So, you need to write an essay.
You were assigned it in your syllabus and you’re nervously watching the days count down as the semester starts to get into full swing. It always takes so much time and effort and it’s your worst subject. Never fear! It’s not as hard as you’re making it out to be!
These are tips 4-6 in the Essay Writing Made Easy series!
Didn’t read the first one? You can read it here.
A lot of people put unneeded stress and tribulation into writing an essay. They overthink, over worry, and procrastinate way too long and leave themselves too little time to actually finish their assignment. Rinse and repeat. No wonder writing an essay is thought to be a trying time.
You’ve already picked the subject for your paper, understood the prompt and what the assignment is asking of you, and created your outline. Great!
Below are 3 more tips, tricks, and pointers for all you out there that dread writing essays.
4) First, choose the quotes you’re going to use.
– After you have your outline prepared and you know what the subject of your paper will be, you may be tempted to jump in and just start writing. Do not do this. Instead, pick out the quotes that support your overall claim from your class material. I’d recommend 2-3 quotes per talking point (or body paragraph).
Type up your chosen quotes underneath the correct area in your outline, being sure to cite it correctly the first time you type it down. For MLA format, you have the authors last name and page number in parenthesis with no comma between, like this: (author page#). For APA format, you will write the authors last name and the year the source was published with a comma between, like this: (author, year)
[Side note: If you have other formatting questions, please reference Purdue Owl for any style of writing including MLA, APA, and Chicago.]
5) Write your introduction and conclusion before writing your body paragraphs.
– You’ve chosen your quotes, you’ve cited them according to the paper’s required format. Now you can jump in and begin writing, right?! Not recommended. The next thing you should do after choosing your quotes is write a quick introduction and conclusion to get your paper started.
For your introduction: Introduce your topic, the texts you’ll be referencing, and make sure to write your thesis statement in there as well.
For your conclusion: Restating the points you believe you will have made throughout your paper (the talking points you created for your outline) is a great way to get something quickly down for a conclusion.
The reason you will want to jot these down is so you can have clear parameters to get you started with the meat of your paper. You know what you said to begin and end with, and you will be less likely to have writer’s block as a result. The paper will flow smoother from your fingertips to the computer screen/pencil and paper than if you didn’t jot down a quick introduction and conclusion.
Note 1: Do not put too much time into this step.
– You will most likely be changing your introduction and conclusion later to match what you actually end up writing within your body paragraphs. This is just to give you a clear beginning and end to your paper!
Note 2: There are two types of conclusions I have found over my personal year and a half of tutoring.
-The first type is what I call a “sum it all up” conclusion where you simply remind your reader what you have stated in the past. While this first type of conclusion works just fine, I do not personally recommend it.
-The second type of conclusion is what I call a “so what?”conclusion. This second type of conclusion is when you explain to your reader what they should do with the information you have just spent the past however many pages telling them. Your words are important, you are adding your knowledge and argument to an already large plethora of information on the subject matter. Even if no one but your teacher reads your essay, you have still contributed to this ongoing discussion. This second type of conclusion is when you have a call to action or otherwise explain why this information was important to your reader, it’s explaining the next step your reader should take regarding this information. I definitely recommend this type of conclusion over the other one.
6) Begin writing your body paragraphs.
– Finally, it is time to write your body paragraphs! Now that you have successfully set up your paper, it’s time to get cracking. Write whatever has been rolling around in your mind that you wanted to say and be sure to incorporate your quotations within your essay. That’s right, those sentences from other books that seem a little ridiculous to have to put into your essay. Write up to them, weave them into your paper, then continue on. Use them as building blocks to help steer your points to become clearer and stronger with each added piece of evidence from an outside source.
How do you best incorporate quotations?: Do not…I repeat…DO NOT just put a quotation in as it’s own sentence. When you have a quote stand on it’s own it’s like that awkward kid at a party that obviously doesn’t want to be there, there is no explanation as to it’s purpose in your paper and it does nothing to help make your point. This is called a drop quote and is technically a sentence fragment.
Instead use it as part of your sentence, completing the sentence you are writing with the quote itself, or introduce the quote then explain what it means and why it is there.
Example 1: In Walker’s poem “Crooked Afro”, the father “don’t smile/ when you ask ’bout / uncle jay” because he feels pain at watching his brother struggle with alcoholism (1-3.)
Example 2: In Walker’s poem “Rock Star”, the narrators sister is shown to struggle with addiction to the point of not remembering her own brother:
my sistahz a mountain
when I call up to her
my I love you’s
in the valleys(10-14).
[Note: Both of these poems are found in Frank X Walker’s poetry book “Affrilachia” and they’re very very good poems. I just recently had to use them in a paper I wrote for my class and used those two poems in my own paper. 🙂 ]
Thank you for reading and I hope these 3 tips help you with your essay writing!
Want to read more? Stay tuned for more posts!
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