I usually have my students, at least in the beginning, write a thesis statement and topic sentences for body paragraphs before I allow them to begin writing the actual essay. I've even had them write the topic sentences on index cards and play around with the most effective ordering of them.
The greatest weakness I see in student essays is a lack of high order reasoning in the support part of the body paragraphs. It is not enough to make a statement that is in support of the thesis, you must explain WHY that example, detail, quote, statistic etc. supports your thesis. To use the language of Toulmin, you need a claim, evidence and warrant. The claim is the thesis or sub-point of the thesis, the evidence is just that, and the warrant explains HOW the evidence supports the claim.
To me, the main thing about an essay is to have your paragraphs well organized. I hate it when my students do not have a clear point in each paragraph of their essay. Often, they will try to put two or three unrelated points into the paragraph with no overall topic for that paragraph. This makes an essay much harder to understand.
The six basic parts of an essay are:
- Outline (optional)
- Thesis statement
- Introduction (contains Thesis)
- Body (methods, quotes)
- Bibliography (citations and sources)
Briefly, Outline your essay according to the above list. Write a strong Thesis Statement and include it in your Introduction. Argue your points and support your Thesis in the Body, including cited quotes. Write a Conclusion that wraps up your essay, and then source all your evidence and quotations in the Bibliography.
This website has all the information you need about proper MLA format.
I teach students the five paragraph rule. The first sentence or topic sentence will be based on your prompt. Then, you briefly introduce your body topic sentences. Then, you write your main idea sentence or thesis. This is your introduction.
In the body, you elaborate and give details or examples relating to your thesis.
Lastly, you write a strong conclusion, summarizing your paper.
The main feature of an essay is a thesis statement. Usually this statement is placed at the end of the introductory paragraph. The introductory paragraph is the first paragraph in an essay and introduces the reader to the topic that will be discussed in the paper. The first sentence of this paragraph should be a hook that grabs the reader's attention. This paragraph also lets the reader know what to expect from the rest of the paper. The thesis statement is generally the last sentence of this paragraph and should be a provable idea. The following paragraphs of the essay should contain supporting evidence that proves the thesis to be a true statement. This evidence could be facts, anecdotal evidence, or other relevant information. After the body paragraphs, there should be a conclusion. This final paragraph should wrap up and summarize the topic. The final sentence of this paragraph should leave the reader with something to think about.
First most important is the brief introduction of your essay, followed by the body of the essay which should include the detailed description or the original matter of the essay. In the body of essay you should include the elaborated details of the topic. After that brief conclusion for your essay. This features will make your essay perfect.
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