Writing an essay can seem a little daunting, especially if you've never done it before. Do not panic ! Take a deep breath, make yourself a strong coffee, and start writing a thoughtful essay.
Part 1 of 3: before you start writing
Step 1. Understand the objective of the essay
In a dissertation, you will be required to present a thesis on the topic you are analyzing. A lot of times you'll need to analyze a piece of writing or a movie, but you might also need to work on a hot topic or idea. For this, you will have to divide the subject into several parts and provide evidence, drawn from the book (or film) or from your own research, which will support your thesis.
For example, your thesis might be: "In The Shining, Stanley Kubrick repeatedly refers to Native American culture and art to deal with the subject of Native American settlement." You would thus analyze a text and propose your own reading, in the form of a thesis
Step 2. Determine your topic
If you are doing this work as part of a class, your teacher will usually dictate the topic to you. Read the statement carefully. What are we asking you? However, sometimes you will have to choose your subject yourself.
- If you are writing an essay on a piece of fiction, you might want to focus your thesis on the motivations of a character or group of characters. Or, you could seek to prove why a certain passage is crucial in the book. For example: “explore the concept of revenge in the epic poem Beowulf”.
- If you are writing about a historic event, try to focus on the forces that contributed to what happened.
- If you are writing about a scientific discovery or study, follow the scientific method to analyze the results.
Step 3. Look for ideas
You won't necessarily know what your thesis will be right away, even after you've chosen your topic. Do not panic ! By brainstorming and brainstorming, you can figure out what you think about your topic. Look at it from as many angles as possible.
- Look for repeated imagery, metaphors, formulas or ideas that come up. Items that repeat are usually important. See if you can decipher why these elements are so crucial. Do they always repeat in the same way or in a different way?
- How is the text constructed? If you are writing a rhetorical analysis, for example, you might analyze how the author uses logic to support his thesis and decide whether that thesis is valid in your eyes. If you are analyzing creative work, study aspects such as imagery, film aesthetics, and more. If you are analyzing research, you could study the methods and results and analyze whether the experiments are well designed.
- Some people use a "thought map". Write your main topic in the center of your sheet and arrange smaller ideas all around in bubbles. Connect the bubbles to identify trends, and to determine how items relate to each other.
- Your thinking could then go all over the place! This is how you will find the right idea. Don't put any ideas aside just yet. Write down everything that comes to mind when you think about yourself.
Step 4. Determine your thesis statement
Your thesis statement will take the form of one or two sentences that will summarize the theory you will present in your work. It will introduce the reader to what your essay will cover. Don'ts: A vague and obvious thesis, such as “revenge is a central theme in Beowulf."
Do: Make a specific point: "Beowulf explores different styles of revenge in Anglo-Saxon times, pitting the honorable punishment of the dragon against Grendel's mother's response."
- This is an analytical thesis, as it examines the text and offers a specific reading.
- The thesis is "debatable": it does not present facts that no one could dispute. In an analytical dissertation, you will need to take sides and propose your thesis.
- Make sure your thesis is specific enough to answer the given topic. "Revenge in Beowulf" is such a broad subject it could earn a doctorate. This thesis will therefore be far too broad for a simple dissertation. However, trying to show that one character's revenge is more honorable than another character's revenge will be doable in an essay.
- Unless you are instructed to do so, avoid developing a three-point thesis that you will discuss in the course of your work. This type of thesis will generally tend to limit your analysis and your essay will appear simplistic and mundane. Prefer to present very widely what will be your central argument.
Step 5. Find arguments supporting your thesis
Depending on what you have been asked to do, you may only need to work from supplied documents (the text or the texts to be analyzed) or from this text, but also from secondary sources, such as other books or texts. newspaper articles. Your teacher should tell you what sources you will need to work from. Good arguments should support your thesis and make your theory convincing. List the arguments you are going to use, specifying where you got them from and how they support your thesis.
Here are some examples of valid arguments: To support the thesis that the dragon's revenge was fairer than that of Grendel's mother, look for passages in the poem that deal with the events leading up to the attack on each of the monsters, attacks in themselves, as well as the reactions to these attacks. Don’t: Ignore or change facts to make them fit your thesis.
Do: Adjust your thesis to a more moderate position, as you deepen your knowledge of the topic.
Step 6. Make a plan
An outline will help you structure your essay and make it easier for you to write. Find out about the length of the work required. While some professors will accept a 5-part essay (introduction, thesis, antithesis, synthesis, conclusion), others will expect you to explore the topic more in depth and provide more elaborate work. Structure your plan around what is expected of you.
- If you don't yet know how to articulate your arguments, don't panic! Making your plan will help you understand how your thesis will progress.
- You could also start by making a more informal outline grouping your ideas into different groups. From there, you will decide when and how to approach each category of ideas.
- Your essay should be as long as necessary to seriously discuss the topic. Students tend to make the mistake of trying to discuss a broad topic in just a few paragraphs. The work then seems sloppy and superficial. If necessary, you will therefore have to adapt your thesis to the authorized limit.
Part 2 of 3: Writing the Essay
Step 1. Write your introduction
In your introduction, you will need to provide your readers with some basic information about your topic. This passage should therefore be engaging, without being overzealous. Avoid summarizing the statement and present your thesis directly. Also, avoid overly dramatic introductions (for example, avoid starting your work with a question or exclamation). In general, do not write your essay in the first (I) or second (you / you) person. Present your thesis, preferably in the last sentence of the first paragraph.
- Here is an introductory example: the right to revenge was institutionalized in ancient Anglo-Saxon culture. The many revenges in the epic poem Beowfulf demonstrate that retribution was central to this culture. However, not all revenge is created equal. The poet of vengeance's description suggests that the dragon was fairer in his deed than was Grendel's mother.
This introduction provides readers with information they need to know to understand the thesis, and then presents a theory about the complexity of the topic as a whole. This type of thesis can be interesting, because it suggests that the reader should approach the text with care and not read it in the first degree. Don'ts: Include empty phrases beginning with "in modern society" or "throughout history".
Do: briefly mention the title, author and publication date of the poem you are reviewing.
Step 2. Write your paragraphs
Each paragraph should consist of 1) an introductory sentence, 2) an analysis of part of the text, and 3) arguments drawn from the text that support your analysis and thesis. Remember that each of your arguments should support your thesis.
- Here is an example of an introductory sentence: Excessive punishment is a key concept to differentiate the two attacks.
- Here's an example of an analysis: Grendel’s mother doesn’t just want revenge, according to the medieval concept of “eye for an eye, tooth for tooth”. She wants to take a life for a life, while wreaking havoc on the kingdom of Horothgar.
- Here is an example of an argument: instead of only killing Aeschere and thus getting revenge in a fair way, she soon had a strong grip on one of the nobles and then left for the swamps. She does this to lure Beowulf away from Heorot, so that she can kill him.
- The phrase “TAE” might help you remember: theory-argument-explanation. As soon as you present a theory, you will need to provide arguments, and explain how those arguments support your theory.
Step 3. Know when to quote and paraphrase
Citing means that you will take the exact text and put it in quotation marks to insert it into your essay. A quote is a good way to use specific formulas and terms to support your theory. Be sure to quote correctly, depending on whether you are using the MLA, APA, or Chicago system. A paraphrase, on the other hand, is when you summarize the text in your own words. You can paraphrase to give contextual information or to present a lot of detail in a short space of time. This will be the right way to get your point across, if you have a lot of information to present, or a passage that is too important to quote. Don'ts: Cite more than two different passages per paragraph, generally.
Do: Support any controversial or subtle theories with quotes or paraphrases.
- Here is an example quote: instead of just killing Aeschere and thus getting revenge in a fair way, she "strongly grasps" the character, and while holding him, she "then left for the swamps".
- Here is an example of a paraphrase: The female Grendel enters Heorot, grabs one of the sleeping males, and runs away to the swamps.
Step 4. Write your conclusion
It is in your conclusion that you will remind the reader of the arguments you have made to support your thesis. Some teachers will also expect you to present an opening in your conclusion. You will need to make a connection between your analysis of the text and the outside world. You could present how your theory would affect other theses on the same text, or how your theory could encourage the reader to change their point of view. Don'ts: Introduce a new argument in your conclusion.
Do: go beyond your thesis, discussing its implications in a larger context.
- Here is an example of a conclusion: the concept of "eye for an eye" was very present in the society of the beginning of the Middle Ages. Nonetheless, when comparing the attacks of Grendel's mother and the dragon, one can clearly see the opposition between the medieval view of just revenge and that of unjust revenge. While the dragon behaves only the way it can, Grendel's mother attacks out of wickedness.
- Here is an example of a connection with the outside world: The concept of "eye for an eye" was very present in society in the early Middle Ages. Nonetheless, when comparing the attacks of Grendel's mother and the dragon, one can clearly see the opposition between the medieval view of just revenge and that of unjust revenge. While the dragon behaves only the way it can, Grendel's mother attacks out of wickedness. As seen in the study of other characters, these descriptions could be linked to the medieval perception that women have a greater potential for wickedness.
Part 3 of 3: Finalize Your Essay
Step 1. Review your essay
Check for spelling and grammar errors. An essay with a lot of mistakes usually scores lower than an essay that has been proofread and refined. Use a spell checker, find sentences that are too long, and correct punctuation errors.
Also, be sure to format your essay correctly. Use a standard 12-pt font (like Arial or Times New Roman) and 2.5cm margins
Step 2. Read your work aloud
Reading your essay aloud will make it easier for you to spot parts that sound weird. It will also be a great way to spot any excessively long sentences that you might have missed.
Step 3. Make sure proper names are spelled correctly
Pay special attention to the names of characters, places, titles, etc. The professor will usually take points away from you if the main character's name is spelled incorrectly throughout your essay. Go over the text and check that the spelling you used is correct.
If you are analyzing a movie, search the internet for the list of characters. Check two or three sources to make sure you have the correct spelling
Step 4. Read your work as if you were your teacher
Do you easily understand your thesis? Is the structure of your essay easy to understand? Does your work explain why the topic is important?
Step 5. Have someone else read your essay
Does this person think you should add or take away something? Does she clearly understand your thesis?
- Ask yourself "what am I trying to prove? The answer should be in your thesis. If not, fix it.
- If you are writing a formal essay or review, avoid using familiar phrases. While informal language can add color to your work, don't risk weakening your argument with slang.
- Avoid being too vague. The vagueness leaves room for misinterpretations. In a cohesive essay, allowing your reader the opportunity to misunderstand your theory will weaken the effectiveness of your thesis.