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Writing a Great Essay Study Skills Support, Faculty of Arts Dr Jillian Schedneck

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1 Writing a Great Essay Study Skills Support, Faculty of Arts Dr Jillian Schedneck

2 How does the idea of writing an essay make you feel? Go to Type out a few words in answer to the question The answers will soon appear on screen Send more than one answer

3 What is an essay? Formal Logical Connected Structured Persuasive Referenced A writer's attempt to convince readers of the validity of a particular position

4 Why do we write essays in university? To help you develop knowledge and critical thinking skills To demonstrate your logical thinking and ability to articulate clear, ordered thoughts To help you think more deeply and work out your reasoned opinion about important issues

5 Example questions 1. Should Charles Dickens be considered the greatest English novelist? 2. Why do men and women generally behave differently? Are the reasons biological or social, or both? Explain your answer. Think about how you might answer either of these questions. What are both questions asking you to do? Give your reasoned opinion, commonly referred to as making an argument.

6 Step 1: Thesis statement Decide on your opinion. Write down your thesis statement. Your thesis statement is your one sentence answer to the question being asked. Examples: Charles Dickens should not be considered the greatest English novelist. Charles Dickens should not be considered the greatest English novelist because there are too many other authors who are equally great. Men and women behave differently because of social and biological differences. Men and women behave differently mainly because of social influences, but biological differences play a small role as well.

7 Step 1: Thesis statement usually one sentence a statement, not a question identifies the subject of the paper takes a stand rather than simply announcing a subject It is a one-sentence description of your topic and the argument that you plan to make in the essay.

8 Step 2: Introduction paragraph Begin broadly and then become more specific. Your thesis statement should be the last sentence of your introduction. This paragraph can be shorter than the others, from 3-7 sentences. Think of your Introduction paragraph as shaped like an inverted triangle, or a funnel.

9 Step 3: Support Decide on some good reasons that will help prove your position Collect evidence from the course lectures and assigned readings, as well as your own searches on the library database Gather one reason for each body paragraph, and have evidence to support each reason  Create an outline listing your thesis statement and main reasons—check that your reasons clearly support your thesis. If your essay is 1500 words, how many paragraphs do you need? Hint: 250 words to a page, so 1500 words is roughly 6 pages. Math problem! 7-8 body paragraphs = 7-8 reasons

10 Step 4: Topic sentences Each topic sentence should begin by stating one of your reasons from Step 3. This is an argumentative statement providing reasons for your position. This statement does not only provide information, but reasoned opinion. Examples: Jane Austen is an English author who should be considered equal to if not greater than Charles Dickens. During childhood, children are given gender specific toys and clothes which give them strong clues to influence their gendered behaviour.

11 Step 5: Developing paragraphs Provide evidence to support each reason Paraphrase from the research you’ve collected Quote sparingly from the research you’ve collected Explain your evidence in your own words Include a concluding summary sentence at the end of each paragraph Each new topic sentence should transition the reader into the next point

12 Step 6: Conclusion Everyone worries about the conclusion, but it’s nothing to get anxious about. It can be just three sentences, summarising your thesis statement and main points from your body paragraph, but using new words.

13 Step 7: Revise and Proofread If possible, print out your draft and wait at least 24 hours. Then revise and proofread. Writing is a process! It won’t be perfect the first time. Allow yourself to make mistakes and learn how to fix them. Double space and 12 point font (don’t hurt your tutor’s eyes!)

14 Common problems with essays Lack of argument Introduction too long and complicated Content goes off topic Lack of structure or organisation Paragraphs are either too long or too short Evidence used within body paragraphs are not clearly explained Missing topic sentences Missing conclusion sentences to paragraphs (summary sentences to end each paragraph) Lack of conclusion

15 Academic Skills Resources course in your MyUni under ‘Other Courses’ Essay Writing Basics Making an Argument Using Sources Paragraph Writing Considering your Audience Grammar Basics Advanced Grammar: Cohesion

16 Final Tips: Think of each essay as series of one paragraph units rather than 1500 to 2500 words in total (which can be overwhelming) Write research write If you’re having trouble, ask for an extension. The worst that can happen is that your tutor says “no.” Hand SOMETHING in. Your essay draft is probably better than you think. Your tutors and lecturers WANT YOU TO DO WELL.

17 There is help! Study Skills Support: Napier G60, email to make an Academic Skills Resources: MyUni course with online tutorials for writing essays English for Uni: -for-uni/ -for-uni/ Writing Centre: Hub Level 3 Writing Centre learning guides: centre/learning_guides

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