An essay is a literary composition that expresses a certain idea, claim, or concept and backs it up with supporting statements. It will follow a logical pattern, to include an introductory paragraph (make the claim), a body (support), and a conclusion (summary of statements and support).
English and Literature teachers use them on a regular basis, but essays are required in many other fields. Essay exams are also a test tool used commonly in the social sciences, and even in math and science class.
Of course, essays play a big role in the college application process, as well. In short, there's just no avoiding essays, as long as you're in school!
Luckily, you can learn to craft a great essay if you can follow the standard pattern and write in a clear and organized manner.
The introduction is the first paragraph in your essay, and it should accomplish a few specific goals.
1. Capture the reader's interest.
It's a good idea to start your essay with a really interesting statement, in order to pique the reader's interest.
Avoid starting out with a boring line like this:
"In this essay I will explain why Rosa Parks was an important figure."
Instead, try something with a bit of a surprise factor, like this statement:
"A Michigan museum recently paid $492,000 for an old, dilapidated bus from Montgomery, Alabama."
The second sentence sounds much more interesting, doesn't it? It would encourage most people to keep on reading.
2. Introduce the topic.
The next few sentences should explain your first statement, and prepare the reader for your thesis statement.
"The old yellow bus was reported to be the very one that sparked the civil rights movement, when a young woman named Rosa Parks..."
3. Make a claim or express your opinion in a thesis sentence.
At the end of your introductory paragraph, you will place a powerful thesis statement. Your thesis sentence should provide your specific assertion and convey a clear point of view.
"In refusing to surrender her seat to a white man, Rosa Parks inspired a courageous freedom movement that lives on, even today."
Your intructor will be looking for the specific elements above when reviewing your introductory paragraph, so be sure to review your first paragraph to make sure it meets these three goals.
The body of the essay will include three paragraphs (if this is a five-paragraph essay), each limited to one main idea that supports your thesis. You should state your idea, then back it up with two or three sentences of evidence or examples.
Example of a main idea:
"It took incredible courage for an African American woman to make such a bold stance in 1955 Alabama."
Offer evidence to support this statement:
"This act took place in an era when African Americans could be arrested and face severe retribution for comitting the most trivial acts of defiance."
Include a few more supporting statements with further evidence, then use transition words to lead to the paragraph that follows. All of your body paragraphs should follow the pattern of statement, supporting ideas, and transition statement.
Sample transition words to use in your transition statements:
on the whole
as a result
for this reason
it follows that
The fifth paragraph of your five-paragraph essay will be your conclusion.
The final paragraph will summarize your main points and re-assert your main claim (from your thesis sentence). It should point out your main points, but should not repeat specific examples.
Once you complete the first draft of your essay, it's a good idea to re-visit the thesis statement in your first paragraph. Read your essay to see if it flows well.
You might find that the supporting paragraphs are strong, but they don't address the exact focus of your thesis. Simply re-write your thesis sentence to fit your body and summary more exactly.
By doing this, you will ensure that every sentence in your essay supports, proves, or reflects your thesis. Your instructor will be looking for this!
Knowing how to write a five-paragraph essay is essential for developing good composition skills. It gives the author an easy format for clear organization and explanation of a topic. Many literature and composition classes require five-paragraph essays because of the simplicity and clarity they bring to a specific topic, and that is why understanding the five-paragraph essay is important. A five-paragraph essay consists of three parts—the introduction, the body, and the conclusion—and each part plays a role that is vital to the structure and presentation of the essay.
The introduction consists of one paragraph. This paragraph introduces the reader to the topic and outlines what the reader will learn from the essay. In the introduction, a hook is important to grab the reader’s attention and is usually the first sentence. At the end of the introduction a transitional sentence is helpful so that the essay flows seamlessly from one paragraph to the next. As important as having a hook is to grab attention, the thesis statement is the most important aspect of the introductory paragraph. The thesis is the concise wording of what will be discussed in the body of the paragraph. It should include three main points that correspond to the three body paragraphs that follow the introduction.
The body of the essay consists of three paragraphs that correspond to the three main points made in the thesis statement. Each paragraph will go into more detail on one point and explain why this point supports your opinion or topic. The body paragraphs should contain examples drawn from facts and evidence. They should also contain an explanation of the facts and evidence. The end of each body paragraph needs to contain a conclusion statement that helps prove the thesis. The body is vital to the structure of the essay because it solidifies what was stated in the thesis. Once the body has been developed, a proper conclusion can be made from the introduction and body paragraphs.
The conclusion takes the information presented in the body of the essay and ties it back to the thesis statement. In the conclusion, the thesis statement will be restated and the body paragraphs summarized to show how the conclusion came about. The conclusion is vital to the structure of the essay because it summarizes in a concise manner what the author was presenting in the essay and signals the essay has come to an end.
The introduction, body, and conclusion are all important to a five-paragraph essay because each section provides both structure that makes the essay flow from one paragraph to the next and important information that backs up the author’s thesis statement. The introduction introduces the topic and sets the tone, the body explains the topic using three main points, and the conclusion summarizes the essay and signals the end. The five-paragraph essay is an easy way to clearly explain a topic.
How to Write a Process or "How-To" Essay
How-to essays, also known as process essays, are like recipes; they provide instruction for carrying out a procedure or task. You can write a how-to essay about any procedure that you find interesting-as long as your topic fits the teacher's assignment.
The first step of writing your how-to essay is brainstorming.
1. Draw a line down the middle of a sheet of paper to make two columns. Label one column "materials" and the other column "steps."
2. Next, begin to empty your brain. Write down every item and every step you can think of that will be needed to carry out your task. Don't worry about trying to keep things in order yet. Just empty your head.
3. Once you've noted every fact you can think of, start to number your steps on your brainstorming page. Just jot a number beside each item/step. You may need to erase and scribble a few times to get the order right. It's not a neat process.
4. Your next job is to write an outline. Your essay could contain a numbered list (like you are reading now) or it could be written as a standard narrative essay. If you are instructed to write a step-by-step without using numbers, your essay should contain all the elements of any other essay assignment: an introductory paragraph, a body, and a conclusion. The difference is that your introduction will explain why your topic is important or relevant. For example, your paper about "How to Wash a Dog" would explain that dog hygiene is important for your pet's good health.
5. Your first body paragraph should contain a list of necessary materials. For example: "The equipment you will need depends somewhat on the size of your dog. At the very minimum, you will need dog shampoo, a large towel, and a container large enough to hold your dog. And, of course, you will need a dog."
6. The next paragraphs should contain instructions for following steps in your process, as enumerated in your outline.
7. Your summary explains how your task or process should turn out if it is done correctly. It may also be appropriate to re-state the importance of your topic.