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Practical Tips to Improve your Essay Writing

Your Essay Introduction:

The marker can generally estimate your final grade by the end of reading your introduction. First impressions always count!

The introduction is the ‘roadmap’ of your essay.

Your introduction should begin with a clear and insightful thesis statement. A thesis statement is essentially YOUR ANSWER to the question: a point of view statement.

  • What is your perspective on the question and the text?

  • How does your set text (s) parallel/challenge the insights offered in the question?

An effective thesis statement shows evidence of critical reflection upon such questions. Stronger students demonstrate an ability to engage with the key words stated in the question and creatively integrate them with their own ideas to justify their answer. You can embellish your own thoughts on the text and question through a wider reading of scholarly research (sources of information written by experts in their field).

This is followed by introductory details such as the composer of the text, the year the text was created in, the specific text type (spoken, print, visual, digital texts) and the “title” of the text, along with a brief sketch of the themes and issues you will be exploring in your essay.

Stronger students ANALYSE the emergence of themes and issues represented in their texts, looking closely into their nature and impact towards the individual’s interior world, their relationships and the world more broadly.

Avoid listing themes that you have seen working in the text. You cannot reduce themes to individual categories. Themes are a ‘tangle’ of ideas that overlap and interrelate in complex ways.

Body paragraph: The main purpose of your body paragraph is to develop an argument that adds value to your personal response to the question. Here’s the breakdown for writing an effective body paragraph, using the TEEL structure:

N.B. While the acronyms, PETAL, PEEL, STEEL, TEAL, TEEL, are worded differently, they all have an essential commonality. These acronyms can help us respond coherently to assessment questions by providing a support guide for writing effective paragraphs.

T: Topic sentence –State the main idea or theme you are going to discuss. Your thematic statement must creatively integrate the key words stated in the question. You are writing about a universal theme that brings out an aspect of your thesis –YOUR answer to the question! Write at least 2 sentences.

E: Explanation (This is a crucial part of the paragraph that many students tend to ignore) – You can’t just plunge into your evidence! Discuss in detail what the text is ‘saying’ about this idea (explicitly stated in the topic sentence).

  • What/ who is the composer using to represent these ideas?

  • Refer to key characters and events.

  • What does it teach the reader? Values?

In your ‘T E,’ use the composer (author/director/poet/playwright) as your main focus, instead of re-telling narratives or the plots of texts from the character’s perspective (this is descriptive NOT analytical). The focus should be on the purpose/SIGNIFICANCE of the action. Write at least 3-4 sentences.

E: Evidence

  1. Draw out a pertinent quote from the text (Introduce quotes with a comma before. Don’t just ‘drop them in!’). Remember to be selective in your choice of quotes, dealing ONLY with core sections.

  2. Identify a language form/feature (stylistic and grammatical) in the text, critically analysing its effect/impact/influence on meaning. You must connect the effect of these shining examples from the text/techniques to the question and the main idea you are discussing.

In summary:

Quote + Technique + Verb (shows how a quote in the text supports an idea or interpretation: crystallises, conveys, dramatizes, embodies, emphasises, illuminates, reinforces, represents, accentuates) = Effect on meaning

“How many quotes do I make reference to in my body paragraph?”

Repeat the formula until your argument has effectively developed.

L: Link – A summative statement that connects ideas together.

Conclusion –‘The intellectual focal point of your essay’

The structure of your conclusion is similar to your introduction. However, you will be severely penalized if you ‘copy and paste’ your introduction.

Your conclusion should be much more CONCLUSIVE now that you’ve worked your way through the essay.

Here’s an approach to writing an effective conclusion:

  1. Engage with the question by powerfully restating your thesis.

  2. Highlight the themes/ideas discussed in the essay, which have brought out your answer to the question.

Key points to remember:

  • You show evidence of higher-order thinking skills when you quote within the point you are making.

  • Word choice (diction) is one of the most underestimated language techniques that students choose to analyse. The composer’s word choices give way to the production of imagery and tone. Avoid analysing imagery or tone in isolation –you must first look at the words that create imagery or tone. It is important to be specific when you are analysing imagery (kinaesthetic, gustatory, aural, olfactory, tactile, visual) or tone (aggressive? sarcastic?).

  • Maintain formal register

  • Use present tense

  • Editing is a writing skill, not a secondary skill!

  • Reading your work aloud is a great editing process!

  • Edit: whole essay, paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence

  • Check: Is my thesis statement clear? Do all my topic sentences mirror elements of the thesis statement in the introduction? Grammar, expression, punctuation and structure. Does EVERYTHING in each of my paragraphs serve my thesis statement well?

  • Read the introduction or afterward of texts if available –the insights given in the introduction or afterward are useful in expanding the boundaries of your own knowledge about the primary text!

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