Guide to writing a basic essay



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Contents:



  1. Guide to writing a basic essay

  2. Choose a topic for your essay

  3. Organise your ideas

  4. Compose a thesis statement

  5. Write the body paragraphs

  6. Write the introduction and conclusion

  7. Add the finishing touches

  8. Method of assessment

  9. Example of an efficient essay

10.Key for the structure of the example essay

11.Practice essays


Guide to Writing a Basic Essay
An essay can have many purposes, but the basic structure is the same no matter what. If you follow a few simple steps, you will find that the essay almost writes itself.
Don't let the thought of putting pen to paper daunt you. Get started!
1. Organize Your Ideas
The purpose of an outline or diagram is to put your ideas about the topic on paper, in a moderately organized format. The structure you create here may still change before the essay is complete, so don't agonize over this.
Brainstorm

Write down whatever comes to mind. Do not worry about where everything will have to go; you may not even use everything you write down now. Group words together that belong together, so that they can form larger units. Look up any words you do not know, but try to use only those words that you are familiar with.


Outline

1. Begin your outline by writing your topic at the top of the page.

2. Next, write the Roman numerals I, II, and III, spread apart down the left side of the page.

3. Next to each Roman numeral, write the main ideas that you have about your topic, or the main points that you want to make, in key words. Use the ideas you wrote down while brainstorming, but not necessarily everything, and feel free to add to your ideas.

4. Under each Roman numeral, write A, B, and C down the left side of the page.

5. Next to each letter, write the facts or information that support that main idea, again in key words.



When you have finished, you have the basic structure for your essay and are ready to continue.
2. Compose a Thesis Statement
Now that you have decided, at least tentatively, what information you plan to present in your essay, you are ready to write your thesis statement. The thesis statement tells the reader what the essay will be about, and what point you, the author, will be making.

You know what the essay will be about. That was your topic. Now you must look at your outline or diagram and decide what point you will be making. What do the main ideas and supporting ideas that you listed say about your topic?


Your thesis statement will have two parts.

The first part states the topic, for example:



  • Kenya's Culture

  • Building a Model Train Set

  • Public Transportation

The second part states the point of the essay.

  • has a rich and varied history

  • takes time and patience

  • can solve some of our city's most persistent and pressing problems

Once you have formulated a thesis statement that fits this pattern and with which you are comfortable, you are ready to continue.

3. Write the Body Paragraphs
In the body of the essay, all the preparation up to this point comes to fruition. The topic you have chosen must now be explained, described, or argued. Each main idea that you wrote down in your diagram or outline will become one of the body paragraphs. If you had three or four main ideas, you will have three or four body paragraphs.
Each body paragraph will have the same basic structure.
1. Start by writing down one of your main ideas, in sentence form. This will be the key sentence of this paragraph. If your main idea is "reduces freeway congestion," you might say this:

Public transportation reduces freeway congestion.


2. Next, write down each of your supporting points for that main idea, but leave four or five lines in between each point.
3. In the space under each point, write down some elaboration for that point. Elaboration can be further description or explanation or discussion.
E.g. Supporting Point: Commuters appreciate the cost savings of taking public transportation rather than driving.

Elaboration: Less driving time means less maintenance expense, such as oil changes. Of course, less driving time means savings on gasoline as well. In many cases, these savings amount to more than the cost of riding public transportation.
Once you have fleshed out each of your body paragraphs, one for each main point, you are ready to continue.
4. Write the Introduction and Conclusion
Your essay lacks only two paragraphs now: the introduction and the conclusion. These paragraphs will give the reader a point of entry to and a point of exit from your essay.
Introduction

The introduction should be designed to attract the reader's attention and give her an idea of the essay's focus.


1. Begin with an attention grabber.

The attention grabber you use is up to you, but here are some ideas:



  • Startling information

This information must be true and verifiable, and it doesn't need to be totally new to your readers. It could simply be a pertinent fact that explicitly illustrates the point you wish to make. If you use a piece of startling information, follow it with a sentence or two of elaboration.

  • Anecdote

An anecdote is a story that illustrates a point. Be sure your anecdote is short, to the point, and relevant to your topic (but it doesn’t have to be true!). This can be a very effective opener for your essay, but use it carefully.

  • Dialogue

An appropriate dialogue does not have to identify the speakers, but the reader must understand the point you are trying to convey. Use only two or three exchanges between speakers to make your point. Follow dialogue with a sentence or two of elaboration.

  • Summary Information

A few sentences explaining your topic in general terms can lead the reader gently to your thesis. Each sentence should become gradually more specific, until you reach your thesis.
2. If the attention grabber was only a sentence or two, add one or two more sentences that will lead the reader from your opening to your thesis statement.
3. Finish the paragraph with your thesis statement.

Conclusion

The conclusion brings closure to the reader, summing up your points or providing a final perspective on your topic. All the conclusion needs is three or four strong sentences which do not need to follow any set formula. Simply review the main points (being careful not to restate them exactly) or briefly describe your feelings about the topic. Even an anecdote can end your essay in a useful way.

The introduction and conclusion complete the paragraphs of your essay.
Don't stop just yet! One more step remains before your essay is truly finished.
5. Add the Finishing Touches
You have now completed all of the paragraphs of your essay. Before you can consider this a finished product, however, you must give some thought to the formatting of your paper.
1. Check the order of your paragraphs.

Look at your paragraphs. Which one is the strongest? You might want to start with the strongest paragraph, end with the second strongest, and put the weakest in the middle. Whatever order you decide on, be sure it makes sense.


2. Check the instructions for the assignment.

When you prepare a final draft, you must be sure to follow all of the instructions you have been given.

Have you titled it as directed?

Have you done everything you have been asked to do?

What information (name, date, etc.) must you include?

How many words should your essay have?


3. Check your writing.

Nothing can substitute for revision of your work. By reviewing what you have done, you can improve weak points that otherwise would be missed. Read and reread your paper.



  • Does it make logical sense?

Leave it for a few hours (if you have that opportunity) and then read it again. Does it still make logical sense? Is the structure of your essay clear? If not, add linking words.

  • Do the sentences flow smoothly from one another?

If not, try to add some words and phrases to help connect them. Linking words, such as "therefore" or "however," sometimes help.

  • Check your grammar (word order!) and spelling. Use your dictionary to check the spelling of words you are not sure about.

  • Try to show a wide range of vocabulary. Avoid the use of the same word over and over again, and try to come up with alternatives for “really” and “very”. If possible, use some of the expressions you have learnt.


Once you have checked your work your essay is finished.
Congratulations!

Useful expressions

(from Solutions Upper-Intermediate Student’s book, Unit 6 and 7)

Make sure to use expressions for introducing additional and contrasting points. They give the reader vital clues as to your meaning, and texts without these expressions are hard to interpret. Memorise a few different expressions, and try to avoid using the same expression all the time.

Introducing additional points

Introducing contrasting points

  • Furthermore, ….

  • Moreover, ….

  • What is more, ….

  • Similarly, …..

  • We should also remember (that) ….

  • It is also worth bearing in mind that…..

  • It is also hard to deny that…..

  • On the other hand, …. (in a preceding paragraph you must first use: On the one hand…..)

  • However, …

  • Having said that, ….

  • And yet, ……

  • Having said that, it is true that….

  • Some people take the opposite view and claim that / maintain that ….

Expressions to use in your introduction for your key question:


  • “We should acknowledge from the start that….”

  • “The question we need to answer is …”

  • “My own opinion is …”

  • Some people believe / claim that….. . However, others maintain / think that …

  • First of all I’d like to say that …..

  • I’d like to start by ….

  • It is argued …..

Expressions to use in your second / third paragraph:

  • First, I’d like to present some / the arguments in favour of….

  • It is sometimes argued that …..

  • One argument in favour of …. Is …..

  • Some people take the opposite view ….

  • On the one hand …

  • On the other hand …..

  • For instance, …..

Expressions to use in your final paragraph:

  • However, on balance, I believe that….

  • Even though …, I would still maintain that …..

  • I firmly believe that ….

  • In my view ….


8. Method of assessment


Schrijven Beoordelingsmodel B1,2

Naam leerling:………………………..



Criterium

Maximaal

Score

Inhoud

3




Grammatica

3 (2x)




Spelling

Interpunctie

Lay-out

Alinea’s


1




Woordgebruik

3




Coherentie

Cohesie


2




Totaal:

15




Score: ……………/ 1,5 =………………





  1. Example of an efficient essay

Find out how it is structured by indicating the following elements with different colours:

  • thesis statement = (colour)…………………

  • main idea in every paragraph = …………………………

  • supporting points in every paragraph = …………………

  • elaborations in paragraph = ………………………………

  • separate points of conclusion = …………………………

Cats are the best pets.

"A dog is man's best friend." That common saying may contain some truth, but dogs are not the only animal friend whose companionship people enjoy. For many people, a cat is their best friend. Despite what dog lovers may believe, cats make excellent housepets as they are good companions, they are civilized members of the household, and they are easy to care for.

In the first place, people enjoy the companionship of cats. Many cats are affectionate. They will snuggle up and ask to be petted, or scratched under the chin. Who can resist a purring cat? If they're not feeling affectionate, cats are generally quite playful. They love to chase balls and feathers, or just about anything dangling from a string. They especially enjoy playing when their owners are participating in the game. Contrary to popular opinion, cats can be trained. Using rewards and punishments, just like with a dog, a cat can be trained to avoid unwanted behavior or perform tricks. Cats will even fetch!

In the second place, cats are civilized members of the household. Unlike dogs, cats do not bark or make other loud noises. Most cats don't even meow very often. They generally lead a quiet existence. Cats also don't often have "accidents." Mother cats train their kittens to use the litter box, and most cats will use it without fail from that time on. Even stray cats usually understand the concept when shown the box and will use it regularly. Cats do have claws, and owners must make provision for this. A tall scratching post in a favorite cat area of the house will often keep the cat content to leave the furniture alone. As a last resort, of course, cats can be declawed.

Lastly, one of the most attractive features of cats as housepets is their ease of care. Cats do not have to be walked. They get plenty of exercise in the house as they play, and they do their business in the litter box. Cleaning a litter box is a quick, painless procedure. Cats also take care of their own grooming. Bathing a cat is almost never necessary because under ordinary circumstances cats clean themselves. Cats are more particular about personal cleanliness than people are. In addition, cats can be left home alone for a few hours without fear. Unlike some pets, most cats will not destroy the furnishings when left alone. They are content to go about their usual activities until their owners return.

Cats are low maintenance, civilized companions. People who have small living quarters or less time for pet care should appreciate these characteristics of cats. However, many people who have plenty of space and time still opt to have a cat because they love the cat personality. In many ways, cats are the ideal housepet.



  1. Key for the structure of the example essay

The different parts of the essay have now been labeled. The thesis statement is in bold, the main ideas are in italics, and each supporting point is underlined. Elaborations are unmarked. The last paragraph contains points of conclusions. Compare this to your own analysis of paragraph 9.

Cats are the best pets.

"A dog is man's best friend." That common saying may contain some truth, but dogs are not the only animal friend whose companionship people enjoy. For many people, a cat is their best friend. Despite what dog lovers may believe, cats make excellent housepets as they are good companions, they are civilized members of the household, and they are easy to care for.

In the first place, people enjoy the companionship of cats. Many cats are affectionate. They will snuggle up and ask to be petted, or scratched under the chin. Who can resist a purring cat? If they're not feeling affectionate, cats are generally quite playful. They love to chase balls and feathers, or just about anything dangling from a string. They especially enjoy playing when their owners are participating in the game. Contrary to popular opinion, cats can be trained. Using rewards and punishments, just like with a dog, a cat can be trained to avoid unwanted behavior or perform tricks. Cats will even fetch!

In the second place, cats are civilized members of the household. Unlike dogs, cats do not bark or make other loud noises. Most cats don't even meow very often. They generally lead a quiet existence. Cats also don't often have "accidents." Mother cats train their kittens to use the litter box, and most cats will use it without fail from that time on. Even stray cats usually understand the concept when shown the box and will use it regularly. Cats do have claws, and owners must make provision for this. A tall scratching post in a favorite cat area of the house will often keep the cat content to leave the furniture alone. As a last resort, of course, cats can be declawed.

Lastly, one of the most attractive features of cats as housepets is their ease of care. Cats do not have to be walked. They get plenty of exercise in the house as they play, and they do their business in the litter box. Cleaning a litter box is a quick, painless procedure. Cats also take care of their own grooming. Bathing a cat is almost never necessary because under ordinary circumstances cats clean themselves. Cats are more particular about personal cleanliness than people are. In addition, cats can be left home alone for a few hours without fear. Unlike some pets, most cats will not destroy the furnishings when left alone. They are content to go about their usual activities until their owners return.

Cats are low maintenance, civilized companions. People who have small living quarters or less time for pet care should appreciate these characteristics of cats. However, many people who have plenty of space and time still opt to have a cat because they love the cat personality. In many ways, cats are the ideal housepet.





  1. Practice essays


Nr.1:
27 October 2011 Last updated at 23:08 GMT

The world at seven billion




As the world population reaches seven billion people, the BBC's Mike Gallagher asks whether efforts to control population have been, as some critics claim, a form of authoritarian control over the world's poorest citizens.

The temperature is some 30C. The humidity stifling, the noise unbearable. In a yard between two enormous tea-drying sheds, a number of dark-skinned women patiently sit, each accompanied by an unwieldy looking cloth sack. They are clad in colourful saris, but look tired and shabby. This is hardly surprising - they have spent most of the day in nearby plantation fields, picking tea that will net them around two cents a kilo - barely enough to feed their large families.

VivekBaid thinks he knows how to help them. He runs the Mission for Population Control, a project in eastern India which aims to bring down high birth rates by encouraging local women to get sterilised after their second child. As the world reaches an estimated seven billion people, people like Vivek say efforts to bring down the world's population must continue if life on Earth is to be sustainable, and if poverty and even mass starvation are to be avoided.There is no doubting their good intentions. Vivek, for instance, has spent his own money on the project, and is passionate about creating a brighter future for India.

But critics allege that campaigners like Vivek - a successful and wealthy male businessman - have tended to live very different lives from those they seek to help, who are mainly poor women. These critics argue that rich people have imposed population control on the poor for decades. And, they say, such coercive*) attempts to control the world's population often backfired and were sometimes harmful.



*) coercive = met dwang

Lees het bovenstaand artikel en schrijf een essay (Engelse stijl) over de vraag die gesteld wordt in de introductie van het artikel. Je mag je eigen mening verdedigen, alternatieven aandragen als oplossing voor het genoemde probleem en je mag meerdere perspectieven belichten, of misschien zie jij geen probleem in het getal van 7 miljard. Je mag het Nederlandse standpunt bij je argumenten betrekken. Hoe dan ook, zorg voor steekhoudende en goed onderbouwde argumenten en werk naar een logische conclusie toe.



Werkwijze:

  • Je essay moet tussen de 350 en 400 woorden tellen; schrijf het aantal in de linkerbovenhoek.

  • Je mag een eigen woordenboek (Ne-Eng) gebruiken.

  • Delen uit de tekst overschrijven is niet toegestaan.

  • Markeer alinea’s door regels open te laten.

  • Schrijf met blauwe pen. (andere kleur niet toegestaan)

  • Overschrijven is niet nodig als je correcties netjes zijn.

Nr. 2:

  • 3 November 2011 Last updated at 02:14 GMT
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