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In: English and Literature

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The word essay comes from the French: essayer = to try. An essay puts a thesis on trial – a bit like a science ‘experiment’ puts a hypothesis on trial. An essay is a self-directed academic exercise. Unlike a report or a research project, which both of which summarize information or proceedings, an essay is an inquiry in itself; the understadning gained is authentic and new to the student.

Generating the Essay
The Essay Question
An essay begins with a question – a thesis question. Sometimes that question is given; sometimes the student generates the question. The answer to the question is the thesis. The thesis is the ‘hypothesis’ you will set out to ‘prove’

Main Entry: prove

Pronunciation: 'prüv

Function: verb

Inflected form(s): proved; proved or prov•en /'prü-v&n, Britain also 'prO-/; prov•ing _

Etymology: Middle English, from Anglo-French prover, pruver, from Latin probare to test, prove, from probus good, honest, from pro- for, in favor + -bus (akin to Old English bEon to be) -- more at _ HYPERLINK

transitive verb
1 archaic : to learn or find out by experience
2 a : to test the truth, validity, or genuineness of b : to test the worth or quality of; specifically : to compare against a standard -- sometimes used with up or out c : to check the correctness of (as an arithmetic result)
3 a : to establish the existence, truth, or validity of (as by evidence or logic) b : to demonstrate as having a particular quality or worth
4 : to show (oneself) to be worthy or capable intransitive verb : to turn out especially after trial or test

Merriam Webster Dictionary "" __http://merriamwebster.com_. Accessed November 2, 2006

Checking the validity of your essay question:
The thesis that results does not merely restate the topic.
The thesis that results does not merely state facts and summarize information.
The thesis that results does not merely state a general opinion without stating supporting reasons.
The thesis that results does not merely state the theme or thesis of the work being analyzed.
The thesis that results is not stated in a confusing or pretentious way and avoids archaic language (thus and therefore)

The introduction states the thesis of the essay and its parameters (a narrowing in of when the thesis is true)

The source of the question is alluded to (the topic / issue & its contexts)

The introduction contains several sentences indicating what the path of argument will be.

The introduction ends with a clear transition to the arguments of the essay.

Because a thesis subordinates itself to the parameters or conditions in which it is true, compound complex or at least complex sentences are most often used to express the thesis.

A pattern of argument should be selected and filled in, in response to the thesis question.

The following argument outline should be loosely adhered to.

Controlling Idea statement – state the purpose of the paragraph; the argument being used to support the thesis;

Focusing statement – state what the parameters of this argument are;

Major Support – the chief support of the controlling Idea

Explain the argument and how it supports the thesis;

Support Details – Proof, description or citation of evidence that this argument is true;

Statement of how this proof proves the argument true;

SO what? “So how does this all fit together and further my thesis?”

Transition to next argument.

A conclusion paragraph sums up the arguments; gives a persuasive push to the logic of the argument. The conclusion demonstrates explicitly how the thesis has been ‘unpacked’. The thesis question may be used by the writer to focus the conclusion. This is done by establishing a relationship between the thesis question and the arguments in the conclusion of the essay.
It is a misconception that the conclusion merely ‘restates’ the thesis. It is an oversimplification taught at the elementary stages of the essay writer’s education.

This constitutes the basic structure and content of the essay. If the above criteria are met, if the essay indicates a thorough understanding of the material being regarded, and if a minimum of errors are made, the essay will warrant 50% of allotted marks by 4U courses – so you can see there is more to writing an essay than getting it down.

An essay should have a structure. Decide on whether your thesis will be best served by a ‘cause and effect’ pattern, which works particularly well for literary essays, a ‘by example’ pattern, also common in literary essays or a ‘compare and contrast’ pattern. You can use more than one pattern – but even that should be part of a logical strategy. Use parallel structure to enhance the power of your arguments.

Revising the Essay

Use the Revising The Essay Peer Editing Checklist to prepare for a It is a misconception that revision refers to ‘proof-reading’; it refers to a reconstruction, executed with reason and good judgement. The first draft is a ‘write to learn’ draft. The second, third an fourth revisions are the ‘crafting’ of the essay.

Correlate the thesis to the actual arguments.

The thesis should contain, explicitly, the parameters of the arguments.

Arguments should be arranged in ascending order from the most obvious, to the most complex.

The most complex are usually those that require a thorough understanding of the most obvious arguments to be appreciated by the reader.

Revise and reinforce arguments and substantiation

Writer’s Tip: At this point the writer may have gained some new insights (through writing) that make some of the statements in the essay too obvious or perhaps irrelevant. The insights gained through writing may have shifted some of the initial arguments, or even the thesis. Conversely, the writer may have made too many leaps. The concept of ‘unpacking’ complex arguments may help direct and clarify the arguments.

Check that the citations and proofs are the most powerful possible. If it is difficult to substantiate arguments with powerful evidence, question the arguments; or break the arguments and evidence down (unpack them further) to build them logically for the reader.

Check the escalation of arguments against recommended essay patterns. Check transitions. Check for logical unity and flow.

Revise the introduction and conclusion. Aim for clarity and a powerful persuasive voice.

This constitutes the form of the essay. The essay will warrant 70 – 80% of allotted marks if there is a logical escalation of argument, the arguments are well substantiated, the essay indicates a thorough understanding of the material being regarded, and a minimum of rhetorical and structural mistakes have been made.

Polishing the Essay – up to an ‘A’.

An ‘A’ essay has a definite, strong, persuasive VOICE and STYLE.

What is VOICE?

VOICE is the inner ‘sound’ of the writing. VOICE is best cultivated through copious reading. It is difficult to define, but easy to identify. Good writing is seamless. There would be no jerky, unnatural stumbles in reading aloud.

Read essay aloud (to a mirror, a friend, a tape); nothing improves voice more rapidly than reading aloud. With highlighter in hand, read. Whenever the tongue falters, highlight. Whenever you inner ear hears a shift in tone or credibility in voice, highlight. Plan to revise those parts.

Best tangible checks:

Level of language is uniform; (style)

Purpose of language is uniform, but there is variety as well as unity. (style)

Verb voice is consistent – active or passive; passive is better for persuasive essays;

Point of view is clear and uniform;

Variety of sentence structures, usually with a ‘run, walk, run walk’ rhythm; (style)

Parallel structure: words, phrases, clauses should be parallel when strung together. Sentences and even paragraphs can be parallel to help create emphasis. (style)

In an essay, the ‘subjective’ does not emerge as an independent voice or ‘critic’.

VOICE constitutes the ‘WOW’ of an essay. To improve voice, READ your essay out loud. Listen to it. Endeavour to align the tone with the message and imbue your voice with confidence. One quick fix tactic that may work, is to read a good essay, then dip back into the draft under construction, and emulate the voice.

These are the things to watch out for:

1. Pronoun MESS (Shift in Voice)

Do not use ‘they’ to refer to people who represent the antithesis of your thesis. Using ‘they’ in this way often indicates a logical fault –generalization or stereotyping.

Ask yourself – “WHO are THEY?” ‘They’ is a pronoun, and therefore should only be used when the phrase, clause or sentence before clearly indicates WHO ‘THEY’ are.

Do not address the reader. Most offensively ‘you’ is used to state “This leads you to believe . . .” or even worse, “This makes you think . . .”

Instead use “This indicates that . . .”…...

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