day before it is due! Just before you print out your good copy read over the essay one last time
The following web pages may be able to help you if you run into problems and can not ask your teacher. How to Write an Essay http://kimberlychapman.com/essay/essay.html http://kimberlychapman.com/essay/essay.html Basic Steps in the Research Process http://www.crlsresearchguide.org/00_basic_steps.asp http://www.crlsresearchguide.org/00_basic_steps.asp Purdue OWL http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/01/ Evaluating Web Pages http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluat e.html http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/Guides/Internet/Evaluat e.html Son of Citation Machine http://citationmachine.net/http://citationmachine.net/ Research Sites http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/5locate /adviceengine.html http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/information/5locate /adviceengine.html