TIPS ON WRITING A COLLEGE ESSAY AND/OR TERM PAPER
Most students tend to make writing an essay unnecessarily difficult. There are
a few principle guidelines that can help to make writing the college level essay
a much more simple process. First, it is important to remain focused,
because your essay should always be clear, cohesive, and to the point.
Second, solid organization is imperative. To properly organize your essay,
you must include the following: an introduction, body paragraphs, and a
conclusion. Third, you must revise your work several times before it can
be considered complete. Each of these principles are discussed in greater
detail below, along with a few other helpful hints.
BASIC ELEMENTS OF THE COLLEGE-LEVEL ESSAY
INTRODUCTION AND THESIS STATEMENT
Your first paragraph should introduce the main point of your paper. Your goal
for the introductory paragraph is to clearly and concisely let the reader know
what your paper is all about, and exactly what it is you are trying to
Be specific! The point of an introduction is to clearly present a thesis
statement. As far as organization of your first paragraph is concerned, you
should start by providing the necessary background information on your topic
and then conclude with your thesis statement - the objective to be discussed,
demonstrated and/or defended in your paper.
Important! Remember that a thesis statement is not merely a repetition of
the topic or question assigned, but instead, is a positive and definite
statement in which your objective (as the writer of the essay) is clearly stated.
Be sure your thesis statement addresses the assigned material directly. The
quality of your thesis statement will affect the overall impact of your essay.
Very few students, if any, can approach their topic with a clear concept, fully-
formed, prior to beginning. Since introductory paragraphs can often be the
most difficult part of the paper, sometimes the best approach is to write a
preliminary first paragraph, knowing that you will want to change it later.
Often you will find that after you have written the first draft of your paper, you
have gained some additional insight into your topic - and this - might change
your thesis statement.
Unrelated topics or themes should never be included in an introduction, since
they will weaken your essay's effectiveness and clarity by distracting the
reader's attention from the paper's main purpose.
This is the main component of your essay. The body must supply ample
evidence in support of your thesis. The correct format for presenting your
evidence is within body paragraphs, the fundamental units in essay writing.
Each paragraph should represent and develop a single distinct idea.
Just as an essay, as a whole, needs clear and cohesive organization, your
paragraphs must also be organized around a central theme. This theme is
always stated in a topic sentence, which is most often the first sentence in
Body paragraph sentences can express different types of information, all of
which is potentially beneficial in developing string paragraphs and essays.
For example, they can provide reasons for a particular point of view, concrete
details, specific examples, facts, statistics, or incidents and anecdotes.
Individually or together, these sentence types will function in a paragraph to
support and prove the topic sentence and thesis statement.
After you have written enough sentences to support the topic sentence of your
paragraph (the number can vary from five to fifteen), you should write a
concluding sentence that summarizes the main point of the paragraph. This
process is then repeated for each paragraph within the body of your essay.
FOUR BASIC ELEMENTS FOUND IN STRONG PARAGRPAHS:
Completeness - a paragraph must have enough information in it to give the
reader a clear picture or a full discussion of its main idea (the topic sentence).
A paragraph without details or examples will be vague, unconvincing, and
Logical and sensible order - a paragraph's sentences should be in a logical
or sensible order so that the reader is not confused or forced to miss the main
point of the paragraph.
Unity - all sentences in a good paragraph relate to the topic sentence, when
any idea does not relate specifically to the paragraph's main point, the
paragraph is not unified.
Coherence - all of a paragraph's sentences should be clearly connected to
Your final paragraph of your essay is the conclusion. This paragraph should
briefly draw together your evidence and reaffirm your thesis statement. If you
have a firm understanding of the material, well-selected evidence, and a strong
thesis, your conclusion should write itself. In other words, the conclusion
summarizes what the essay argues or sets out to demonstrate. It provides
the culmination of the evidence in a manner which you, as the writer, want to
convince the reader to discern, understand, and/or believe about the topic.
Keep in mind that your conclusion is the place where your writing needs to be
strongest, clearest, and most concise since it is the part of the essay that a
reader will read last and be most remembered. Be persuasive! Ultimately, the
quality of your essay is measured by whether or not the reader is persuaded
by your thesis and how well you supported it.
COMPLETING THE COLLEGE-LEVEL ESSAY
FROM FIRST DRAFT TO FINISHED WORK
The most important thing your can do, once you have written your essay, is
revise! And then revise again. Then revise some more, just in case you missed
something. Revision is the process of finishing the essay. A lack of revision is
usually self evident, especially when your essay contains spelling and/or
grammar errors. Take pride in your work by making sure there are no obvious
erors in it.
Because revising your work takes time, you will need to plan ahead and
compose the first draft of your paper before any deadline. Seek help from
others in revising your essay. Although it is important that your essay be your
own work, there is nothing wrong with asking someone else to read over your
first draft and make appropriate suggestions on improving it. This is one of the
main jobs of the tutors here at the History Tutoring Center. Often times a
second reader can point out mistakes in your paper that you missed simply
because you have stared at it too much. Be sure to have whomever reads your
paper write their comments directly on to it. Verbal criticism is meaningless in
the essay writing process.
Finally, always remember to remain focused. The purpose of writing is to
communicate. If any part of your essay, be it a sentence, a paragraph, or a
theme, is unclear - then the reader might have a hard time understanding your
work. Maintain purpose throughout the entire essay, and do not be
ambiguous or overly wordy (B.S. and Fluff annoy the intelligent reader). Avoid
"flowered" writing - meaning, do not use complex words or cluttered phrases
when plain words will do (this also annoys the intelligent reader).
Please feel free to stop by the History Tutoring Center with a draft of your
essay. We welcome the chance to help you.
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