Please print out the handout notes for the "Well-Structured Essay" lecture above and bring these to class.
By the end of this second week, you should be fluent in the following writing vocabulary terms:
This week we will start off with a quick review of what essays look like. But first let's begin with what the structure of a well-written paragraph looks like.
Essays have three kinds of paragraphs, an introductory paragraph, a conclusion paragraph, and a main body paragraph. The main body paragraph is what we will take a look at. Each main body paragraph should have three parts to it:
The topic sentence indicates the main idea of the paragraph. This sentence contains a claim or assertion about this main point. Think of this claim as an opinion or angle towards your point. Always remember that the topic sentence is the controlling idea of a paragraph. It limits what you can say within a paragraph, so it is pretty important. Readers look for them to be stated in the first sentence of a main body paragraph.
Supporting sentences vary in the type, but usually they offer evidence in the form of facts, details, specifics, or an anecdote to illustrate your point. Your whole objective is to elaborate on your central idea of the paragraph contained in the topic sentence. These supporting sentences appear in the middle of the paragraph.
Finally, the concluding sentence of a paragraph functions to bring some closure to your thoughts. It can be a summary of your ideas, but at the very least it should echo the claim stated in the topic sentence in different wording. And it is probably obvious that the concluding sentence appears at the end of a main body paragraph.
Now, if you understand the structure of a main body paragraph, it is easy to understand the structure of an essay. If you reflect back on the structure of a paragraph, it basically follows the format of claim--support-conclusion. An academic essay follows the same format, but we use different terms to describe the parts.
The beginning of an essay is called the introduction, and it performs 4 main functions.
These third and fourth functions sometimes get combined into the thesis statement, and a well-written introductory paragraph contains all of these four parts. (More in-depth information on thesis sentences in the next lecture.)
The meat of the essay is the main body made up of multiple main body paragraphs. Like the supporting sentences of a main body paragraph, these multiple paragraphs have a clear task: to support and offer evidence for the thesis statement. These paragraphs achieve this support by various rhetorical methods (I'll explain that term next lecture as well!)
Finally, the conclusion paragraph ends the essay. Like the concluding sentences at the end of each main body paragraph, the conclusion paragraph's job is to bring closure--closure to the essay. Some of your past teachers and professors may have called this paragraph a summary paragraph. The descriptions imply two different functions for this paragraph. A summary in this paragraph means that you are taking the material you just discussed and restating the main points. Some readers will find the summary approach insulting, especially since good readers will be paying attention to your main points throughout your essay.
But the main thing you do not want to do is to waste the last half page by re-writing your essay in summary form. (Yes, I admit that I am biased against summaries; they do insult me!) Readers will lose trust and confidence in you and in your ideas, which is why you are writing in the first place--to have some impact on the minds of your audience.
In a future lecture I will cover in more depth the thesis statement and the kinds of thesis statements you can write. I will also discuss the role of an audience and the relationship between the writer and her audience.