Characteristics of an Essay
An essay is a composition that defends a position or opinion, also called a thesis, that has been put forth by the author. Not only should an essay demonstrate your overall knowledge of the broader subject, but it should demonstrate your insight into particular aspects of that subject. It also should show that you performed extra and relevant research outside the course material to broaden your knowledge and hone your argument.
Narrowing A Topic
Picking a topic out of a broader subject can be difficult. Pick a topic you can explore fully, without picking one so broad that you try to cover too much information or one so narrow that your writing and research options are limited. It can help to come up with some topic options and review them with your professor. Many professors provide a list of topics for essays just for this reason. An example of narrowing a topic would be choosing one or two pivotal scenes in a novel and discussing setting, word choice and dialogue in relation to the larger theme of the novel.
You must develop a strong and clear thesis offering some original insight. Your thesis should be a complete statement of your position in one or two sentences, including information on how you will defend your position. Reading essays and picking out thesis statements will help you identify and compose your own. You can always ask your professor to review yours and offer suggestions. Your thesis does not have to be fully formed at the beginning of writing and researching. Writing and researching it will help you develop it.
Write On Topic
How much you can cover will depend on the size of the essay, but regardless of the length, you should always write concisely and on topic. A standard 1,500-word essay, for example, will generally accommodate three to four paragraphs, not including the introduction and concluding paragraph. Each paragraph should have its own topic that relates to and supports your thesis. You should have no more than one or two quotes or paraphrased statements in support of your position, not in place of your own thinking. Quotes and paraphrasing must have proper citation.
Introduction And Conclusion
Your introduction should introduce both the broader subject and your specific topic. If you have written on a particular text, novel or poem, you must fully state the title and author. An introduction should engage the reader, prompt him to keep reading and briefly describe how you will develop your topic. Your thesis statement will come in the last lines of the introduction. Your concluding paragraph should briefly recap your subject, your thesis and how you defended your thesis.
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