Use your concept map or plan
Write your assignment using your map or plan to guide you. As you write, you may well get new ideas or think about ideas in slightly different ways. This is fine, but check back to your map or plan to evaluate whether that idea fits well into the plan or the paragraph that you are writing at the time. Consider: In which paragraph does it best fit? How does it link to the ideas you have already discussed?
For every paragraph, think about the main idea that you want to communicate in that paragraph and write a clear topic sentence which tells the reader what you are going to talk about. A main idea is more than a piece of content that you found while you were researching, it is often a point that you want to make about the information that you are discussing. Consider how you are going to discuss that idea (what is the paragraph plan). For example, are you: listing a number of ideas, comparing and contrasting the views of different authors, describing problems and solutions, or describing causes and effects?
Use linking words throughout the paragraph. For example:
- List paragraphs should include words like: similarly, additionally, next, another example, as well, furthermore, another, firstly, secondly, thirdly, finally, and so on.
- Cause and effect paragraphs should include words like: consequently, as a result, therefore, outcomes included, results indicated, and so on.
- Compare and contrast paragraphs should include words like: on the other hand, by contrast, similarly, in a similar way, conversely, alternatively, and so on.
- Problem solution paragraphs should include words like: outcomes included, identified problems included, other concerns were overcome by, and so on.
Some paragraphs can include two plans, for example a list of problems and solutions. While this is fine, it is often clearer to include one plan per paragraph.
Look at your plan or map and decide on the key concepts that link the different sections of your work. Is there an idea that keeps recurring in different sections? This could be a theme that you can use to link ideas between paragraphs. Try using linking words (outlined above) to signal to your reader whether you are talking about similar ideas, whether you are comparing and contrasting, and so on. The direction that your thinking is taking in the essay should be very clear to your reader. Linking words will help you to make this direction obvious.
Different parts of the essay:
While different types of essays have different requirements for different parts of the essay, it is probably worth thinking about some general principles for writing introductions, body paragraphs and conclusions. Always check the type of assignment that you are being asked to produce and consider what would be the most appropriate way to structure that type of writing.
Remember that in most (not all) writing tasks, especially short tasks (1,000 to 2,000 words), you will not write headings such as introduction and conclusion. Never use the heading ‘body’.
Writing an introduction:
Introductions need to provide general information about the topic. Typically they include:
- Background, context or a general orientation to the topic so that the reader has a general understanding of the area you are discussing.
- An outline of issues that will and will not be discussed in the essay (this does not have to be a detailed list of the ideas that you will discuss). An outline should be a general overview of the areas that you will explore.
- A thesis or main idea which is your response to the question.
Here is an example of an introduction:
It is often a good idea to use some of the words from the question in the introduction to indicate that you are on track with the topic. Do not simply recount the question word for word.
Writing the body:
- Each paragraph should make a point which should be linked to your outline and thesis statement.
- The most important consideration in the body paragraphs is the argument that you want to develop in response to the topic. This argument is developed by making and linking points in and between paragraphs.
Try structuring paragraphs like this:
- Topic sentence: open the paragraph by making a point
- Supporting sentences: support the point with references and research
- Conclusive sentence: close the paragraph by linking back to the point you made to open the paragraph and linking this to your thesis statement.
Here is an example of a body paragraph from the essay about education and globalisation:
As you write the body, make sure that you have strong links between the main ideas in each of the paragraphs.
Writing the conclusion:
This is usually structured as follows:
- Describe in general terms the most important points made or the most important linkage of ideas
- Do not include new information, therefore it does not usually contain references
- End with a comment, a resolution, or a suggestion for issues that may be addressed in future research on the topic.
Here is an example conclusion from the essay on education:
This article is part of the series ‘How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: The Six Steps to Academic Essay Writing’. One article in this series will be published on the Elite Editing blog each day this week. You can also access them through the Elite Editing website at http://www.eliteediting.com.au
Have you ever borrowed some books to start your research and realised you did not know where to begin?
Have you ever spent time reading a great deal of information that in the end was irrelevant to the essay or assignment you were working on?
Have you ever started to write your essay and realised you had too much information on one topic, and not enough information on another topic?
If you write a first draft of your essay plan before you begin your research, you will be organised, prepared and save time.
You must write the first draft of your essay plan before you start your research. This will give your research direction and ultimately make it easier for you to write your essay. Having a plan will let you know what you need to research and how much research you need on each topic or subject that you will be writing about.
You will base this first draft of your essay plan on your essay question, and your current knowledge of your subject. It will not happen very often that you are asked to write an essay on a topic you know nothing about, since you will already be studying the subject and will normally have had one or more lectures or tutorials on the topic.
It is acceptable if your essay plan is rough or vague at this point, or if you do not have a great deal of detail. You will develop your essay plan (expanding it and including more detail) and possibly even change it as you go through the research process.
What does a first draft of an essay plan look like?
The first draft of your essay plan will show you what main topics you will discuss in your essay, how the essay will be structured, and roughly how many words you will spend on each part.
If your essay question was ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you had to write 1,500 words, then your essay plan might look like this:
Essay question: ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’
Essay length: 1,500 words
Introduction (150 words)
1) Thesis statement: Through an examination of the evidence, it is clear that Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse for a number of reasons.
2) Introduce main points or topics to be discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
Topic 1: Accuracy of diagnoses (300 words)
Topic 2: Patient outcomes (300 words)
Topic 3: Prevent and solve problems (300 words)
Topic 4: Communication (300 words)
Conclusion (150 words)
1) Concluding statement: Thus, it can be seen that the concept of Critical Thinking is invaluable and highly relevant to Registered Nurses.
2) Sum up main points or topics that have been discussed: accuracy of diagnoses, patient outcomes, prevent and solve problems, communication
Introductions and conclusions
As you can see from the example essay plan above, an introduction and a conclusion will normally be approximately 10% of the word count of the entire essay. (This is a general guide and does not apply to essays longer than 5,000 words).
In order to be considered a true introduction your first paragraph must do two things: 1) answer the essay question in a clear statement (this is called your thesis statement) and 2) introduce the main points your essay will make to support your argument. You cannot discuss any major points or topics in your essay if you have not introduced them in your introduction. Also, you must discuss all your main points or topics in the order that you introduce them in your introduction. This helps to maintain the flow and structure of your essay.
Similarly, in order to be considered a true conclusion your last paragraph must do two things: 1) re-state the answer to the essay question and 2) sum up the main points your essay has made to support your argument. Remember, a conclusion cannot contain any new information.
Body of the essay and topic sentences
You can find out how many words you will write in the body of your essay by taking away the number you will spend on your introduction and conclusion from the total amount. How you divide the number of words in the body of your essay between your main topics will depend on how important each topic is to your argument. How long you spend writing about each topic should reflect the importance of each topic. If all of your topics were of equal importance, you would write roughly the same amount of words on each. If one topic was more important, you would write about it first and spend longer discussing it. If one topic was less important, you would write about it last and write fewer words on it.
Using topic sentences at the beginning of each new paragraph is essential for ensuring that your essay is well organised and well structured. It also ensures that the essay flows logically and reads well. A topic sentence must do two things: 1) introduce the new topic about to be discussed and 2) shows how this new topic helps to answer the essay question or support your argument in answering the essay question.
If your essay question was ‘Is Critical Thinking relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse?’ and you were about to discuss the topic ‘accuracy of diagnoses’, then your topic sentence might sound like this: ‘Another way in which Critical Thinking is highly relevant to the role of a Registered Nurse is in ensuring accuracy of diagnoses’. This sentence clearly demonstrates to the reader that you are about to discuss ‘accuracy of diagnoses’ and you are doing so because it is another way that Critical Thinking is relevant to Registered Nurses, which is what your essay is arguing.
The next article in this series is: ‘How to Write Distinction Essays Every Time: Step 3. Conduct the Research’.
This article (and the remainder in the series) has been written by Dr Lisa Lines, the Director and Head Editor of Elite Editing. If you require further assistance with essay writing or with the professional editing of your completed essay, please contact her through the Elite Editing website at http://www.eliteediting.com.au/contact-us.aspx.
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