Ask Good Questions
Writing should be persuasive. If you don’t convince someone to your point of view, convince them that you know what you’re talking about in a way that is bold but not aggressive.
1: What is your thesis? What are you trying to prove? What is your opinion?
2: What are the counterarguments? What have others said about this subject? What is well-known about this subject?
3: Who is your audience? Your peers? Your teacher? The general public?
4: Have you edited?
1: You need to do a lot of research before you know for sure what your thesis is. Sometimes you will decide what your argument is and then you’ll find something that changes your whole idea. So do as much research as you can before you actually start writing. Spend a day in the library or on databases online. Write down anything that could be relevant and then everything you would need to cite it. You might not need everything you found, but at least you had too much rather than not enough.
Your thesis needs to be present in every piece of evidence you bring into the paper. Almost every paragraph needs to mention your thesis somehow. This does not mean saying the exact same thesis statement over and over again, but acknowledge with frequency why this evidence matters, why you’ve mentioned it, and what they should think about it. For example, my thesis is that a carving on a Norwegian Christian church utilizes the iconography of two religions: Norse and Christian. In the carving is a tree, so in one paragraph I bring in that a tree is central to Norse mythology and also that Christianity has many trees throughout its scriptures and legends. Do I leave it just like that and let the audience infer on their own? No, I have to enforce it by saying something about how trees are present in both religions, each with significant meaning and symbolism and thus the tree in the carving could easily represent both religions, etc.
2: Any argument is weak if you never acknowledge the other side’s opinion or position on a matter, or if you don’t utilize research that supports your argument. As part of your research you should be taking note of what others have said, whether you agree with it or not. You can use what works with your argument as proof, and then what doesn’t jive so well with your opinion becomes your counterargument. You can say, “According to . . . however, these certain facts presented in a study show that in reality, this. . . ” This way, you show you have all the information necessary to make an educated argument, which is much more convincing than just stating what you think all the time.
3: Who are you writing for? Ask your teacher if you should be writing it as if he/she with all her knowledge is the audience, of if you should pretend your teacher has limited knowledge on the subject. This will change your tone and the kind of information you include. If you’re writing an essay on Egyptian pyramids for a professor who is an expert on Egypt, what you say and how you said it would be different than if you were writing it for your friends who don’t know anything about Egypt.
Your tone could also be different if your teacher gave you free reign over your topic. I had a professor who was an expert on 19th-century art, so when I chose to write a paper about an artist in that time period I briefly went over what life was like at that time, the politics and whatnot, and instead focused on how all that affected the artist and his art because she had never heard of this artist before. If I had included all the generic stuff she would have gotten bored or felt like I was just trying to fill space. I got to choose my subject, but I still made sure I was writing to my audience correctly.
4: Editing isn’t just something done at the very end before you turn it in to check for spelling errors. Editing should be done throughout the whole process. Write an introductory paragraph and then edit the heck out of it. Read your thesis statement again and again and again to make sure it is concise yet bold. Then make an outline. Then write a draft of the first body paragraph and edit it (Five paragraph essays are only good in high school. Writing for college and beyond has no such rule about intro, three arguments, and conclusion. Most college essays are way too complicated for that formula.) And then keep going, editing as you go. Edit it sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph. Read it aloud. Make sure your tone stays consistent, that you didn’t leave out anything that others would need because it was in your head and made sense to you. Have your friend or family member read it. Ask your teacher to read it. Take a break from it for a day and then come back to it with fresher eyes. Don’t wait until the last minute.
If you are writing for a test, where time is money, don’t worry so much about editing like crazy. However, you shouldn’t just write for 45 minutes straight without reading what you’ve written. Every few sentences or new paragraph you should read what you’ve got, make any changes necessary, and then continue.
About The Author
|English Expert, History Enthusiast|
|I lived in Japan for a year and a half where I taught weekly English classes to various levels. In college I was a teaching assistant for two semesters where I coached students through the class, helped them write papers, and prepared them for exams. I am currently a teacher for two companies: VI...|