Writing an Effective Essay
Writing in any level of schooling can be a hard task to do, especially if you don’t enjoy the act of writing, or you have difficulties gathering enough mental data to compile into an effective paper that would score high on the scale. This tutorial will hopefully help you by giving you an insight from a current High Schooler, nearly college freshman, whose had those fears, and learned how to push through. This can be used by high schoolers, middle schoolers, or even college-goers if it helps. This tutorial will help break down that effective essay into parts that are easier to digest and spill onto paper than that generic “Write about this passage in a one page minimum essay.” that has your teachers sending you blank stares in class over. My ultimate goal is to get those dreary 4s and 5s to 8s and 9s on the AP grading scale. (Or whatever your particular scale is, that is used for your school.
What type of essay is it?
Is it a book report, an analytical, a freehand?
Is it a short story, or are you being steered into a particular direction?
Those questions are essential to the beginning of your paper, because how are you supposed to get a good grade if you have no clue what you’re talking about? Asking yourself the questions above can start you in the right direction, and keep you from wandering off course.
What Type of Essay is it?
This question is essential. You must know if you’re supposed to be pulling a story from your head, or if you’re supposed to be analyzing why Hamlet went stir crazy in Hamlet by Shakespeare. Knowing what you’re talking about from the get-go is what sets the tone you’ll use for the entire essay, and, most of the time, makes or breaks your paper. This tutorial will be helpful for those pesky essays dealing with topics or books mostly, so that’s the purpose of this lesson.
I’ve figured out what I’m writing about… Now what?
We all know this feeling. Hitting the brick wall just after seeing the topic is never, ever fun. You know the tone, and what you need to write about, but the ideas and creativity, or knowledge on the subject at hand just flew straight out the window and splatted on the sidewalk below. Trust me, I’ve been there. At this point, if this happens to you, relax, and start on a simple outline. When I wrote about Hamlet, and his twisted views on Justice for my AP English IV teacher, I didn’t start out with
“Hamlet tends to take a different approach to the subject of justice, and increases his suffering due to his passive approach to his quest.”
and just randomly pull that from the top of my head, I had to outline it. When you’re lost for what you need to do, go ahead and look at several different approaches to the same subject. Maybe look at it from several different character’s perspectives, or look at it from the “good” side and the “evil” side. However you do, make sure to flesh out the ideas as much as you can, and include all the little grungy details you can find in your mind before sitting back and looking at your work. What are you most prepared to write about? Be sure to choose something that will flow from you with less effort, and that you know the most about. That branch will make the best paper.
“Okay, I know what I’m writing about, and I have my topic now. So, what do I start with? Surely not just my thesis?”
You’re right, hit the nail on the head with that one, grasshopper. You don’t want to just sling your thesis out there, slap one sentence into the intro and run away from it with the body paragraphs. Sometimes, if your teacher isn’t convinced you know what you’re doing, a poor thesis without anything else in the intro could mean a bad grade, which is a no-no in high school. You need to start out with what’s most commonly called a “hook,” because every teacher dabbling in English loves to associate the entire human race with scaly fish that have little more than instinct to keep their tails alive, for some reason. The hook, just like it’s name depicts, lures the reader into reading the rest of your paper. You can use a good metaphor, call something out, or just simply give a short, interesting intro into your topic. Something like this:
“Hamlet, by Shakespeare, tends to show both sides of many coins to some, or many sides of a single coin to others. On the subject of Justice, Shakespeare juggles both, giving us tastes of how many different characters handle the subject, but only really going into any sort of surface-level depth with two characters, Hamlet and Laertes, who also happen to foil one another within the play.”
Once you have the hook in place, then your thesis is placed into the intro paragraph, and once you have that, you might add in a transition to get to the first body paragraph, but sometimes it’s just as effective to leave the transition out of the intro altogether.
Okay, okay. Now, I have my topic, what I’m actually writing about, a hook, a thesis, and possibly a transition. How in the name of [insert holy object here] do I continue this? I’ve put a lot of work into it already.
This is where your pretty little outline that’s sat on the corner of your desk collecting dust since you wrote it all and used your thesis comes in! You should have fleshed out what you were writing about, given yourself small pointers to keep yourself on topic, and little clue words to give ideas on what to put into the actual essay. For example, when I was writing my Hamlet slash justice page, I included the following in my outline:
-> Tends to react like a kicked puppy when something happens to him (i.e. his return
-> Quick to pledge for justice, slow to carry it out
-> Claud = King = BAD
-> Gives up ample opportunity one after the other and suffers for it.
-> Ends up dying over it.
And used it throughout my body paragraphs to stay on topic and make sure to touch on everything I knew about how Hamlet acts like a big man-baby when someone so much at pokes him with a fencing foil. Granted, it was poisoned and unbaited, but still.
From that part of my outline, I moved into the body of the paper, and started my first paragraph with a lead (I call them mini-hooks) that tied directly into my thesis.
“Hamlet’s understanding of justice is different from other characters, right from the beginning.”
This makes you want to see how different Hamlet’s understanding is, and still ties into the thesis, and the general idea over the paper. You need to have an effective lead to keep people interested, and keep them from falling asleep (Granted, Hamlet isn’t exactly entertaining to everyone out there, but we’ll work with it.) You need to follow your lead up with factual evidence, and direct quotes if you can get them. However, DO NOT make up what you think is a quote. That’s a big no-no. You can reference the book for quotes if you’re aloud, or you can just go off what you remember. But don’t put quotations around it unless you’re positive it’s a direct quote.
Once you’ve finished with all you want in the body paragraph, finish with a transition. Transitions are essential in body paragraphs, because they help the whole essay seem more put together, and flow correctly without being choppy and awkward. Repeat for as many body paragraphs as you need or want, and then transition the last one into the conclusion.
Ok, phew. I have a full introduction, several full body paragraphs with references and quotes, and factual evidence supporting my original thoughts and thesis. How do I close this off effectively in a good conclusion?
Once you’ve linked your last body paragraph, it’s time for yet another lead. The conclusion’s lead will be odd, however, and allude to the fact that the paper is closing as well as pull them to keep reading to the end of the page. Some even link the lead in the conclusion to the thesis. The point is, while you do want to pull from your thesis, you don’t want to walk in a circle by copying it down again. That’s not effective, and makes the teacher think that you’ve put all this effort into this paper just to end up right back where you started. We don’t build houses to tear them down. You can allude to some problems originally stated, and follow up with connections, but, don’t forget to not copy your thesis into the conclusion. For example, this is how I lead into the conclusion of my Hamlet paper:
“Hamlet’s search, while it led to the intended solution and outcome he wanted, caused many other significant problems, and reinforced the idea that he doesn’t really understand how he is supposed to fix an issue caused by injustice.”
That hints at my origination issues, falls back on my evidence, and doesn’t bore the reader with repetition, only with the fact that I wrote a three page paper on Hamlet in 45 minutes. The conclusion wraps it up, so you have to be careful of repeating yourself, running in circles, or of just tagging something on the end that has absolutely no value to the paper whatsoever.
Whew. Now I’m done, right?
WRONG. If your teacher gives you time to revise your paper, and it’s fairly short, REWRITE IT. Your brain picks up on subtle mistakes and you end up fixing a lot of problems simply by rewriting something your brain just barfed onto a page, and your rewrite could be what pushes the 7 paper to an 8, or your 8 paper to a 9.
Now you’re done.
I hope this tutorial is effective, and slightly entertaining, but overall helps those in need of assistance in writing their papers for class.
About The Author
|Science, English, And Art Helper (With A Little Ex|
|Hello, I'm Kristen Moore, an 18 year old senior in Highschool who has had an array of classes including, but not limited to, AP Biology, AP Chemestry, AP English I-IV AP Algebra I (Not my strongest subject), Algebra II (Not my strong subject), AP Geometry, AP World Geography, AP World History, AP US...|