General Instructions for Essay Writing

Please take a few minutes to examine this website.  It contains some wonderful information about the history of writing and language and their close association.  http://www.delmar.edu/engl/instruct/stomlin/1301 int/lessons/process/rewrite.html

Many students think that good writing is something that occurs almost magically.  It can only be accomplished by those highly skilled in English composition.  Normal students can't write good essays because they don't have the innate ability to compose.  A good writer just sits down, and words miraculously appear on paper in just the right order.  Presto! The end!  

Well, I hate to disillusion you, but that is not the way it usually works.  Some of the very finest writers edit and then re-edit their work numerous times before publication.   Unfortunately, as readers, we only see the finished work; we seldom have the opportunity to glimpse the actual work in progress. In this class, you will thoroughly explore the process that generates good writing.  First, let's begin by examining basic essay structure.  

Essay Structure:

An essay is made up of an introduction, a number of body paragraphs, and a conclusion.  This is a link to a sample essay with the different parts marked separately and an explanation of the separate parts.. http://members.tripod.com/~lklivingston/essay/sample.html

The introduction does just that.  It introduces readers to your topic/subject and, if crafted properly, engages their interest. Then, within a few sentences, the introduction guides your reader to the main point of your essay, the thesis statement. http://webster.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/thesis.htm
http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/thesis.html

Next are the body paragraphs.  They vary in number depending on the length of your essay. Remember, these paragraphs must all be related to your thesis, and their purpose is support.  Think of body paragraphs as the pillars that support your thesis statement. http://www.uottawa.ca/academic/arts/writcent/hypergrammar/partopic.html

The thesis statement is your essay's main point or central idea.  It gives focus to an essay, both for you as the writer and for the reader as well.  To be able to write a good essay, you must first have at least a central idea in mind to explore because a strong thesis statement keeps the writer focused and prevents wandering from topic to topic with no particular focus in mind.  For instance, if, on the first day of class, I asked you to share a brief biography of yourself with the class without telling you what specific information to give, you could talk about any number of things.  However, if I asked you to tell us about your previous experiences in English classes, then you wouldn't talk about your younger brothers or sisters.  A thesis statement has the same function; it controls the information you include in a particular writing assignment.

The final part of your essay is the conclusion, which should be an echo of your thesis statement, but not a word-for-word repetition. The main thing to remember about your conclusion is to conclude and not to introduce any new thoughts or ideas which would only open up, and not wind down, your essay.  
http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html

Writing as Process:

      Pre-Writing

First, you have a writing assignment in front of you.  Then you sit down at the computer and begin writing your essay.  WRONG!  First, you have to find a starting place by using a process called pre-writing.  It means just what it says.  This is the writing you do before you begin composing the formal essay.  "Before" writing is also known as brainstorming.  Think of it as "a mind storm" because it is a metaphor for that beginning portion of the composition process in which you imaginatively explore and jot down any thoughts you generate about a writing topic. 

The main thing to remember about "brainstorming" is not to worry about grammar errors and mistakes.  Don't fret about commas or anything.  Just get your ideas in some form--either on computer or on plain paper if that works best for you.  However, since this is an online class and computers aren't going away anytime soon, I would encourage you to practice brainstorming and composing your essays entirely on the computer.  It may seem difficult at first, but you will find that the process gets easier with time. 

Also, remember to save your work in some way other than just on the computer itself.  There are many different storage devices available today.  Personally, I prefer a JumpDrive because this device is not as prone to self-destruction as some disks, but the choice is yours. Recently, I had a student whose older brother (a senior in college) came home from college one weekend and then proceeded to wipe and reload the family computer.  In the space of a few minutes, several important essays were lost. 
http://www.delmar.edu/engl/instruct/stomlin/1301int/lessons/process/prewrite.htm

Revision:

Revision of an essay involves making changes, and these are generally referred to as drafts.  In this class, I will refer to three different types of drafts.  First you write a rough draft.  Then you begin the editing phase, which generates your intermediate draft.  The final version which you will be graded on is called the finished or polished draft. 

These web sites will show you things to consider when revising your essays:

http://www.tulane.edu/~uc/writing/revising.htm

http://www.uni-lueneburg.de/einricht/fremd/fremdspr/revision.htm

http://cornellcollege.edu/wre/revessay.shtml

Finally, here's a revision checklist for you to use as a guide:  http://www.wwnorton.com/we/ch1/5a.htm

Note:  If you have a difficult time spotting mistakes and making revisions on the computer, make a paper copy of your essay first.  After you've made all the changes by hand, then you can get back online and make corrections to the rough draft.

Now are you beginning to understand the process of writing?  Doesn't the process idea seem more appealing and less intimidating to you as a beginning writer?  You don't have to compose the perfect essay in one chunk at one sitting.  But you're still not off the hook.  You can't learn to work through the writing process unless you repeat it several times over.

 

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