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Research Tips and Tricks: Constructing an Essay

Writing the Introduction

The introduction is the first paragraph of your essay or the first part of your presentation.  An introduction begins with general information and ends with specifics (your thesis statement). 

How do I write an introduction?

1.  Always start with a Grabber.  Grabbers can be leads, hooks, quotations, wow facts, or a very short story or anecdote.  The Grabber will show your voice and personality.  You want to make your paper or presentation interesting and lively.  You want your reader/audience to be interested in what you have discovered and get excited about what they will learn through reading your essay or listening to your presentation.

2.  Introduce your topic to your reader/audience.

Answer basic Skinny or informational questions like who, what, where, when.  Pretend you you are talking to a younger sibling and you just want to give him brief background or overview about your topic in a couple of sentences. 

3.  Your Thesis Statement is the last sentence of your introductory paragraph.   It is one meaty sentence which answers your Fat Question.


Introduction Triangle. Digital image. How to Start an Essay: No Magic Solutions for Your Papers. Custom-Writing.com, 2013. Web. 17 Aug. 2013.

Generating a Thesis Statement

What is a thesis statement?

  • It is the answer to your Fat Question
  • It presents your opinions or thoughts on a subject with your reasons as to why your thesis is valid (arguments)
  • It is the position you intend to prove

What does a thesis statement do?

  • ties the whole essay together
  • serves as a map for the writer and reader to follow throughout the essay
  • provides a reference point for your topic sentences which support your thesis and argument
  • keeps the reader focused on and engaged with your argument or reasoning
  • offers enough detail for the reader to grasp the reasons for your thinking

Do I have to have a thesis statement?

Yes.  You cannot write an essay without one.

What does a good thesis statement look like?

  • It should only be one sentence, regardless of essay length
  • It should use clear, strong language
  • A good thesis statement is a declarative sentence with no qualifiers (might, maybe, perhaps, etc.):
  • A thesis statement should always be written in the third person.
  • It states only one main idea with reasons
  • It may be written like this:

    Position: ____________________________________ because (state three reasons why your thesis is valid)

    1. _________________________________ 

    2. _________________________________ 

    3. _________________________________.

What a thesis statement should NOT look like:

It should never include phrases like: in my opinion, I think, I believe, etc.

However, it may be helpful to write a rough draft of a thesis statement with this phrases to make sure you are expressing your thoughts or arguments clearly.  Be sure to delete these phrases when writing the final draft of your thesis statement.

Where does my thesis statement belong in my essay?

  • It is the closing sentence in the first paragraph of your essay
  • It should also be re-written in new language as part of your conclusion

Lorcher, Trent. "How to Write a Thesis Statement: High School English Lesson Plan." Bright Hub Education. Bright Hub, Inc., 2012. Web. 17 Aug. 2013.

Writing the Conclusion

What is the purpose of a conclusion?

  • Shows the reader that you have proved your thesis
  • Summarizes the points in your essay
  • It demonstrates to the reader that you have accomplished what you set out to do
  • Shows your readers why this paper was important, meaningful and useful because it makes a memorable statement about the topic that will convince the reader to think or act differently
  •  Includes a call to action in a sentence or two that states the change you have argued for in the essay
  • It gives the essay a sense of closure and completeness

Why is a conclusion important?

  • Because it is the last thing the reader sees, It is often what a reader remembers best. Your conclusion should be the best part of your paper.
  • It gives your reader something to take away that will help them see things differently or appreciate your topic. 
  • It allows you to consider broader issues and elaborate on the importance of your findings.

What is the structure of a conclusion?

  • The conclusion begins specific and moves to the general
  • Your topic sentence of your conclusion should summarize what you said in your thesis statement
  • Do not simply restate your thesis statement, as that would be redundant.  Instead, rephrase your thesis statement with deeper understanding.  You can do that now that the reader has read your essay and understands your argument and position.
    •  For example, use what you’ve written to help you write your conclusion by rephrasing your thesis.  If you began with, "The colors of autumn make it my favorite season," then you can include a similar sentence in your conclusion. For example, "It is the orange, red, and brown of the leaves that make me love the fall."
  • Your topic for each body paragraph should be summarized in the conclusion so wrap up the main points
  • Your closing sentence should help the reader feel a sense of closure
  • Your closing sentence is your last word on the subject; it is your "clincher"
    • Demonstrate the importance of your ideas
    • Share with your reader a new view of the subject

What is a good outline for a conclusion?

  • Topic sentence
    • Fresh rephrasing of thesis statement
  • Supporting sentences
    • Summarize or wrap up the main points in the body of the essay
    • Explain how ideas fit together
  • Closing sentence
    • Final words
    • Connects back to the introduction
    • Can include a zinger or a call to action
    • Provides a sense of closure

What should NOT happen in the conclusion?

  • Do not start with
    • "in summary"
    • "in closing"
    • "as shown in the essay"
  • Do not introduce new facts or evidence
  • Do not simply repeat word for word what you already wrote in your thesis or in the essay


Conclusion Paragraph Graphic Organizer. "Foolproof Essay Conclusion Tricks." Jimmie's Collage RSS. N.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2013.

"Writing a Conclusion." Time4Writing. VKidz, Inc., 2013. Web. 17 Aug. 2013. <http://www.time4writing.com/learning-how-to-write/writing-a-conclusion>.

What else do I need to know?

Avoid using informal language (texting language, slang, vernacular, contractions). Use specific, descriptive words. Do not use the words “thing” or “stuff.”

   Examples to correct:

  • Anne does a lot of stuff that’s hard.
  • Bob almost pees his pants when he sees Shane’s gun.
  • There are many things that make Ponyboy a good MICDS student.

Use third person in formal writing. Do not use the pronouns “you,” “we,” “I,” “me,” etc.  in your essay.

   Examples to correct:

  • I think Francie lives up to the MICDS Mission Statement because she is such a nice person.
  • You could tell that Shane was responsible because he gave Bob awesome advice.

Avoid repeating the same words of phrases in the same sentence or in sentences near each other.

   Examples to correct:

  • Francie values education, and Francie works hard to go to school.
  • Shane is brave when he agrees to help Joe Starrett. Shane is also brave when he takes on the fight with Fletcher.

Writing the Body of the Essay

How do I write the body paragraphs of my essay?

At MICDS we use the TEE format for writing the body paragraphs in essays.  Remember, the topic sentences, explanation and evidence all must relate to and tie back to your thesis statement.  

T = Topic Sentence - A clear sentence that tells the reader the main idea of your paragraph.  It should tie back to one of the points in your thesis.

E = Explanation - Explain its significance or importance and how it supports your thesis

E = Example or Evidence - Several sentences with supporting details that illustrate your point

What do the body paragraphs do in my essay?

  • correspond to one of the reasons you stated in your thesis
  • start with a topic sentence
  • have an explanation of why your reason stated in your thesis is true
  • examples or evidence of why your reason stated in your thesis is true
  • details to show why your evidence should be believed

What is the structure for my first body paragraph?

  • The topic sentence should state your first reason as to why you believe your thesis is true
  • The next sentences should be your thinking or analysis or explanation of why this is important
  • The next sentences should present your examples or evidence for why you believe your thinking or argument is true
  • The next sentences should provide details related to this evidence to convince your reader that your argument is true and valid

Then, follow this same formula for all your other body paragraphs.

The Basic Essay Outline

A. Introductory Paragraph
 1. Start with a Grabber, Lead or Wow Fact
 2. Introduce your topic to your reader by answering your most basic skinny questions
 b. Who
 c. What
 d. Where
 e. When
 3.  Thesis statement goes here. It is the answer to your Fat Question stated in one meaty sentence with the three most important pieces of evidence.
 
B. Body Paragraph 1
 1. Topic Sentence should be one of your main Skinny Questions Answered.  It must tie back directly to your thesis.
 2.  What is the evidence to support my topic sentence?
 a. What details do I need to include to make my point clearly?
 b. What is the significance of this information (my own thinking or analysis goes here)
 
C. Additional Body Paragraphs
     Use the same format as above for all of your body paragraphs
 
D. Conclusion
 1. Summarize or review your most important points
 2. Draw your conclusions based on the evidence you presented
 3. Reword your thesis

Graphic Organizer

The Research Paper Graphic Organizer. Digital image. Advanced Essay Writing, n.d. Web. 17 Aug. 2013. <http://lgimages.s3.amazonaws.com/data/imagemanager/82689/research_organizer.png>.

Paragraph Organizer

Pursuasive and Convincing Words

How do I persuade someone that my thesis and ideas are valid?

1.  Make sure your opinion is supported by well-researched facts.  Use ideas from experts to validate your opinion. 

2.  Convince your readers that your opinion is valid but, you don't want them to feel lectured at, critcized or insulted if they disagree with your ideas.  Explain your point of view, but allow your reader the freedom to make up their own minds as to whether they agree with you based on the evidence you presented.

3.  Look at the issue from various viewpoints.  Acknowledge the opposing viewpoint and present information to support your viewpoint.  Making a Pro/Con list will help you structure your ideas.

4.  Use signalling words.  These transition words help make your argument clearer, stronger and more interesting.  Here are some examples:

Chronological - words about the order of things

  • First, second, third
  • Next
  • Then
  • After
  • Following

Cause and Effect - words about things which make other things happen

  • So
  • Therefore
  • Hence
  • Consequently
  • Due to
  • Thus

Using an Example - words to show what a thing is

  • One such
  • Another
  • For instance
  • For example

Addition - words that add more information

  • Similarly
  • Additionally
  • Another
  • Also
  • Moreover

Opposition - words that signal a conflict or problem

  • But, though, however
  • On the other hand
  • Conversely
  • Yet
  • Nonetheless, nevertheless

Writing Hints

The Title

  • The title should give the reader some inkling of what the paper is about
  • Make the title catchy.

Create Flow

  • Make sure your arguments are organized in a logical order.
  • Provide proper transitions between paragraphs.  Use "signpost" words like "secondly," "another reason," "furthermore," or "on the other hand."  If these transitions are difficult to write, perhaps you need to work on the order of your paragraphs (and your thoughts).  In other words, revise!
  • Use parallel structure, or format each part in a series in the same way.  Instead of writing "she liked to play soccer, drawing, and when she went to watch tennis," write "she liked to play soccer, to draw pictures, and to watch tennis."

Word Choices

  • Avoid ambiguous words like "stuff" or "thing" or "whatever"
  • Make sure all pronouns (he, she, it, they) have clear antecedents (the word or words replaced  by the pronoun).  In other words, make it clear what "it" is or who "they" are.  
  • Words like "this" and "that" should not stand alone, as in "This is good."  Always follow "this" or "that" with a noun, as in "This plan..." "This law..." "That idea...."
  • Write in the third person
  • Do not use "I," "we" or "you."Use formal language.  Avoid slang or conversational language.  Don't say "the U.S. blew it," "Bill Clinton wimped out," or "I mean, are you kidding??"

Verb Tenses

  • Use the simple past tense or simple present tense
  • Be consistent with your verb tenses.
  • Use active voice, not passive voice.  For example: Better to say "President Clinton signed the bill" (active voice) than "the bill was signed by President Clinton" (passive voice). 

Quotations

  • Introduce the speaker of quotes in your text.
    • Examples: Attorney General Janet Reno said, "Mistakes were made," or Newsweek columnist, Joe Klein, said, "The campaign will run down to the wire." 
  • Identify all people who might not be known to the average reader such as, "Secretary of State Madeline Albright" or "Newsweek columnist, George Will."

Capitalization

  • When using proper names, state the full name of the person the first time you use it:
    • For example, "President Bill Clinton" or "Bill Clinton," not just "Clinton" (certainly not "Bill"). 
  • After the first mention of someone use their last name only

Revision

  • print out your essay
  • read through your whole text out loud (you may feel silly doing this, but it works so get over it)
  • write changes and corrections 
  • do not rely on spell checker or grammar checker exclusively·  

Multiple Drafts

Your essay gets better with every draft so work on it may times over the course of many days.  You need to be able to look at it with fresh eyes so you need a new day to do this!

Hint:  If you try to do write your essay all in one night you will get tired and your writing will not be as good.