English Composition 2
Back to Writing Tips from Students
Back to Writing Tips from Students
Essay Tips from a Classmate
Writing an essay in English Composition I and II requires you to interpret or to gain perspective of an assigned literary work. It can be challenging, to say the least, if you do not have a good understanding of what you are reading. As you have to be willing to allow yourself to delve into subject matter, finding a quiet place to read the assigned literature will help you connect with the storyline and the characters. If you do not find an interest or a connection within the story line, how can you expect your reader be connected or interested in your writing of the subject? There is at least one piece of subject matter that I can extract from a work that I can relate to and use. I find a theme for my essay within the story that I am impassioned about, and then, I devise a thesis that allows readers to envision my interpretation of the work by using metaphors or meanings within the literary work itself, creating a solid structure with strong thesis and topic sentences, and developing a writing style by using varied sentence structure and vocabulary.
A thorough understanding of assigned reading material is the key to a strong beginning of creating a rough draft of an essay. It will take a minimum of two readings to seek and find a deeper meaning to the storyline. Re-reading the story and critically analyzing content will help you “discover meanings and relationships that you might otherwise miss” (McMahan et al. 9). In addition, if you place your mind within the assigned reading, and allow yourself to feel the emotion and envision the scenery, it will help with the deciphering of the metaphors and imagery that the author uses. I will submerge myself within the storyline, and I tend to read when interruption is at its lowest probability. I am a firm believer that deeper reading equals deep thinking which, in turn, equals an in-depth paper. While reading the story for the first time, side by side note taking helps capture your initial reaction to the material; the initial reaction from a reader is usually the strongest. I like using my original notes for this reason. However, not only do the notes help develop my style by using the potent wording of gut reaction, they help me determine the important material that will eventually make up my thesis and topic sentences, too.
A great thesis will include your interpreted meaning of the story and will encompass a strong claim that becomes a reference for your topic sentences; an essay should have solid structure which includes a powerful, expanded thesis with correlating topic sentences. The thesis should be the ultimate claim and interpretation—not a summary. Topic sentences, the first sentence of each paragraph, should specifically state one claim or one aspect of that thesis that you intend to prove in the paragraph following it. To make this easier and less confusing, I create an outline that includes key elements: my main point or interpretation of the story (my thesis), reasons why I think my interpretation is correct (topic sentences for each paragraph), minimum of four ways in which I can prove each reasoning (rationale for body of the paragraph). You can prove your claims in each body paragraph by interpreting an event within the story or play by using quotations directly from the work or by placing the intended meaning into your own words. Secondary quotes should only be used to argue your point, but do not take them of context. Use quotes by “work[ing] them into your analysis and explain how they support your claims.” (McMahan et al. 79). Be very careful not to plagiarize. Usually, I will recheck the content, and the context in which it was pulled, a minimum of three times prior to submission of my final draft. Also, I use a research notebook, my favorites list for web sites, and my library folder to save sources so that I can reference or double check any secondary source that I have used. Proving your claim in the topic sentence within the body of each paragraph is crucial in that it indirectly proves your thesis, but do not allow your body paragraphs to be overcome with quotes or a basic summary of events. This will lose the interest of your reader and weaken your writing style.
Although developing a unique writing style can be difficult and time consuming, an essay that has had much thought and revision will exude a sense of professionalism. The revision process is tedious work, but the paper will appear polished after revision is complete. I spend more time on revision than I do writing the initial rough draft. During the revision process, I inspect sentence structure to be sure that I do not use the same combinations again and again. I strengthen the weak sentences--and simplify those that I want to stand out to the reader—by using hyphens, conjunctions or by rewording a partial sentence to emphasize meaning. Reading the essay out loud a few times will help alleviate awkward sounding sentences or words. I use a thesaurus to expand my vocabulary and a dictionary to obtain proper meaning of words so that they are used appropriately. Dabbling with words in a thesaurus increases vocabulary; I have found that if you use the thesaurus enough, the strong synonyms start coming to mind naturally. Strengthening verbs by using a working verb, in place of “is,” “are,” or “was,” is always good. Or, should I say that strengthening verbs by using the working verb, in place of “is,” “are,” or “was,” will improve your essay? A sentence can be strengthened with partial rewording. I had some prior knowledge on how to strengthen writing style, but Professor Rambo has the best information and sources on IVCC Blackboard. I would reference the links on organization and style throughout the course to assist me along in the revision process.
Learning to write and learning what to revise is hard work and can be time consuming, but once you learn the basic concept and structure of an essay, you will find that your ideas will fall into place. Essays, most always, follow the same structure: introduction, thesis, topic sentences, prove your topic sentences within each body paragraph, conclusion. In order to create a strong thesis, read the assigned material more than once to grasp meaning of the literary work and allow yourself ample time to rework your thesis to expand your ideas. Revision will improve wording and sentence structure; it strengthens the overall style of the paper by eliminating common mistakes. I would use Professor Rambo’s helpful links in Blackboard, especially his checklist prior to final submission. Paying heed to his instruction on how to strengthen and perfect an essay proved very helpful to my success in this class.
McMahan, Elizabeth et al. Literature and the Writing Process.
10th ed. Boston: Longman, 2013. Print.
Rambo, Randy. “Revision Checklist.” Illinois Valley Community College Blackboard. Illinois Valley Community College, 2006. Web. 26 July 2015.
---. “Checklist: Organization and the Support and Development of Ideas.” Illinois Valley Community College Blackboard. Illinois Valley Community College, 2006. Web. 26 July 2015.
---. “Checklist: Style and Mechanics.” Illinois Valley Community College Blackboard. Illinois Valley Community College, 2006. Web. 26 July 2015.