Structuring Your College Essay: What You Need to Do
Writing an academic essay comes with a set of rules and a structure to be followed. Essentially, your end goal is to coherently write up your ideas into an intelligent argument that gives an insight into your understanding of the topic at hand.
After you have researched your topic, analyzed the question, and decided on a line of argument, the next step is constructing a structural outline for your essay. Most essays follow a similar structure: an introduction, body, and a conclusion.
At this planning stage, you have to work out the most logical way of narrating your argument and the relevant information so that your reader can easily follow your line of reasoning. With careful planning, and a pre-laid structure, you can ensure your argument will be presented clearly and convincingly.
The Essential Parts of an Essay
Academic essays aim to persuade the reader of an idea or argument based on evidence, and the structure of the argument plays an important part in this. To persuade your reader, you must lay down the background, provide a context, and decide how to reveal your argument.
The most common structure used for persuasive essays is: start with an assertion and then provide support for it. This pattern can be used in paragraphs or the entire essay. Another possible structure is: review facts and observations, and draw conclusions from them.
Introductions and conclusions have fixed places, but the body paragraphs and sections don’t. For example, it’s up to you whether the counterargument appears at the beginning, within a paragraph, or before the ending. How you structure the body depends on your approach, but ensure it has a logical order to it. It’s helpful to think of each section as an answer to the questions that your reader may have when reading your work. Write your thesis in such a manner that it raises questions and arguments and is not just a factual piece of writing.
Start with the “What”
The first question your reader should ask is the “what”: what evidence is there that the claim you’re making in your essay is true?
To answer this, you must have undeniable evidence, and you should examine it thoroughly to ensure your claim is valid. The “what,” therefore, comes early in the essay. After introducing your essay topic, you can delve into the “what” as this is where you can explain and report your observations.
Introducing the “How”
Just making a claim is not enough; the reader will want to know whether the claims that you’re making in the thesis are true.
Think about the ‘how’s’ of your argument: how strong is your argument compared to the counterargument? If the evidence you’re providing is looked at differently, how does that affect your claim?
An essay always has at least one ‘how-to’ section that introduces some form of complication to the thesis. Usually, the “how” section comes right after the “what,” but it isn’t set in stone. It also depends on where you want to put the counterargument and how to disclose the information to the reader.
The “Why” of Your Claim
The “why” addresses the implications of your essay: why does your argument or interpretation hold any significance? The question allows your readers to understand your statement in a much larger context. You can hint at the question in the introduction, but its true place is at the essay’s end. If you leave it out, the essay will appear unfinished.
Brainstorm Your Essay
To structure your essay, you must compose your thesis with an understanding of what the reader needs to know and in what sequence you’ll be structuring your essay. This procedure also helps readers grasp the message and how you’ll control the flow of the essay as it unfolds.
The right way to do this is brainstorming the ideas using a narrative. It’ll help you predict where the background should be, at what point you should bring in the counterargument, and which section requires analysis.
Your brainstorming isn’t about the paragraphs you’ll write, but how you’d structure it into sections that’ll make your reader anticipate your next argument.
After writing the first draft, structuring your essay, testing your argument against the question, and modifying your ideas and arguments, go back to the start of the essay. Make sure your beginning is sharp and clear so that your reader is engaged.
With these points in mind, you should be able to answer the questions stated above: the what, how, and why.
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