Essential Elements of Academic Writing
- Includes a thought, question, quote, or other literary device to spark interest in the topic for readers
- Introduces the essay’s topic/purpose clearly and concisely (called thesis statement)
- Communicates the relevance and importance of the topic
- Previews the major points to be covered in the body of the paper
- How to Write an Essay Introduction by Wikihow.com
- Body Paragraph, by About.com
- Includes two or more major points which develops the topic of the essay
- Uses an organizational structure which is easy for readers to follow in developing the major points (e.g. chronological, logical, or other approach)
- Major points are organized in paragraphs. Paragraphs are at least 3 sentences in length
- The body of the paper communicates an argument – major points develop and reinforce the thesis statement (i.e. topic and purpose of the essay)
- The rule of three for writing effective paragraphs and essays, by WyzAnt.com
- The Introductory Paragraph, by About.com
- Transitional words and sentences connect the various parts of the paper into a unified whole. Transitions are used effectively to guide readers from one section of the paper to the next
- Writing transitions by Purdue Online Writing Lab
- Transitions by WriteCheck.com
- Repeats the thesis statement – topic and purpose of the essay
- Reviews major points presented in the essay
- Presents concluding thoughts or ideas on the topic
- Challenges readers – inspires readers to take a different perspective, change behaviors, or take action based on the information presented on the topic
- How to write a conclusion by WriteCheck.com
B. APA Style and Formatting
- Includes a separate title page with paper title, student name, course, due date, and faculty name. An abstract is not required for 100 and 200 level courses
- Paper is double-spaced, uses 12-point font size, has 1” margins, and utilizes Times New Roman, Arial, or Courier font
- Identifies sources used with ‘in-text’ citations and includes a ‘References’ page at the end of the paper
- Basics of APA style tutorial
- Download an APA template
C. Avoiding Plagiarism
PART I: THE INTRODUCTION
An introduction is usually the first paragraph of your academic essay. If you’re writing a long essay, you might need two or three paragraphs to introduce your topic to your reader. A good introduction does three things:
- Gets the reader’s attention. You can get a reader’s attention by telling a story, providing a statistic, pointing out something strange or interesting, providing and discussing an interesting quote, etc. Be interesting and find some original angle via which to engage others in your topic.
- Provides necessary background information. Don’t start too broad, for instance by talking about how literature helps us understand life, but do tell your readers what they need to know to get their bearings in your topic, e.g. who wrote the story you’re writing about, when it was published, where it was published, etc.
- Provides a specific and debatable thesis statement. The thesis statement is usually just one sentence long, but it might be longer—even a whole paragraph—if the essay you’re writing is long. A good thesis statement makes a debatable point, meaning a point someone might disagree with and argue against. It also serves as a roadmap for what you argue in your paper.
PART II: THE CONCLUSION
A conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay, or, if you’re writing a really long essay, you might need two or three paragraphs to conclude. A conclusion typically does one of two things—or, of course, it can do both:
- Summarizes the argument. Some instructors expect you not to say anything new in your conclusion. They just want you to restate your main points. Especially if you’ve made a long and complicated argument, it’s useful to restate your main points for your reader by the time you’ve gotten to your conclusion. If you opt to do so, keep in mind that you should use different language than you used in your introduction and your body paragraphs. The introduction and conclusion shouldn’t be the same.
- Explains the significance of the argument. Some instructors want you to avoid restating your main points; they instead want you to explain your argument’s significance. In other words, they want you to answer the “so what” question by giving your reader a clearer sense of why your argument matters.
- For example, your argument might be significant to studies of a certain time period.
- Alternately, it might be significant to a certain geographical region.
- Alternately still, it might influence how your readers think about the future. You might even opt to speculate about the future and/or call your readers to action in your conclusion.
PART III: THE BODY PARAGRAPHS
Body paragraphs help you prove your thesis and move you along a compelling trajectory from your introduction to your conclusion. If your thesis is a simple one, you might not need a lot of body paragraphs to prove it. If it’s more complicated, you’ll need more body paragraphs. An easy way to remember the parts of a body paragraph is to think of them as containing the MEAT of your essay:
Main Idea. The part of a topic sentence that states the main idea of the body paragraph. All of the
sentences in the paragraph connect to it. Keep in mind that main ideas are…
- like labels. They appear in the first sentence of the paragraph and tell your reader what’s inside the paragraph.
- arguable. They’re not statements of fact; they’re debatable points that you prove with evidence.
- focused. Make a specific point in each paragraph and then prove that point.
Evidence. The parts of a paragraph that prove the main idea. You might include different types of
evidence in different sentences. Keep in mind that different disciplines have different ideas about what counts as evidenceand they adhere to different citation styles. Examples of evidence include…
- quotations and/or paraphrases from sources.
- facts, e.g. statistics or findings from studies you’ve conducted.
- narratives and/or descriptions, e.g. of your own experiences.
Analysis. The parts of a paragraph that explain the evidence. Make sure you tie the evidence you provide back to the paragraph’s main idea. In other words, discuss the evidence.
Transition. The part of a paragraph that helps you move fluidly from the last paragraph. Transitions
appear in topic sentences along with main ideas, and they look both backward and forward in order to help you connect your ideas for your reader. Don’t end paragraphs with transitions; start with them.
Keep in mind that MEAT does not occur in that order.The “Transition” and the “Main Idea” often combine to form the first sentence—the topic sentence—and then paragraphs contain multiple sentences of evidence and analysis. For example, a paragraph might look like this:
TM. E. E. A. E. E. A. A.