Basic features (164-165)

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ASSIGNMENT PAPER 3: Explaining a Concept Paper (The St. Martin’s Guide to Writing, chapter 4)
“Write an essay about a concept that interests you and that you want to study further. When you have a good understanding of the concept, explain it to your readers, considering carefully what they already know about it and how your essay might add to what they know.” (167) “Concept explanations inform a reader about processes, phenomena, theories, principles, or ideas.” (136)

Basic features (164-165)

• A focused concept. When the writer focuses on a particular aspect of a larger concept, the topic is neither too broad nor too narrow.

• The topic appeals to the reader with new and interesting information. The reader can be both informed and engaged by lively writing and vivid detail.

• A logical plan. The writer clearly cues the reader by strategies such as a forecasting statement, transitions, and/or summaries.

• Clear definitions. Key terms associated with the concept are defined.

• Careful use of sources. Although the writer may use her/his own experience and observation, expert sources will lend authority to the essay. Sources must be used and documented in an appropriate standard format.
Assessment. The teacher may consider the following when assessing a concept essay:

• Purpose and audience: Does the writing meet the assignment requirements and engage the audience?

• Idea development: Is the topic appropriate, neither too broad nor too narrow?

Does the topic appeal to the reader with new and interesting information? Is there sufficient information so readers’ questions are answered? Is the concept clearly and fully defined? Are any other key terms defined?

• Organization: Does the title capture the central focus? Does the introduction capture attention, convey the topic and include a thesis? Is forecasting, if used, effective and clear? Do transitions and the overall organizational pattern provide a smooth flow? Does the conclusion provide a sense of closure and make the topic relevant to the reader (Is it more than just a summary)?

• Style: Are the sentence and word choices appropriate to a college essay? Are words vivid, exact and correct? Does the sentence structure add impact? Are sentences complete, smooth, clear, correct and efficient?

• Conventions: Are there few, if any, mistakes in following the conventions of Standard Written English?

• Citing Sources: Do the sources used provide reliable and adequate information? Is source material properly cited and documented in a standard format?

Expository Essay Ideas: Explaining a Concept Paper
It makes sense to have students research and choose the same topic for papers 3, 5, and 6.

Please see the accompanying Library Research Guide, Points of View Reference Center database search instructions. Points of View is an excellent resource for finding and writing about debatable issues. It provides a collection of topics, each with an overview of opposing viewpoints and associated research materials for multiple, diametrically opposed positions. These materials are academic quality and at quite accessible levels for college freshman and sophomores’ use.

Another quality database under EBSCO HOST—>ACADEMIC SEARCH PremiereOpposing Viewpoints

provides topics, overviews, and source materials.

Sample Assignment Explaining a Concept
Essay 3 is an Expository Essay. This means that you will write an explanation of the topic for your reader.
The purpose of this essay is to present and explain a concept, in this case a debatable issue.

Your task is to explain what the debatable issue is, what it means, and its significance to our school, community, state, and/or society. Think of this task as explaining to your reader “What is X?” “What does X mean?” “What is the importance of X?”

You will not express an opinion, argue a point, persuade the reader to accept or reject an idea, or take a stance in this essay.

Essay Conventions and Structure

This essay will be written in the THIRD PERSON. “I/We and You” will not be used.

The expository essay is thesis-driven. The thesis in this case is based on definition, data, and example. It answers the question, “What is _________ (the topic). Let’s say that you choose capital punishment as your topic. Your thesis could be a definition that answers that question. A good thesis statement might be something like, “Capital Punishment is “
Your thesis will explain to the reader what capital punishment is’ the body of the paper will develop this definition using multiple definition strategies, examples, and logical presentation of facts and expert opinion from sources you find in Points of View Reference Center collections.
Essay Structure

Reader Frame and Thesis Statement/Topic Forecast: The Reader Frame introduces the topic and orients the reader to the ways you will develop the topic. The Thesis Statement is a direct, explicit assertion explaining the main message of the essay: in this case, a definition of the topic is a good choice. “Capital Punishment is “ You may also include a forecast list of supporting ide/topics.

Body Paragraphs: You will develop the topic by providing dictionary definitions, working definitions using examples, facts, and expert opinions based on the sources you find in Points of View and other collections. You must develop your explanation of the topic/concept clearly and in detail using your source material to support your assertions. You must document your sources in the body of your text using parenthetical documentation (Author Name Page Number) and in a Works Cited page.
Conclusion: The conclusion of your essay may be summative, but the summary must also make the reader understand and consider carefully the meaning and significance of the debatable topic as a concept. What is it about the topic you have explained that is important to the reader as an individual? As a member of the academic community of college professors and students? To the larger community? To society?
Example Essay Plan: Capital Punishment

Topic Choice

Choose a topic carefully. You should choose a debatable issue from topics listed in the Points of View Reference Center or Opposing Viewpoints Database after considerable review. Read the overviews. Read several sources on both sides of the issue that these databases present. Identify topics that engage your intellectual curiosity. Try to avoid debatable issues with which you have a strong personal connections or very strong feelings. Remember that the college writer’s mindset must be logical and objective rather than emotional and subjective (personal).

Reader Frame: Capital Punishment

The United States and several other nations practice capital punishment, or the death penalty, for selected crimes. In the United States, these crimes include capital murder, the taking of a human life in the commission of another crime, homicide/murder or the taking of a human life, and in some states, rape.

Thesis Statement: Capital punishment is defined as
Body Paragraphs Developing the Thesis

  • Extended Definition

  • US: Capital Punishment and Execution—facts (this could include history, states that practice capital punishment and those that do not, particulars about the death penalty in individual states, methods of execution, the global perspective—what nations practice the death penalty, global issues and the death penalty, etc)

  • Death Penalty—case studies of one or two leading/current/compelling

  • Example 1: US Capital Murder and Capital Punishment for this crime—Example case, case study

  • Example 2: US Homicide/Murder and Capital Punishment for this crime—Example case, case study

Conclusion: Summary and Explanation of the Significance and the Gravity of Capital Punishment in the US

Prepared by Dr. Amy Berry, Assistant Professor of English Southwestern Minnesota State University

December 13, 2011

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