Essay Writing Process

July 22, 2017 | Author: luke_mclachlan | Category: Essays, Argument, Thesis, Question, Paragraph
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Essays A quick guide

Essays are a part of almost every degree program. While you probably won‘t write an essay when you become a professional, the skills needed in good essay writing are very relevant to other academic tasks. These skills— researching, analysing, applying, synthesising and evaluating—can also be transferred to any professional situation which requires you to respond critically and creatively to a problem or issue.

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In this handout… Essay writing process Task analysis Finding ‗research‘ Reading & taking notes Organising with Rationale®

The Essay Writing Process

1. Analyse the task/question This process shows the cyclical research/read/write/reflect process which follows question analysis. Good essay writers do more than 1 session of research because when they reflect on and analyse their drafts, they find that they need more (or different) evidence to fully support their arguments.


Read / take notes

Reflect on and analyse your draft

Organise / write

Analysing the task/question Before you research or write you should analyse the essay task/question. Task analysis helps us to find out exactly what the question is asking for, and ensures that we have correct focus in our answer. One strategy for question analysis is called MDUP:


Main ideas in the question or task - all the ‗content‘ words and phrases in the task. These main ideas become search terms in your research.

Directive verbs - the words that tell you to do something. For example ―analyse‖ or ―evaluate‖. These words tell you how to respond to the task.

Underlying question. Often—but not always—we need to answer an unstated question before we can respond appropriately to the task. To find it, think deeply about the task and relate it to other ideas you have studied in your lectures. Write it down somewhere. Predictive thesis. This is your initial answer to the essay task, based on what you already know. Your predictive thesis gives you a place to start your thinking and helps direct your first research efforts. Often, our predictive thesis is very different to our final argument, as our research influences our ideas and our argument evolves. See over the page for an example of MDUP task analysis. Learning Skills Unit Saigon: 1.2.08 / Hanoi: Library [email protected] / [email protected]

MDUP task analysis in action…

Main Ideas: legally binding contracts, mere agreements, legal consequences, case illustrations, distinguish (differentiate)

Example essay task: Using case illustrations, explain how legally binding contracts are distinguished from mere agreements which have no legal consequences.

Predictive thesis: Contracts are written, agreements are spoken. To protect themselves, businesses should use contracts.

Directive Words: explain… how

Underlying question: What‘s the

= describe the process; using = apply cases to description; distinguish(ed) = show the difference between

difference between contracts and agreements? What are the implications of this for businesses?

Researching The main ideas you identify in task analysis should guide your research. Of course books in the library will be useful, but academic databases (Proquest, Emerald, Eric etc.) are great for finding the most up-to-date, reliable and sophisticated information relevant to your essay topics. You can find these databases on the RMIT online library. Use the basic tips below to get started on them.

Reading & Taking Notes Once you have books/articles/websites related to you essay topic, the challenge is to read those sources efficiently and effectively – you should find the most useful information in the least amount of time. Follow the process below (Boddington & Clanchy 1999) for each source you‘ve found.

•Look at the title, sub titles, headings and contents pages •Find the most relevant sections

1. Search

2. Skim •Once you've found the most relevant sections, skim over them, focussing on the introduction and topic sentences of paragraphs

• Choose the paragraphs that provide the information you need

3. Select

Learning Skills Unit Saigon: 1.2.08 / Hanoi: Library [email protected] / [email protected]

4. Study •Read those paragraphs carefully and critically and take notes relevant to the essay topic. • Try to paraphrase

Organising the essay using Rationale® software This is the most important part of the process – it‘s where you combine ideas from your research into a structured, logical and persuasive response to the essay task. Because those ideas in you‘re your research can be complex, it‘s often a good idea to organise them visually so that the relationship between them can be easier to find. One very powerful way of organising your ideas visually is to use the Rationale® argument mapping software, which is now available on the LSU computers. This easy-to-use software allows you to build a ‗tree‘ of your answer—having a ‗picture‘ of the arguments and reasons can help you focus on the logic of your answer, which is the most important aspect of essay writing. The very basic argument map below gives an example of what Rationale® can do for you. At the top of the map is the ‗contention‘ – in an essay, this is called the ‗thesis statement‘.

‗because‘ links ‗reasons‘ and ‗support for reasons‘, ‗but‘ links objections. Organisation at this level shows ideas to support or object to the thesis statement. These can be seen as ‗main points‘.

Ideas at this level are more specific, and are used to support or object to the more general ideas above them. Ideas here can be seen as ‗evidence‘.

Generating an argument map using Rationale® is surprisingly easy, and the Learning Skills Advisers in LSU can help you with it. Simply book a consultation and let us know that you want to map your argument with Rationale®. We‘ll show how to do it, and we‘ll help you reflect on the quality of your argument. Writing the essay Essays have 4 essential sections: the introduction, body, conclusion and reference list. After you know what your thesis statement is, try to write the essay in this order: First: Write the body, focussing on one paragraph at a time Second: Write the conclusion Last: Write the introduction, complete the reference list and proofread! Importantly, you should attend very carefully to in-text referencing in the first drafts of your essays. If you don‘t, it is possible that you will forget to correctly cite some ideas, and this could lead to concerns about plagiarism.

Learning Skills Unit Saigon: 1.2.08 / Hanoi: Library [email protected] / [email protected]

Sections of an essay I. INTRODUCTION General statements - introduce the topic, the context and the question/ issue/problem that the essay addresses Thesis statement – your 1- or 2-sentence argument in response the questions/issue/problem above Signpost – briefly describe how the body of the essay is organised

The introduction should be one paragraph only, approximately 10% of the essay‟s word limit. Avoid using expressions such as „nowadays‟ and „all over the world‟, as these are over used and lack sophistication.

II. BODY Topic Sentence

i. Support ii. Support iii. Support Link / summary sentence The number of body paragraphs is determined by the structure of your argument. Avoid very lengthy or very short paragraphs – try to keep each paragraph about the same length.

Topic Sentence

i. Support ii. Support iii. Support

The organisation of paragraphs in the body should show the reader your analysis and reasoning. Your analysis breaks the main topic into smaller ideas, and your reasoning shows a logical relationship between them.

Link / summary sentence Topic Sentence

i. Support ii. Support iii. Support Link / summary sentence etc.

III. CONCLUSION Summarise main points / restate thesis statement Final comment – relate thesis statement to the wider context

The conclusion is approximately 5-10% of the essay‟s word limit. This is a place to restate your argument and main points. To create a good final comment, answer this question: “What are the implications of your argument being valid?”

Summary Try not to think of essays as something you simply ‗write‘. Instead, try to see essays as complex puzzles that take a lot of analysis, research, reading and thinking to respond to effectively. When generating and expressing your answer to the issue/question/problem in the essay task, always keep the audience (probably your lecturer) in my mind. If you can see your own essay from his or her perspective, you‘ll be more able to meet their needs and expectations and more likely to do well.

Learning Skills Unit Saigon: 1.2.08 / Hanoi: Library [email protected] / [email protected]

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