Friday, October 11, 2013

Tips on Writing Essays - a revisit from the past (ca 2003)

    My basics of writing a theme make use of the theories of three fairly important writers. First, I consider Peter DeVries, who wrote that all stories should have a "beginning, a muddle, and an end." Then I move on to Aristotle and his contention that we begin with a "thesis," create its opposite, or "antithesis," and then find a manner of integrating the two by creating a "synthesis." Finally, I bow to the venerable and often veneered Benjamin Franklin, a writer who took the pragmatic approach of creating lists as a means of reaching a conclusion on nearly any subject.

The approaches of these three men forge a universal template I use in my general, theme-based writings. I sum up the ideas as follows:

1. State your thesis in unequivocal terms in an opening paragraph. Strive to be definite about your thesis, avoiding "seems" and "could be" and "perhaps" in your wording. The idea is to sound authoritative, thus giving the opportunity to promote discussion and interaction. (This is a variation on the Strunk and White adage of, "If you don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loud.") To make things sound more "worldly" try to incorporate something you have recently read, or may assume many others have already read, as a reference (and if not recent, well, use something you remember well). This will make your thesis sound knowledgeable, or at least give the impression that you have examined more sources than the primary assignment stipulates. Again, using "public domain" material, or easily recognized material helps considerably, and if there is a special niche to which you have intimate knowledge, incorporate that as well.

2. At this point, take full advantage of the miracle of word processors and write your concluding paragraph. You should restate your thesis in new terms, perhaps adding a generalization about society that can be drawn by common knowledge. This may end up sounding like a load of "yadda yadda yadda," but it gives closure to the report. It may seem out of place to do so at this time in the writing, but you have your idea still fresh in your mind at this point. The first and final paragraphs are the most important for demonstrating your creativity, since teachers are (often) human and sometimes struggle with deadlines of their own.

3. Now the listing starts. Between the two paragraphs you have now written, generate a list of "pros" and "cons" that can bolster or shatter your thesis. Having now followed the lead of Dr. Franklin, consider Aristotle–is there a way that an "antithesis" can be assimilated into your initial "thesis" as a point of discussion?

4. If you find you have at least a half dozen points supporting your contention that outweigh those that could dispel your statement (by number or by strength), then begin the task of creating sentences for each of the points. Here is where a thesaurus is vital, or better yet, with modern word processors, practically every word in the English language is listed with its synonym or antonym available in the menu bar. USE THESE FREELY. Often you will find that a new word can generate a completely new idea or help create a completely new sentence.

5. Now cut and paste. Move the sentences around, adding whatever thoughts may emerge as you do. You will find that certain sentences are redundant or that some of your ideas "don't play well with others." You may find you have several ideas that emerge and then seem to naturally group together. To state the obvious, group them together! If enough of them emerge that your paper is becoming larger than anticipated, list the general ideas at the start of the paper and then break your composition into sections that elaborate on each of your ideas.

6. Provide transitions between your discussion topics. If you are talking about the weather in one part and then jump to analytical chemistry in the next, you will need to toss in a few lines as a separate paragraph to ease the reader to the next subject without the transition becoming abrupt.

7. Finally, if you have a "grammar check" with your word processor, USE IT FREELY. Often such a check will help you identify sentences with changes in verb tense or conjugation. These things can occur very easily when tossing in ideas as a general list. They often give you a word count as well, so you can feel properly amazed at how quickly you were able to generate a load of material in a relatively simple (if somewhat mechanical) fashion.

I use this approach whether writing the interminable reports or generating the rather mundane monographs for pharmacy journals. I also wait until the very end to do things like double spacing, tabs, and's always more important to clutter up that intimidating blank page with ideas first.

    Of course, I also throw many of these concepts to the wind in blogosphere rants, just because I never listen when I talk to myself.

PS - if you have the luxury of time, once completed with your opus, let it sit alone for at least a day and think about what it has done... then revisit it with a clear head... that's when the fun (rewrite) begins!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much.Wonderful post.This post is giving the good tips and the information.I am planning to do the essay writing work so this tips will improve my writing.I bookmarked this writing tips.
best essay writing services