Wednesday, September 23, 2009

How to Write an Essay Part I

There are more types of essays than you can shake a stick at. And we'll go through all of them, eventually. But let's start with the basics.


What Is It?

The basic essay is the foundation for all other essays and papers. Luckily, it is fairly easy to learn. It consists of an introduction that introduces your thesis and topic; the body, in which you will prove the point you are trying to make through well thought out ideas and well researched sources that back up your claims; and a conclusion that sums up your arguments.

So, let's start with the beginning - The Introduction

The most important thing in your introduction is your thesis statement. We went over those a bit in Monday's post (click HERE for a recap). But your introduction should be more than just a one line thesis. It should be at least one whole paragraph. When your essays get more in-depth and more involved, you could have an introduction that is a page or longer.

So, what else would you include in an introduction?

I like to introduce the thesis statement a bit by starting out with a general statement and then moving on to a slightly more focused statement, followed by an even more focused statement, all leading up to the thesis. If you are writing your essay on a literary work or film, a nice quote from the work in question is always nice, as is a quote from a poem or historical figure, etc, about the topic you will be discussing.

I then follow the thesis with a line or two either briefly outlining the arguments I'll be presenting or elaborating on the thesis statement.


Your essay is about why cats were worshipped in Ancient Egypt. Your intro could look something like this...

Ancient Egypt was a civilization rich in culture and muli-faceted beliefs (General statement). The Egyptians worshipped a variety of gods, each of whom represented a certain aspect of life or death (A little more focused). One of the more popular goddesses was Bastet, who was portrayed either as a woman with the head of a cat, or as an actual cat (More focused). For this reason, cats were revered in Ancient Egypt (thesis statement). Along with their association with Bastet, cats were also special to the Egyptians because Reason 1, Reason 2, and Reason 3 (brief outline of the points I'll be hitting in the essay).

So! When writing your own introduction, come up with your thesis statement, what your essay will be about. Then preface that statement with a few general statements, and follow it with either a transition sentence or two leading into the body of the essay, or a brief outline of the arguments or info you'll be presenting in the essay.

Take it one sentence at a time and you'll have a perfect intro in no time!


Eric said...

Great post. This is actually very timely for me, because I'm in the process of writing a 5 pager right now. Nice advice.