by Carmella Guiol, an MFA student at USF in Creative Writing and a Writing Studio consultant
Think of your academic essay like a human body; it’s got a brain, tendons, bones, and skin. Let’s start with the thesis statement. This is the brain, or command center, of your paper. Your thesis’ job is to tell the rest of the paper what to do. Without going into elaborate detail, your thesis lays out the bones of your argument. This lets your reader know what to expect in the coming paragraphs. Without a strong thesis, your paper will lack direction and focus.
For example, if I am writing a position paper on how Beyonce is superior to Rihanna, my thesis might look something like this:
Although some critics believe that Rihanna is the Pop Queen, Beyonce is by far the superior pop star because of her outstanding record sales, long list of achievement awards, and international fan base.
Right away, my reader knows my position and what supporting arguments I will be presenting. This thesis statement contains the entirety of my paper: its structure, evidence, and organization.
The rest of your paper is born from your thesis. Remember that each body paragraph should directly relate back to the thesis statement. This connection should be directly apparent from your topic sentences, which can be pulled directly from thethesis.
For example, my topic sentences could look something like this:
Once you’ve got the bones of your paper, all it takes is filling in the meat, or research-based evidence. Language is the blood flowing through the body, bringing life to every part of your essay. These parts are important, but remember that you need a strong skeletal structure before you think about the rest!
by Meghan O’Neill, a Doctoral Candidate in Literature and Writing Studio consultant
Here’s a simple blueprint for sprucing up your discussion posts: read, reflect, reply. Let’s discuss.
Read: Begin by reading your professor’s instructions and discussion prompt to ensure you understand what you are being asked to write about. Then read your classmates’ posts. Read as many posts as you can to get a clearer sense of the whole discussion. Reading several posts will reveal trends and controversies in the discussion, and guide you in crafting your replies.
Reflect: Before writing your replies, take time to think over everything you just read. Increase your understanding by rereading posts with which you agree and disagree. Let your emotions cool and remember your classmates are reasonable, well-meaning people just like you.
Reply: Respond with an open-mind and friendly tone; remember to call your classmates by their names. Always be courteous to your classmates by validating their points-of-view, but without compromising your own position. And support your points with new evidence that hasn’t been talked about yet. Your classmates will be grateful to you for bringing up fresh material they can respond to in their replies to you.
For further information, check out Jennifer Yirinec’s insightful online discussion tips at the Writing Commons.
Many college students struggle with organization when writing essays. They know what information they want in their papers, but are not sure how to make it all fit together. One of the most important things these students should keep in mind is the topic sentence.
Many writers find organizing their papers easier if they do not worry about organization and topic sentences when writing a first draft. Often, brainstorming and free writing comes first. Once the writer has gotten all of the ideas she wants to cover on paper, she can go back and rearrange them, grouping sentences on the same topics into paragraphs.
Once a paper is loosely organized by topic, the writer can then go paragraph by paragraph and make sure each body paragraph begins with a topic sentence. This topic sentence acts as a “mini thesis” in the sense that it contains the main point or argument of that paragraph. All of the remaining sentences in that paragraph should support or expand upon the topic sentence.
Topic sentences can be simple or complex, depending on the paper in which they are found. The Harvard College Writing Center website discusses the various forms topic sentences might take, and can be used as a resource for those writing topic sentences.